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Tackling the Ugliest Stairs in History

OK, so maybe they aren’t the ugliest stairs, but they are pretty bad. Long ago, a carpet runner most have been glued and nailed down. When someone pulled it up, they left the old adhesive to collect dirt and the nails to catch our socks.

Several contractors suggested that these stairs were a lost cause and simply needed to be rebuilt. There were several problems with this idea: tearing down something that should still have life, cost, and code issues.  See, a new staircase would have to meet current building codes. Our stairs are steep and some of the steps are different heights and widths, there is low headroom at the bottom, the railing is snug to the wall without ample hand space. The staircase would have to get longer and the headroom higher: we’d lose space in the basement as well as the main floor coat closet. We decided that new stairs were not an option, and we hoped that a simple sanding and a fresh coat of paint would make a big difference.

As our contractors began to work, the way the paint sanded off sent up a red flag that the steps were painted with lead-based paint. We all agreed that they could not go on sanding them. Not only would releasing the lead be bad for the workers, it makes disposal trickier, and with young children in the house, we have to avoid any chance of that dust spreading through the air. I had a moment of freak-out that our stairs were resigned to be ugly, then I started looking for ideas to cover the ugliness.

We could tack down a jute runner, like this:


We could buy solid wood Retrotreads.


We could buy synthetic runners.


Source: via Pa on Pinterest

Or we could buy wool runners.

Then, our contractor had a brilliant idea we’d never considered. He suggested we flip each stair upside down. The backside (which creates the ceiling of a storage closet) had never been finished–it was raw wood. We found it hard to believe that this would work, but we told them to go ahead. We loved that this would use the materials already in our house. Plus, it would save us the cost of a runner and it would mean the stairs really could look good, rather than being just bandaged.

You know what? It worked! Here’s a side-by-side shot, so you don’t have to scroll up and down. You can also see that the left side of the stairs now has full knotty pine-paneling and the right side is a half-wall.


Next up: the risers will get painted, the treads will get stained, and we’ll get the banister up.
Addition: here is a picture of the stairs at the end of the project.


About More Green for Less Green

Hi, I’m Pamm. Welcome to my little slice of the web! As a progressive Evangelical female pastor and crunchy homeschooling mom, I’m never quite what anyone expects of me. But, hey, that’s what makes blogging interesting, right? Join me as I try to wholeheartedly parent my three little boys, slowly fix up the trashed foreclosure we bought in 2009, and live simply.

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