Monday, August 3, 2015

Finishing the stairs

We've been working on the stairwell for quite a while now. We've had construction stairs since, oh, March of 2013 (we used a ladder before that) which have basically consisted of the permanent stringers with 2x8 boards resting on top. The treads have wobbled and gradually gotten less stable as the boards flexed and warped since they were unfinished.

But now! Now we have final treads and a beautiful end wall and lots of pictures. So bear with me.

We got the stairwell landing compass  and landing wall done and loved the look. Next up was the safety wall at the end of the landing.

We saved some of the damaged heartwood from the cherry trees we had sawn into boards; basically we left it as a 4x4 post figuring we'd end up doing something with it. 
Heart wood from old cherry
The crack up the center didn't go all the way through to the other side, but it needed to be kept from opening further. So Chris used an old trick to butterfly the wood together.

Cutting the channel
Filling it with a butterfly
Once that was done we applied poly to the post (it will naturally get more red as it ages - no need to stain it) and Chris set about installing it securely to the landing wall.

In Cooper's kennel
We used goat panel (love this stuff!) to create a door for the kennel under the landing. This is Cooper's safe spot and she loves it.
Posts and kennel door installed
Chris had to built a door cleat to keep the sliding door from pushing out from the bottom. There's no other latch on it though - it slides easily to the right to open.
Kennel with goat panel door
Once the end posts and kennel door were in place he started installing the stair treads. We acquired some flame birch from a friend of ours and the figuring was just gorgeous. But the boards weren't quite as thick as the 2x4 we'd used before - which meant the rise was just a bit off from what we wanted. So we used some of the white oak to create a spacer under the birch tread (stained to match the wall color). This had the added benefit of creating a greater gluing surface and of giving a bit of accent to each step - which you can see in the photo above. It's subtle, but pretty.

The hard part was figuring out how to clamp the tread down. The stringers are angled and we ended up screwing temporary clamp blocks in place.
First tread in place
We decided to wait to stain the boards until after they were installed. This gave Chris greater flexibility in custom fitting each tread.
Yup, the clamps are holding
We also used goat panel to form the safety wall at the stair landing. I painted it black and Chris build a frame for it out of cherry and dark-stained oak. I like the industrial/farm vibe of the panel and it has the added benefit of complying with safety building codes since you cannot fit a 4-inch diameter ball through the squares. If you're interested in doing something like this, be sure to check your local building codes to see what their spacing requirements are.

I love that back post's live edge
We also used a live edge for the top of the wall. Chris used two pieces of cherry and joined them to create that gorgeous look.
Very natural
As we got closer to the top of the stairwell we started running into wood-shortage issues. Some of the boards had flaws that wouldn't allow them to be used as a tread. Chris got creative on a few to take out the weak spots.
Our raven
A lot of creativity went into these stairs. From the inlaid compass with copper banding, the custom designed safety wall, and the gorgeous treads, it's completely individualized for our home.
This shows the figuring on the treads
Well worth the time and effort it took!
All done!


  1. Wow! You've really done an incredible job with that staircase. I love that you took flaws and made them something beautiful and unique. Just amazing...

    I really enjoyed catching up with all the progress there. You two have been busy!

    1. Thanks Rue! It's been a lot of work (mostly on Chris's part) but every time I go up or down the stairs I marvel at how great they came out.