‘Stairing’ You In The Face

Part 1- Our Client Moves to Make The House Her Home

In the house not long our client is working to make it more her own. Properly maintained and nicely decorated, she has worked both outside and in, in adding her finishing touches. Beginning with the outside she had some of the sidewalks replaced. The shrubs are trimmed. The home has nice curb appeal and is welcoming.

‘Oh Mercy”-Just inside the door is where things ‘go south!’

Immediately inside the front door, the stairs hit you straight in the face. Now normally they would just be some non-descript stairs. But these stairs had a lot to be desired. And to her, the level of disproval is significant.

The stairs are old pine stairs, ‘on the cheap’ by the builder for sure. Moreover, that’s not the worst of it. Glancing at the stairs, and hitting you smack in the face are stenciled hearts and the word “welcome” on every riser. They had 2 hearts on each side, and the “welcome crest” adorning each riser to the top. A word from my husband’s Russian Lit class we use (forgive the spelling), but ‘Paushlitz’ is the perfect vernacular. It refers to something being not welcome or revered! Use your own words. You can’t get away from them!

For the stylish gal that she is, the look of the stairs had to go!


We started and finished Part 1, the living room and hallway.

When we evaluated the maple floors we found lots of scratches from a dog. Besides the scratches, there were also unsightly holes and nicks. Having turned black from moisture, sanding them would remove them too.

Lickety-split we got the old finish off and sanded out all the blemishes. Looking crisp and bright she did have us tint the wood. This helped color match to the darker, different flooring in one of the adjacent rooms.

(Staining maple is not easy, but we have done it. That, or tinting, we offer both.) Tinting is an easier option, but many refinishers will not do either.

The refinishing went quickly and the floors looked great when we were done.

Simply decorated, now the seating area in the living room sits upon the nicely refinished maple floors.

Now there is a nicely decorated living room. It is petite (like our client). warm and welcoming.

Honestly, the floors tie everything together. There is cohesiveness in the main living area. In addition, the refinished hallway that leads to 2 rooms is more closely color-matched. Lastly, the refinished short hallway looking in the other direction toward the kitchen has a fresh, airy look. It blends nicely with the ceramic tile that mozzies into the kitchen.

The kitchen is open but small. She has a moveable bar with a couple of bar stools that stow underneath. It is cute and very functional and leaves the kitchen open and spacious. And the focal point of the house is just beyond. Through the sliding glass door is a nice, big two-level deck. It is ripe for BBQs, gatherings with a new grandbaby, and chats by the fire.

With the floor already done, Part 2, the stair project couldn’t happen soon enough!

They were well overdue and ready for an overhaul! They had to go, and now!

First up would be to erase the presence of the pine stairs. Nothing special and slapped together, they serve a purpose without an ounce of craftsmanship. Moreover, the railings were plain as well. No attention to detail, they were functional, but had no sense of style to them whatsoever.

Seeing beyond all that,  it was the tackiness of the stencils that remained the worst. You just couldn’t get away from them! Every blasted stair screamed at you.

Honestly, as things played out, she has even delayed entertaining because this is not at all who she is.

In her planning her vision was clear.

She wanted maple wood stair treads to match her wood floor. She wanted white-painted risers and a new railing system. Collecting and showing us some pictures online we captured her vision. We would be able to get her exactly what she wanted.  It was a clear, crisp look. And it was easy to duplicate but with one caveat.

Getting maple tread covers requires a custom order from a mill, equating to taking longer and costing more.

It didn’t matter. To her, she saw the look and wanted to erase what she inherited when she bought the house.

While awaiting the millwork Marvin prepped the stairs.

Marvin got the prep work executed. He cut off the bull noses of each of the stairs. He sanded and painted the stringers. (The stringers are the side parts of the stairs that go up the wall and are part of the support system of the stairs.) Not covered with sheetrock or plaster, the stringers needed TLC too.

After that preparation, Marvin also installed some riser caps. These caps are a quick and effective way to cover up cheap pine risers. They are made of a composite material, usually primed, and can easily be painted. Before installing them he painted them white.

Now painted, the riser caps were installed, and the ugly, tacky stencils were history!

Using these caps dresses up the look. It prevents any knots or grain from “climbing” through the paint. Using them eliminates any remnants of the cheap pine showing directly, or indirectly from beneath. But most importantly, the cap material has erased the stencils. Outta’ sight, out of mind!

Fast forward a bit-we finally got the maple tread caps delivered to the house.

Likewise, instead of tearing out the stair treads, we spec’d using a tread cap cover to fit over the tread. It is an easier and cost-effective retrofit alternative. The tread cap covers meet building codes. They are also a lot faster and easier to install.  And in the end, we wiped out any presence of the cheap pine.

So next the conversion began.

somerdale old pine stair makeover to gorgeous maple stairs
See how we replaced old tired pine stairs with new maple ones

The tread caps converted the stairs to an appealing accouterment, not an eyesore. It completes the look as you enter the house. Now she has front door appeal. Inviting, the look is much more in line with our client’s sense of style.

After the tread caps were retrofitted over the stairs, trim upgrades were installed.

Considered ‘finish’ work, we dressed up under the bullnose of the stair tread too. With more finesse of a finished stair craftsman’s touch, we installed a piece of trim called scotia. Converting it from a low-grade stair installation as requested, this trim was a must.

Now we moved on to the scroll brackets. Options were given on what to do with them. Instead of cutting off the scroll look, she opted to have them sanded and cleaned up. Although the brackets are dated, light sanding and fresh paint obscured them enough for her.

The final push, now a railing system is in the works. Our client can’t wait! And hence- Part 3!

As all the parts to the stairs now command attention, we need to do the same with the spindles and railing. The railings need some primping too. Our client agreed. She visions using metal spindles and a wood railing. Additionally, we are giving her the option as follows:

  • replace the square spindles with decorative round metal ones
  • ditch the nondescript railings, and replace them with maple ones that are crafted and comfortable to grasp
  • use a newel post sleeve to change the look from a curved newel to a squared-off newel
  • seat a wooden square rosette to which the small 5′ railing mounts (which ends at the newel post)
  • replace and clean up the landing tread
  • install the stair scotia and return trim on the open lower stairs.

With all that finalized and installed our client prefers the look of stained railings. Add to that she has settled on a painted newel, painted scotia, and stained open stair returns.

We now have one happy camper! She can’t wait to entertain and welcome guests to a home she is proud of!

Much more her style, the house is finally the home she envisioned. It is all warm, comfy, and well-appointed. Can’t wait to hear how everyone enjoyed seeing her new place now that the floors, stairs, and railings are done!

If you have stairs or railings that are old school or dated we can upgrade them for you. We can take plain old stairs and railings and give them some love so they look contemporary as a stand-alone project or with floor refinishing. Free estimates, Ask for Wendy! Call 609.953.0472. Or Contact Us online and we’ll reach out!


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