OK so the crazy thing with our house is that we have not one, not two, but THREE freaking sets of stairs! One set in the entrance that goes from the main floor to the second floor, a set that goes down to the basement, and a third set that goes through the back of the house from the kitchen to the bonus room (which is over the garage). The bonus room stairs are probably in the middle as far as condition of the stairs go – the basement stairs being the best and the front, most visible stairs being the worst (can we say disgusting dust and grime-half-coddled-togetherness? Yes. but that’s for another post..). So, I figured, not being all that visible, that these bonus room stairs were the first to try my hand at refinishing. Here’s what we are working with:
Lovely eh? They’re really not the quality of stair you’d normally refinish, but they are workable, especially being in the back of the house and not all that visible. Oak thinks they are combination of himself (oak wood.. haha) on the treads, with pine risers.
As much fun as we have working together on projects, this confined space isn’t exactly comfy for two people. So while Oak has actively contributed to the stairs, I feel that I can call them “my project.” At least for the really annoying and getting dirty parts.
Here we go…
- Spend many evenings pulling staples out from the stairs. Apparently they were carpeted at one point or another. You might be asking, if they WERE carpeted, why not just carpet again? Well, besides how gross and dirty carpeted stairs can get, it costs something ridiculous like $50/stair to get done because of all the extra work involved. Yeah. I think we paid that just for the little part where it wraps over the top of the top stairs. Best tool to use for removing staples, I discovered, is needlenose pliers. Especially for those icky really small and strong staples. Find even more staples when you improve the lighting situation with a giant work light. Almost fall down the stairs trying to use entire body to get stubborn staples out.
- Pleadingly ask husband to pull out supper bugger icky staples. OK, so I almost developed carpal tunnel pulling out all these staples. By the end, my hand was blistered and swollen, and I JUST COULD NOT PULL ONE MORE STAPLE! (dramatic collapse at like 11pm one night). Mark these staples with blue tape so he can find all of them. Miss several … only to be discovered later on..
- After the last marathon staple pulling session, cover all the holes and imperfections with wood putty. Read online the next day that you should NEVER use wood putty when you’re going to stain something. BUGGER!
- Create a sand bubble in which you will be spending several hours. This was accomplished by attaching plastic on the top banister of the stairs, and taping to the wall. Apparently spreading plastic is a talent I am COMPLETELY lacking in…. thanks to the hubby again for this one..
- Let the sanding begin. 80 grit paper,cause that’s what the internet told me. Start out with mouse sander. Remember that heavier dutier (read MANLY) DeWalt Orbital sander is also available. Orbital sander kicks mouse sander’s ass. Quickly become covered in a thin layer of fine dust. Not quite as annoying as drywall dust, but enough to call yourself “Dusty”, which is also the name of our neighbor’s cat. Feel very fashionable with the glasses/headphones/dustmask combo. Stupid “safety” and “not losing your hearing” interfering with looking awesome while being holed up alone in a stairway.
- Get about halfway through the stairs, and realize that, hmm.. how am I going to get this pesky paint off the edges of the stairs? The orbital sander obviously doesn’t get in corners. So I try the mouse, which is suppose to get into corners. Fail. Consider spending the next 35 years holed up in this stairway with a sanding block. Consider painting stairs instead. Husband thinks of the multi-tool that is currently being loaned to us, which, coincidentally, ALSO IS A mini SANDER!
- Try mini sander multi-tool. Works well. Finally there might be an end to the edge sanding conundrum! However, the tool runs on a battery and said battery has about 10 minutes of battery life + 30 minutes of battery charging time. Go through this process about 3 times for 3 stairs.
- Realize, that for the first time ever, you want to purchase a power tool of your own. Yeah… I know, buying power tools is for boys. What I realized is tools were invented to make your life easier. I could spend the next 5 months sanding these stairs, or I could get it done in a few weekends. Sorry ladies who oppose man tool purchases… I actually kind of get it. (However… the jury is still out on the biscuit joiner… sorry darling.)
- Go to Big blue. No, not your place of employment, the blue home improvement store. Marvel at the very FEW choices in mini sanding tools. Finally Oak asks some employees and they take us to a new SHINY SPECIAL display where this beauty is displayed. It’s everything I could want in a detail sanding tool. And, it’s a multi-TASKER! It can cut, it can grind, and who knows what else. Alton Brown would approve.
Feel a little comforted by the fact that it’s called the soniCRAFTER. Surely this means that it can also be used in scrapbooking and other crafty pursuits. This isn’t a pure man-tool now is it? It even comes in a cute little purse. How fashionable!
- After picking up the sonicrafter and being satisfied with the help received, it’s time to go home and get back to work. Oh BUT WAIT! It’s time to hear the LIFE STORY of the guy that helped you find the multitool! Well, actually the entire story of this family heirloom antique armoire he restored for his daughter, who lives up in Washington DC. Apparently she’s finally getting it a year after he promised it to her because it’s been such a pain to work on. Actually he was helpful and had some good ideas, but we swear, Oak has “the face” where people just want to talk to him. This from a blue store guy on a SATURDAY. He must have spent at least a half hour with us. haha
- Continued fun with the 80-grit sandpaper. 80 grit definitely helps with the paint removal. Develop a large pile of worn sandpaper pads. Marvel over the wonderful functionality of your newly purchased tool. Get covered in dust again.
- Unexpected improvements made by hubaroo. Early Sunday morning, he decides to eliminate the creaks in the stairs with some screws and wood plugs. How fancy. I wake up to realize that these plugs need to dry because they’re glued in and need to dry before I can sand them down to be even with the rest of the wood surface. Oh bummer, I don’t get to sand more?
- OK, now you can sand more. Oh, you thought the sanding was over? Do the entire thing over again with 100 grit paper! WOOHOO! Find some more staples. Whoops.
- Time to semi-dedust. Hopefully you hooked your big sander to your shop-vac to eliminate some dust, as I actually did because Oak told me to. Go over EVERYTHING with the shop-vac again and then tack cloth to pick up the pesky super dusty pieces that even the vaccuum can’t get.
Next time:Let the staining begin! Stay tuned…