Sunday, October 28, 2012

Staircase Makeover

When I started our basement renovation about a year and a half ago, I knew that part of it would include ripping the carpet off the stairs and...then what? That part I didn't know. It depended on what was under the stairs and also on how I was feeling the day I decided to work on them. Er, the night I decided to work on them. Because of course I do my best work in the middle of the night. Case in point:

And, really, that carpet was great for catching the dust and debris that I dragged out of the basement every time I walked upstairs during the renovation, so I left it on until the bitter end. By the time I was ready to remove the carpet, I had plenty of inspiration pinned on Pinterest to help me decide what to do, but the one below was definitely my favorite.

via pinterest
Unfortunately my treads were not solid wood, so I couldn't stain them like I'd hoped. I've also been loving the fun striped runners that are hot right now, so I thought I might find one I loved even though the grain sack took my breath away. When I saw the Söften rug at Ikea, that sealed the deal. The charcoal grey color was great with my new grey walls and my soon-to-be gray and white curtains. Edited to add: here's a link to the bold striped curtain tutorial!

At just under five feet long, one Söften rug wasn't long enough to cover all the stairs, and so I bought three of them, hoping that the three would be enough to cover my whole staircase (true to form, I didn't actually measure the staircase before buying or installing the runners). The bummer was that when I got the rugs home, they were about half an inch too wide for my staircase (did I just mention something about how I didn't measure?). Undaunted, I trimmed off the hems on the short sides and pressed the long sides under and sewed new hems along the edges.

Using two Ikea Stopp anti-slip rug underlays (a total bargain at $3.99/each and just the right width) and my pneumatic staple gun, I made my way down the stairs stapling the rug to the top of the riser, the intersection between the riser and the tread, and then under the tread nose.

If you are contemplating installing a similar runner, I would definitely recommend using a pneumatic stapler (as in, a stapler that is attached to an air compressor). My electric stapler would not have been able to do this project. If you don't have an air compressor and pneumatic stapler, you need to beg, borrow, or steal one before you attempt this.

When I got to spots where I needed to join the end of one rug with the beginning of another, I simply turned under the end of the new rug and stapled it up under the nose of the most recently covered tread, right over the rug that was ending. Very simple and not fussy at all. Somehow I managed to have each rug end right in the middle of a riser, not a tread, so I didn't even have to cut them down...except the last one. I ended up with about 18" of rug left at the end. I assume this is due to my very careful planning and measuring.

One place I made a mistake was in keeping the rug centered on the staircase. It would help to use painter's tape to mark the edges of where the rug should go before you start stapling. Or at least step back and take a look every once in a while. But, since it isn't horribly lopsided, I'm not worried about it.

Frankly, the cat uses this staircase more than anyone else in this family (to get to her litter box in the utility room) and I don't think she cares if the runner is perfectly straight. Or maybe she does? She is a cat, after all.

Oh, and you might have noticed in the before and after that I did some board and batten down there, too. I think the white walls really help lighten up an otherwise dark hallway. I haven't done a board and batten tutorial because there are about ten million of them out there in blogland, but you might like to know that I chose not to use MDF for my board and batten. That was an intentional departure from the blogger norm -- I prefer not to use MDF because of the chemicals it off-gasses and because of the toxins in the sawdust, which I would inhale every time I cut a board. If you want to know more, I'll gladly do a post on why I don't use MDF. Just ask!

And, lastly, the louvered door in that photo above? Yeah, I added that sometime between the "before" and the "after," too. You can see my pocket door tutorial here.


  1. This looks awesome! Great job!

    1. Thanks, Liz! I'm really happy with how it turned out!

  2. I love the board & batten! And I am interested in knowing what you used instead of MDF. Glad to have found your blog!

    1. Thanks, Carrie! I'm using fingerjoint pine from Home Depot. It's solid pine that is spliced together using fingerjoints, and it comes primed. It's super easy to work with.

  3. Hello fellow-anti-MDF person!!! It's nice to know I'm not alone! I cringe every time I watch a DIY show and they use that stuff. Hello? Do they not know how toxic it is??!?!?? So happy to hear you're promoting other (real) wood alternatives. xoxo Bets

  4. That's more character I’m seeing now. If I must say, staircase is one part which is not paid much attention. A thing I'm still kind of surprised of, considering how we all enjoy a good walk down the stairs. Love it! Gabrielle@Majestic Exteriors

  5. My treads were not solid wood either. I painted the 2x4 Benjamin Moore Clinton Brown and painted the fronts white. I love them.

  6. Good staircase make over..!!
    Become fan of you after seeing the first image of the post...!!
    I want to add it in my basement finishing work...!!


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