Woodworking: 6 staircases you can build yourself

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You want to build your own wooden staircase? Go for it!

If you have a wooden staircase, you know from first-hand experience that it is the type of structure that can easily deteriorate over time, due to heavy use and simply the nature of the material. You could, for example, have noticed an annoying creaking noise or the wear of part of the paint that creates an eyesore, if not a totally ruined step that should be replaced lest someone takes a tumble. 

You may ask yourself how to intervene? Well, here at homify we have complete sympathy with your plight, and are on it to help you solve your dilemma. Let's find out about some practical DIY ideas to renovate your wooden stairs in a few simple steps and keep them as beautiful and safe over time.

When is it necessary to renew wooden stairs?

There are no specific rules regarding the best time to renew wooden stairs. There are so many different reasons, and in fact, the factors which determine the wear of a staircase starts with its location. A wooden staircase connecting the living areas and private spaces, as the example shown here by Arch Studio Design. A staircase such as this will need a lot more care than others, such as staircases on the 2nd floor and in the attic, which are naturally less frequented. 

The constant use of the stairs involves the deterioration of some of its specific parts. When we climb and descend a staircase, without realizing it, we usually walk the same trail blazed by the ones before us. If you have not noticed this, just take a look at your wooden stair treads, and you’re bound to see discoloured spots on each step that are more worn than the surrounding areas.

In general, we divide the wear of wooden stairs in two major types:

1) Cosmetic damage, such as scratches, deterioration of paint and wood dents.

2) Structural damage like cracked and broken steps.

While for the first type of damage an intervention is important to maintain the beauty of the structure over time, the problem can be solved easily. When it comes to structural damage, however, it is obviously very important to act immediately to prevent the staircase from becoming unsafe and dangerous.

Worn paint

Here's how to remove damaged paint and repaint your work stairs:

- Sand down the surface of the wood with medium grit sandpaper to remove the old paint and smooth out any bumps.

- Proceed to apply a small amount of paint in an inconspicuous place, and if the effect is desired, proceed to coat the stair tread in question, going from top to bottom and following the instructions on the product packaging.

- Once the first coat of paint dries, proceed with a second and then a third.

- Then sand it again, this time with fine-grain sandpaper, clean it with a clean cloth and apply two coats of transparent protective enamel.

Tip: to get a brighter and homogeneous effect, just as we see in this example proposed by Planair, you can try using floor paint.

Dents

 Corridor & hallway by PLANAIR ®
PLANAIR ®

Scale e parapetto

PLANAIR ®

Here's how to address any bruising of stairs from blows:

- We suggest using a special putty for wood. At the market you can find different colours, depending on the type of wood.

- Once the putty mixture is dry, use sandpaper with a very fine grain, to level out the step surface and thus obtain a homogeneous result, as we see in this example proposed in the image above.

Deep scratches and ruined surfaces

 Corridor & hallway by PLANAIR ®

If the scratches are light, here's how to reset the stair and the wood to its full glory, as we can see for example in this proposal by Renova Natural Design. Take the following steps:

- Clean the scratch thoroughly with turpentine.

- Use a special wax pencil to restore the affected area, choosing a lighter shade of the wood of your stairs.

- Lastly, cover the area with strokes of a slightly darker colour.

If the scratches are deep, spread an enamel paint across the area in the colour of your stairs, let it dry, then polish the area with wax.

Ruined steps

If one or more steps are in a condition that make the use of the staircase unsafe, you will have to replace it. If it is a modern staircase with steel or wood, simply disconnect the step damaged and replace it with a new one of the same size to return the staircase to its original beauty, as we can see in this example proposed by Architecture Studio X.

Here’s how to proceed in case of broken treads in a wooden staircase:

- Detach both the horizontal wooden slab (the tread), then the edge (called the bull) that make up the step together.

- Use fast-drying polyurethane adhesive to apply the new materials (both the bull and then the slab), which will fit into the space left by the old materials.

Creaks

If you can have access to the basement, you can easily eliminate the creaks, making sure the hinges that attach the treads and risers are set right. If it is too loose you will have to tighten each of the hinges, or replace all of the missing ones.

If it is not possible to access the basement, you can try to nail top step. You will then have to fill it with plastic wood or wood pulp in holes created by the nails. Once you have completed this, sand it down with medium-grit sandpaper.

How to be safe with wooden stairs

 Corridor & hallway by Specht Architects
Specht Architects

Manhattan Micro-Loft

Specht Architects

For a functional staircase to remain in good condition, it is a prerequisite to establish its safety as wooden staircase. In particular, if you are renovating an old house and have to decide whether or not to keep the original wooden staircase, you will have to ensure that the staircase possesses these characteristics:

- The treads (the horizontal parts of the steps) should be at least 30-31 cm deep, in order to allow a safe hold of the foot.

- The shrugs (the vertical parts of the steps) should be 15-17 cm at the most. 

- It will also be important to check the slope of the ramp: the diagonal length between the edges of two treads must be equal to 62-64 cm. The more we turn away from this ratio, the staircase will be less practical and safe to use.

Why not take a look at some: Wooden staircases that WOW!?

Which of these DIY solutions have you tried on your own staircase? We'd like to hear from you!
modern Houses by Casas inHAUS

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