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Reviving Hardwood Staircases

Reviving a staircase is easy if you take it step by step.

First, assess the state of your hardwood stairs. You or a professional floor refinisher can sand and refinish it to give it new life. Or, if there is no hope, a new hardwood staircase can be installed and stained to match the finish of your floors.

Either way, your efforts will pay off. A hardwood staircase, like hardwood flooring, adds character, beauty, and resale value to any home.

Dealing with Squeaks
If your wood stairs need a facelift, start by checking for any needed repairs. Loose or rubbing parts often cause squeaks, a common problem. Stop the squeak by nailing or screwing down a part that has separated or by inserting a wedge underneath it.

Sanding and Refinishing
Refinishing requires special equipment and a lot of patience. Floor refinishing companies typically get most of the job done in a day. If you decide to do it yourself, rent a floor edger-sanding machine.

  • Run the sander over the steps. For rough or painted boards, start with 20- or 30-grit sandpaper, and then proceed with 50-grit and finally 90-grit.
  • Start with 36-grit paper for varnished floors.
  • Next, use a hand scraper on the spots the sander missed and, if desired, hand sand with fine paper to remove small scratches.
  • Vacuum to remove the dust.
  • Stain with a clear finish or one custom-blended to match your floors.
  • For a final protective glaze, top that with three coats of polyurethane, which is available with a water or oil base.

Each coat of oil-based polyurethane must dry overnight. Water-based sealers usually dry within a couple of hours.

Photo Courtesy – Staircase and Millwork Company

Safety First
Take some precautions to avoid trouble. Sanding produces highly flammable dust, so seal the doorways into your work area with plastic and ventilate the area with a fan. Wear goggles, ear protection and a dust mask while sanding. When applying the sealer, put on goggles, rubber gloves, long pants and a long-sleeve shirt.

Keeping Stairs Like New
Once the stairs are restored, consider having a carpet company install a runner to add style and provide padding and protection. To keep stairs free of dust, wipe with a cloth or use a dust mop or hand-vacuum. One way to remove caked-on grime from a handrail is to lightly rub with very fine screen sandpaper and top with a new coat of varnish.

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