Early Saturday morning, I set out to refinish the stairs. I was at Lowes by 9 am and got a little side tracked. By 11 am I was home and broke out my tools. I sealed off the area and put on my safety gear. My goggles, my respirator mask and crappy old clothes.
The first step was to remove all the excess paint and carpet fibers that were stuck to the stringers.
I used my palm sander and 100 grit sandpaper. It took me about 10 minutes to do the entire staircase. It went much faster than I anticipated.
Note: It is dangerous to sand or scrape old paint due to the possibility of lead. According to the EPA only 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1978 have lead based paint. We did our due diligence and had this area tested and found it to be free of lead.
Next I used my hacksaw to cut the balusters out from the banister. It took me about 10 minutes to cut out all nine of them. One of them gave me a really hard time because someone nailed one of the balusters to the banister. I had to saw through the nail and it cut into my time. Things were really moving quickly and I was very motivated. I thought that removing the paint and carpet fibers was going to be the hard part of this project. Talk about naive. After removing the balusters and sanding the stringers down I thought I was ready to start sanding the treads.
I used my 100 grit sandpaper on the bottom stair and realized that it wasn’t coarse enough. By now I was mentally kicking myself for not buying the 80 or 60 grit paper when I was at Lowes. I packed up and made a quick trip to Home Depot. I grabbed a 15pk. of 80 grit paper and headed back home. Now I’m ready to start sanding the treads.
I switched out the sandpaper and got started. About 4 minutes later, I had sanded 90% of the stair tread. For some reason, the finish wasn’t coming off as quickly as I though it would with the more coarse paper. It took quite a few passes and still I could not get in the tight corner.
By now I began to feel defeated. What if I can’t get all of the old finish off? What if I go through all of this work and the stain does not take properly? What if I’ve picked the wrong color?
I decided to test the stains on the bottom stair so that I can sand it back off while everything else was still covered in dust.
If you follow me on Facebook then you caught a glimpse of my dilemma.
Wearing rubber gloves, I wiped the stain on and let it sit for five minutes. The instructions give you a range of 5-10 minutes. The sample of the left is Dark Walnut and the one on the right is my tried and true Kona which is more like a deep espresso.
I like the look of the darker Kona color with the other accents in the space. The Kona was the winner so long as I could figure out a way to sand every square centimeter of these stairs.
I did a search on Google to find out how I could get into the tight corners of the treads. Several people said to use a tool called a scraper. Sounds simple right? WRONG. Apparently using a scraper takes skill and it takes woodworkers years to perfect the sharpening and burnishing process.
I cleaned up the work area and began brainstorming and Googling. How can I sand the corners of the treads so that my stain will look professional grade? I didn’t want to buy another small detail sander so I made trip #3 to Lowes and found a razor sharp paint and varnish scraper. It had a long handle and fit into that tiny little space. It cost about $9 so I tested it out on a scrap piece of wood in the lumber section of the store and it worked. I rushed home ready to do some hardcore scraping.
All of my reading said that when you scrape it properly the wood and varnish will come off in little shavings and not dust. Notice my shavings in the photo above.
I got busy scraping the steps using the new tool. I read that before there was sandpaper this was the only way to smooth out rough wood. Would you believe there are still people out there who prefer to scrape over using sand paper? I didn’t either until I noticed one thing……..NO DUST!!! Yes you heard me, there is no dust. I have plans on ordering the official cabinet maker scraper from Rockler. By the time I got deep into scraping the third stair, the hubs started filling all of the 1,000,000 nail holes in the risers.
I only scraped 6 out of 13 stairs and I still need to finish sand all of them. I plan on continuing through the week and then I will move onto the fun part….staining the treads. Be sure to check back for progress.
How was your weekend? What projects did you work on?