Gordon James

Gordon James
The Ups and Downs of Staircase Renovation

When undergoing an extensive interior home renovation, it’s important to remember that even though your staircase(s) might be partially obscured, the design elements should be renovated to be brought into line with the new aesthetic of your home. The innovative builders at Gordon James are no strangers to staircases, and ensure they remain as stylish as they are functional. Consult the following article to learn more about the basics of the process.


Old Bones, New Character

An existing staircase can be rehabilitated if its framing is still solid and strong. Components such as the handrail, balusters, and newel posts may need to be refinished or replaced entirely, depending upon the nature of the project. For more information about the terms used in this article, see the graphic below.

a photo of staircase terms

Stringing Along

As an example renovation task, our hypothetical staircase will receive a new stringer (also called a skirt board) along its exposed side. It will be installed over the existing stringer; if removal of the original stringer would be ideal, the wall underneath would likely need to be touched up prior to installation of a new stringer. Treads, handrails, balusters, and newel posts will be removed, refinished, and put back in place–as each of these elements is removed, its original location should be marked, so that re-installation is as seamless as possible. Original risers will remain in place.

The new stringer will be long enough to reach from top to bottom of the staircase run and wide enough to span the tread width and riser height. Typically, a 1×12″ board is used. Because a staircase is often a showpiece fixture in the home, quality lumber is the best choice; “clear, A-grade” lumber (containing no knots) would be ideal.

The new board is temporarily affixed to the exterior edge of the staircase, and markings are made where the stringer meets the risers and the tread tops (with the tread lines then lowered one inch to fit under the existing treads). After the board is cut at 90-degree angles along the markings, it is test-fitted against the existing stringer. The board should fit snugly below each of the treads, and the riser cuts should be flush with the face of the original risers. Further alterations are then made if necessary, and once a proper fit is achieved, the new stringer is affixed to the staircase (typically using a combination of wood glue and 2-1/2″ finishing nails).

Prior to being reinstalled, treads are temporarily placed in their original locations to be test-fitted against the new stringer. Alterations are made if necessary, and treads are then reinstalled–first with construction adhesive, then with nails. If the treads are hardwood, predrilling holes ensures a quality finish.

Finally, the handrail, balusters, and newel posts are reinstalled. Hollow newel posts are often fit over existing support bases. The lower end of the handrail is affixed to the bottom post, the balusters are each set and fastened into their corresponding treads, the handrail is attached to the baluster tops, and the upper end of the handrail is affixed to the top post. The renovated staircase is now complete!

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Though the considerations listed above may seem complex, rest assured that Gordon James will handle all the “ups and downs” of construction with skill and technical acumen. Contact us today to begin your own home renovation journey!