Staircase Finishing Touches

Our re-built staircase has been complete for a little while now, but I only got around to photographing it today – so here it is!

The treads and risers were finished and white washed last month when we had our floors done upstairs, and I painted the uprights a few weeks ago slowly over the course of a few days. As with the rest of the woodwork in the house, I used 2 coats of the Johnstone’s Acrylic Satin for wood work, on top of 1 coat of the Johnstone’s Joncryl Primer Undercoat, making sure I did a gentle sanding before starting.

I’ve decided to leave the handrail and newel post unfinished for the time being (you will remember that we decided to keep the original ones!). I quite like how all the different colours it has been painted over its lifetime are slightly visible.

We still need to finish sanding and painting the plaster repair that Alex has neatly executed above the skirting on the rear wall – but its good enough for now!  We  haven’t got around to the top landing balustrade and handrail.. but at least the downstairs bit is looking sharp.

P.S. The slots are to provide a bit of ventilation and air circulation to the cupboard under the staircase. There was originally a surface mounted plastic grille at this end of the cupboard – so we replaced that with some cut out slots for a slicker look. To lessen the ‘blackness’ of the slots, I taped one of the white curtain fabric samples that I received when trying to select curtains to the back side! Job done!


Stair Stringer Paint Stripping

When the guy came by to firm up the quote for our floors, he stated that in addition to his initial quote (which was based on photos and a floor plan),  that it would be an extra £160 to remove the paint from around the uprights, tread nosings, and the stair stringer.

So, having a little bit of time,  a heat gun, and experience using it on our master bedroom fireplace, Alex kindly got going on the task last weekend. Here is an in-progress shot and a ‘ready for sanding by the pros’ photo.  We decided that it would look slightly odd to finish the paint on an outer corner of the tread (as we had it when the treads were carpeted), so opted to strip the paint all the way along.  Alex made quick work of the task and it only took a two hours, money well saved! (Thanks Alex!)

The sander comes in next week to sand and treat the floors and I can’t wait to finally have this job done!  We have been waiting until all of the first floor was complete before doing the work so it could all be done at once (making it more cost effective), and also, perhaps more importantly, so it wouldn’t get damaged during other phases of the work.


Staircase Re-build Plan

In order to fit both a bathtub and a 2m sized third ‘bedroom’ in when we did our bathroom and study refurbishment project, we needed to relocate the access corridor from the top of the existing flat landing in the middle of the plan, to the side of the plan next to the party wall off of the stair winders.  (You can see the floor plan here as a reminder as its a bit difficult to explain!)

Our plan was that if my somewhat unconventional staircase configuration was uncomfortable or awkward, we’d re-build the staircase at a later date (when cash flow permitted).  As expected, if you are walking all the way up or down the stairs along the existing staircase route from the ground floor to the master bedroom, it is perfectly fine, you don’t notice, or aren’t bothered by the new hallway position to the study. If you walk directly from the ground floor up to the bathroom and study, that’s fine too. The problem with this configuration is that when in the middle of the night, you walk from the master bedroom to the bathroom,  its a little but awkward.  Instead of stepping down onto a winder, which isnt quite big enough, we tend to take a wide step over it (not exactly particularly safe).

As a temporary ‘safety’ fix we added some motion sensor battery operated lights on the steps so you can see where you are going when its dark. Well, the time had finally come to sort it out.

As you can see from the photos, our staircase treads are in very poor condition. Many of them are cracked, and seem to be filled in with a sort of cement based filler. Our original plan was to get them sanded and leave the wood exposed, but as they are so cracked they’d never look great as you’d be able to see the wood filler.   So, although I generally don’t like to remove historic fabric, we’ve decided to have the stairs re-built.

We are going to re-use the handrail and newel post, and rather than build something modern, we are going to keep the design simple and cost effective and match the existing nosing and tread details.

Re-building the stair gives us the opportunity to move it one step forward so we can have a larger landing at the top to avoid that awkward half winder. It also has the added benefit of improving the head height beneath. (Not important now, but eventually when we pop a downstairs loo under there, it will make a 200mm difference – very important if your other half is 6′-4″!)

So, after two quotes, and a bit of a lead time run in, we are having our staircase re-built tomorrow! Exciting times!


One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

160411-StairsAt the moment it feels like with every step forward we make towards finishing up our little bathroom study project, we take about four steps back… which is why I haven’t made a post about this project in a little while and have been distracting myself with garden furniture!

I had lined up the delivery of the stone back panel behind the sink weeks ago so it perfectly coincided with the end of the job, however two days before the installation the stone supplier called me to tell me that when they drilled the last tap hole, the panel split in half along an invisible fissure.  The stone they offered in replacement wasn’t nearly as nice, so it took a week and a half before they finally found a suitable alternative.  Then because of the Easter break, there was further delay. As the panel wouldn’t arrive on site until April 8th, my builder moved onto his next job with the intention of assisting with that installation and finishing up the remaining bits and pieces on the same day.

Well.  The back panel successfully went in last Friday, but the top shelf cracked in half just after installation and needs to be replaced. (Add about a week more of delay).

Then we discovered that the extract fan had a defect, which, luckily, the manufacturer is going to replace free of charge. (Add 2 days until that work can be completed)

Then we noticed that the custom 3 gang light switch plate was supplied without its back seal ring. (Add 2 days until the missing part is delivered and can be installed)

Then I noticed that the tiles beneath the shower mixer were a slightly different shade of white to those adjacent to it.  After a bit of online research I discovered that rather than a bad batch of tiles, the more likely cause was a leak.   I read that tiles can darken in colour because the biscuit behind the glazed face gets saturated with water. So, I asked the builder to investigate, and sure enough one of the pipes was leaking slightly. (Add 3 days to remove the tiles, repair the pipe, let the wall dry out, replace the tiles, and re-grout)

So that’s where we are.  There are still a few more steps to climb before we get to the finish – but there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

P.S. As an aside – this is a great website for trouble shooting issues you may have with tiles!

Leaving history exposed

These photos are from the MOMA PS1 gallery in Brooklyn New York. MOMA decided to only very gently refurbish the old school building and leave the layers of paint and history fully intact in the staircases. I don’t intend to leave our staircase this raw, but the visit reminded me that that every surface need not be entirely re-made smooth and new. Sometimes leaving a little bit of the past story exposed is a good thing.

P.S. Isn’t the painting of a mouse in the bottom left in a hole brilliant? It is a piece by Alexis Rockman and was created for the 1997 group show Vertical Paintings. It is part of a series of magical animals rendered in gouache in Staircase B. Maybe we need one of those too!


The next challenge

The next challenge in the hallway is the staircase.  We finally removed the green floral carpet and the above was revealed. I was hoping for an unpainted wood staircase that I would just leave as is for the time being, but with the different colours of paint, it just looks too unfinished.

Eventually I will get a carpet runner installed to run up the centre (leaving a white edge of painted wood on either side), but I don’t want to do that until phase 4 is complete as otherwise I will just have builders walking up and down the stairs tracking dirt into our new carpet – not ideal. My plan for now, after visiting countless raw, exposed brickwork galleries and cafe’s in New York, is to paint the edges white, but leave the middle natural so it:

  • Shows the dirt less
  • Is less slippery than gloss paint on a staircase
  • Shows the old boards through

I will have to spend some time masking a neat edge so this looks more ‘finished’, rather than just slop the paint on as I could have done had the carpet being going down immediately…