Rebuilt the Stairs

On Good Friday I decided to start the rebuilding of the stairs in the house.  The old stairs were made of popular / pine and were stained black.  When we moved into the house, I had the carpet guys just cover them when the carpet was being installed in the family room.  I knew I was going to rebuild the stairs at some point.  After 17 years in the house, the time had come to tackle the project.  We wanted to tear up the carpet in the family room and put down a hardwood floor.  In doing that, The stairs really needed to be replaced first, so the new hardwood floor could be set up against them.

The photo above is  taken from the garage looking into the family room.  For two weeks Cathy kept referencing the hole that I put into the house.  Usually with these projects I take more photos, but for whatever reason with this project I didn’t.  I tried to find a photo of the old stairs so I could show everyone how ugly there were, but alas no such photo exists.

I made the new stairs from solid red oak.  The stringers, risers, treads and all the wedges are made from red oak.  After doing some research on the best method to build them, I decided to route the stringers so the treads and risers are recessed into the stringers.  I spent the better part of a day creating my templates for routing the stringers.  Here is a photo of one of the oak stringers.  I had just routed only the treads in the board.  Right next to the oak stringer I have my pine practice board.

It took me two days to route out both stringers!  I ended up destroying 5 router bits in the process.  I also ended up destroying a stringer and had to spend $100 to fix my mistake.  With the wrecked stringer, as I laid out the treads, I mistakenly allowed a 1/16″ of an inch error to creep into the layout for each tread.  By the time I had the 14 treads routed, I was off a full inch at the bottom.  Each stringer is 5/4″ thick by 10″ wide and 16 feet long.  The treads are also 5/4″ thick.  The risers are 3/4″ thick.

With the stringers routed out, the treads and risers are held tightly in by a wood wedge.  The wood wedges account for the slight variations in wood thickness.  Even though all the treads are 5/4″ thick, by the time they are planed and sanded, there can be 1/32″ difference in the thickness of the treads.  That difference would allow a gap to occur and cause the stairs to squeak.  The preferred method uses the wedges to tighten the treads and risers and allow no gaps to occur.

Overall I spent 8 days building the new stairs.  That includes fixing & painting the sheetrock and putting on 3 coats of urethane.

The new stairs are so much more solid than the old ones.  Plus they look great.

Now I have to lay the hardwood floor in the family room.

Fireplace

One of the gifts we got for the house this Christmas was gas logs for the fireplace. We had been burning the artificial logs to be able to have a fire and keep the mess to a minimum. The artificial logs were not even close in comparison to a real wood fire, both in the heat given and the look of the fire. I didn’t like burning wood because of the mess. There would be wood splinters from bringing the wood into the house and building the fire. There was also the mess of ashes the day after.

The logs provide a much more realistic fire. The size and color of the flame is good. The amount of heat that is generated is really nice. The logs are rated to generate 34,000BTU’s. That is roughly 1/2 the size of the furnace for the whole house. And to top it off, there is no mess and no fuss. When we want to start the fire, just grab the remote and press on. The setup I choose included 7 logs. I liked the 7 log setup over the 5 log placement. The 7 logs placement had 2 additional logs stacked across the top at an angle. To me this setup provides a much more realistic looking stack of logs. The logs generate so much heat that the stone work surrounding the fireplace absorbs the energy. For a few hours after turning the fireplace off, the stone work continues to throw off heat into the room.

Installing the fireplace took about 8 hours from start to finish. The hardest part of the job was to drill a 1″ hole through the side of the fireplace to run the gas pipe through. Using a hammer drill it took about 3 hours. At one point the bit grabbed the brick and spun the drill. The 1″ drill bit was bent out of shape when the bit grabbed. I had to use a 2lb hammer to coax the bit back into a straight shape. Running the pipe was time consuming, but it was physically and mentally easy. The pre cut sections of black gas pipe from Home Depot really makes the job easy.

The one unexpected task was that I had to relocate the thermostat for the forced hot-air furnace. The thermostat was in the family room with the fireplace. When we had the fireplace turned on, the family room temperature quickly rose to about 77 degrees. This caused the rest of the house to not have heat. I had to run a new thermostat wire to the other end of the hallway down by the bedrooms and remount the thermostat. Since relocating it we haven’t had an issue with the heat being balanced.