Monday, December 15, 2008

Solving the Stairway Dilemma

One of the problems with living in a home during substantial remodeling is the sometimes piecemeal approach you must take to projects out of shear necessity and sanity. Case in point: our stairs from the second floor into the family room / kitchen.

This space was unfinished and open for a long time and was often a ground zero dividing line between living areas and work areas for different phases of our remodeling. And not being very experienced in trim carpentry, we never were quite sure exactly how to complete the transition. But after finally consulting with several people (who insisted it was much easier than we were making it out to be), we developed a sort of hybrid solution of various ideas.

First of all, instead of having the handrail terminate directly into the wood jamb and center column, Jay decided to use some extra plinth blocks he had to make a decorative terminal for the handrail, shown in the image here.

We still have plans to do a craftsman-ish trim design on the center column, which will focus on three raised pieces of oak trim, and to echo that triple motif, we decided to arrange the stair banisters in groups of three. Instead of the typical turned oak spindles, we wanted to keep the straight lines of the era and went with 1" rectangular spindles, shown here as we waited for the two coats of "Rosewood" stain to dry. Speaking of this stain color, it took a lot of experimenting to find a stain that best matched the vintage 1912 trim in the house, and we even mixed different stains together. But ultimately, the rosewood came to be the closest match and after a couple of coats, gave the depth and color that we wanted. Best of all, this is a water-based stain (not oil-based) so cleanup and any mistakes were a breeze to handle, and there weren't any noxious fumes.

Anyway, back to our stairs dilemma. While it was obvious that the stairway spindles would attach to the bottom of the handrail, we struggled with how to finish the bottoms. Should we create a bottom rail parallel to the top handrail that would be slightly above the stairs themselves, or should we carry the spindles all the way to the treads of the stairs? We decided to go with the latter.

Of course, none of this could have been done without Kenny's woodworking expertise, and Jay's meticulous attention to the painstaking detailed work of staining trim. Folks, if you're considering installing trim before staining it, please - learn from us and reconsider! It is very difficult and time consuming to go back after having painted to stain (you'll end up having to do a lot of touch up paint anyway!)

Anyway, although it was incredibly labor and time intensive for just a few square feet, we're very pleased with how the stairwell turned out. When its warm again, we plan to create some detail work on the center column that will echo the triple-pattern of the stair banisters. The plan is to have three 1-inch vertical oak trim pieces hanging from a horizontal band that wraps around the column, to lend the room more of a craftsman feel.


Sandy said...

Looks great!

Tiny Oak Park Bungalow said...

Nice. Did you get the OP to approve that one?

jay said...

Yes, we did take care to ensure the handrail was at the acceptable height, and the banisters have less than 4" of space between them.

Tiny Oak Park Bungalow said...

You realize I was kidding, right? Ha ha.

Mabel Sugar said...

apparently where the EV is concerned, jason may have lost his sense of humor. :) haha!