The Stairwell


In a 4-story house the stairwell plays a central role. In our home there is one stairwell, centrally located, with 6 flights between the ground floor and the fourth floor. The flights have 7 or 8 steps each and connect one floor to a landing between it and the next floor and from the landing to the next floor itself.

The staircases were originally oak, but after more than a century of use were beyond repair. The oak steps had been repaired by routing out the front edge and gluing and nailing pine strips in to correct for the worn edge. Then the steps were filled with a leveling mortar and covered with PVC floor covering. This gray covering had worn through in places and peeled off in other places.

More seriously, perhaps, water damage had all but destroyed one of the stringers and a few of the steps on the second floor and we are fortunate that the stairs never gave way while supporting many heavy pieces of furniture and bags of cement.

Shortly after moving in we knew we would have to replace the stairs, an expensive and daunting project. We decided to wait with this repair until most of the heavy work in the upper floors had been finished so as not to put unnecessary wear and tear on new stairs. Finally, after about 2-1/2 years we felt it was time to undertake the project and we called our carpenter. He did the measurements and began planning. We decided on oiled oak steps, risers and hand rails and white laquered stringers and banister staves. The idea was to reproduce the original staircase as closely as possible.

In January 2008 work began. The old staircase had a covered underside which had to be removed first. The covering was made of wooden laths and clay, covered with plaster and wallpaper that had many coats of paint on it. Removing this was an extremely dirty job and all doors in the house had to be taped shut while it was being performed.

The old stairs were removed one flight at a time and the new flights were built on the floor above and lowered down into place by two strong men.


A Picture History of Replacing the Staircase

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