Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Basic Staircase Terminology You Should Know (Part-1)

Construction and repair of staircases is a very specialized field. Like any specialty, it has its own technical terms. If you are planning to build or repair/remodel a staircase, you will do well to be familiar with a few basic technical terms frequently used by professionals.

Listed below are the commonest staircase terms. They will help you understand better the work that is going to be done for you by professionals. An explanation of a term may contain another term, the explanation of which you will find elsewhere down the list.

  • Angle newel: A newel is the central supporting pillar of a spiral staircase.  An angle newel is a longer newel post at a landing or upper level of a spiral staircase. The length is determined by the number of steps above this point.
  • Baluster: The vertical piece used between the railing and the floor or tread which provides support for the balustrade
  • Balustrade: The complete rail system
  • Box newel: A large square newel that is hollow
  • Box stair: A stair where the stringer houses the treads and risers (the vertical and horizontal parts of steps) to form a box
  • Bracket: This is also often called a tread or stringer bracket, and it is mitered to the riser and fastened over the stringer.
  • Cap: The round part of the rail fitting, which typically widens to allow it to be set on top of a newel post
  • Cove molding: A specially shaped mold that finishes the joint where the riser meets the lower part of the tread
  • Easing or easement: That part of the rail fitting that curves allowing the rail to move up or down at bends and corners
  • Fillet: The slim molding that is located between the balusters, plowed rail and the shoe rail
  • Finished floor to finished floor height: The distance between the top of the lower floor to the top of the upper floor; in other words, the total height of the staircase
  • Glue block: The square or triangle shaped wooden block that is fitted to the inside corner of each step, where the tread and the riser meet; it is glued into place.
  • Gooseneck: The rail fitting where there is a vertical rise at a balcony or landing; it is also used to permit a change of direction.
  • Hand rail: The rail on the balusters that is used as a hand support
  • Header: The member that is located at the well opening, and is used to secure the top riser of the staircase
  • Horse: The thick lumber that is used to form steps, and which supports the risers and treads
  • Landing: The platform that is located between different flights of stairs; this is also used to allow for a change in the staircase direction
  • Landing newel: The same as angle newel
  • Landing tread: A shaped mold used to create a level surface with the finished floor
  • Left hand: Rail fittings located on the left side of the staircase

A few more basic staircase terms will be covered in the next post.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Remember! Staircase Remodeling is not a DIY Project!

Doing your own home repairs and renovations is a great way to save money; also, you enjoy the satisfaction that derives from a well-done DIY project. However, there are some jobs that even a skilled home handyman should not attempt, because of the specialist skills and knowledge required.

Some other jobs, if not done properly, could have serious consequences for the security of the building and the people who live there. Remodeling a staircase is one such demanding project. Here are listed a few aspects of the project that require the skills and technical expertise of an experienced professional.

Building regulations

There are very detailed building regulations for both a new staircase and a remodeled one. It is not just a matter of dimensions and size: the construction of the staircase itself is subject to very strict controls to ensure its safe use.

Understanding the specifications is hard enough, and following them is even harder. For example, will you be able to ensure that there is “a minimum 2,000 mm of clear headroom above the pitch line” or “a maximum pitch of 42°”?

Removal of old layers of paint

Using a belt sander is something most home handymen can do. But if the old paint is lead based, it will be dangerous to deal with. Even the use of protective gear will not suffice. This hazardous job is best left to professionals.

Lead-testing kits are available at most hardware or DIY stores, but you cannot completely rely on them. Repainting over a smooth old painted surface is an easy option, but the paint will not last as long as it should.

Fixing new treads

This is among the most common aspects of remodeling; however, it is a lot trickier than it may appear. It’s not just a matter of cutting out the old pieces and fitting in the new ones. The new treads need to be shaped properly to ensure perfect fitting.

Gluing must be done with care so that they do not become loose. If the new treads are to be screwed into place, they should be countersunk below the surface to accommodate filling and painting later on.

Managing creaks

Creaks are usually caused by the rubbing together of pieces of lumber. Screwing those pieces of wood tightly into place may not fix the problem once and for all.

At times you may need thin strips of wood that are planed off to slight taper across the width; they should be inserted into the gaps to tackle creaks effectively. Furthermore, locating the source of the sound is not easy. A creak at the top may be caused by an issue somewhere else on the staircase. You need to know exactly where to look for.

Repairing/renovating a staircase is always best left to professionals. They will be able to not only execute the work maintaining high standards, but also ensure the best looks. Once they complete the project, you will not be plagued by imperfections or safety/quality issues – the telltale signs of an improperly renovated staircase.

Moreover, the cost will not be as high as you may assume. A professional renovation will last for a very long time as compared to a DIY job; consequently, the savings, both direct and indirect, will be quite significant.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

How You can Clean Your Staircase

Your staircase is one of the busiest traffic areas of your home. People go up and down it all day, often carrying drinks and other liquids that can stain if spilled. Small bits of food falling on the carpet or wood can stain as well and cause damage. Before you notice, the centerpiece of your home becomes old and worn.

Regular preventive cleaning cannot be difficult for you, if you have the mind and a little time. This brief daily indoor workout will help you keep your stairs look their best all the time.

A couple of valuable benefits go with this workout, if it is regular: you enjoy good health, and it gives you immense satisfaction. Here are a few helpful ideas for you to achieve them.

1. Let not things lie on the stairs: Do not let any of your family leave things lying on the stairs – a toy or other objects. You may trip over them and hurt yourself. If stepped upon, such things may break and cause splinters to spread everywhere, often into hard-to-clean crevices.

2. Vacuum your stairs once a week: If your staircase is carpeted, vacuum it at least once a week. Using a hand vacuum or sweeper with an extension cord will allow you to do the job at one go; you do not have to unplug and reconnect the vacuum as you reach near the top or bottom; also, you can reduce the strain of carrying a big appliance up and down the stairs. Vacuum thoroughly with special attention to the inside creases of the carpet where the steps meet each other. Also ensure that the side panels and railings are cleaned, even if they are not carpet covered. Do not forget the landing and the area at the top and bottom of the stairs, as this is where dirt is often picked up and then transferred to the stairs.

3. Wipe with a cloth: Wipe manually with a clean cloth wooden steps and staircase coverings like rubber treads. A normal duster will not be effective in cleaning these kinds of surfaces. By using your hands you will be able to push the cloth into all the creases, corners and crevices to get the dirt out. A thin material like cheesecloth can get into narrow gaps nicely and serve as the best-clean material.

4. Use wax or polish: After the cleaning, consider waxing/polishing auxiliary areas like side panels, railings and so on. This will protect the exposed surfaces from constant wear caused by hand grasp all along. Do not use wax or polish on the steps themselves, as this will make them slippery and could lead to injuries.

5. Scrub, wash and rinse: Use a soft brush to avoid damage, if you need to scrub the staircase with soap and water to remove stains and ingrained dirt.  Once an area has been washed, rinse it thoroughly with clean water and dry it off as much as possible. Do not wait for it to air dry as moisture may remain on the stairs for an excessively long time; this could cause accidents, if people do not take care.

If you feel your staircase looks old and worn, or your attempt to clean has resulted in visible damage, the best thing for you to do is to get expert help.

A professional staircase manufacture, repair and refurbishing company will be able to identify the nature of the problem, and give the best solution to your satisfaction.

A staircase is quite different from other parts of your house; unprofessional attempts to repair it can do more harm than good.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Staircase Replacement Ideas for You: Basics (Part–2)

As it was shown in the first part of this blog, there is more to replacing a staircase than deciding on a design and getting a contractor to install it in your home. There are other important factors for you to consider. Read further.

Budget

Replacing your staircase costs money. ‘How much?’ will depend on the extent of demolition required to remove the old one, the type of the new staircase, and the manner in which it is to be installed. Going through home design and architecture magazines can give you a number of ideas on what kind of staircase you want.

And often there will be budgetary estimates. But the final cost will depend on a number of technical factors that affect the installation. And of course, at times, the design of the structure may preclude the use of a style.

The best way for you to go about it is to shortlist a few designs that appear to be within your budget. Consult next a staircase professional to examine the final cost and viability of their installation. This ensures that you will have a design that will work, and a budget that you are comfortable with. Thus, you will not be exposed to financial shocks later on.

Space

The extent of space available will dictate the extent of space that can be used for the new staircase. However, a reorganization of the way the interior space is utilized can often provide a number of different installation options. Once again, the advice and guidance of a staircase professional can prove to be invaluable.

Disruption to domestic chores

Dirt and debris: You need to be prepared for dirt and disruption while the work is in progress.  It’s not just the demolition of the old staircase that will bring you piles of dirt and debris: installation of the new one too will add to your woes.

Loss of access to the upper floor: In addition to dirt and debris, you will lose access to the upper floor of your home for a considerable period of time, unless you have a second staircase. You must plan in advance for the family to live in half of the original built-in space – from the time the dismantling starts to the time when the new staircase is ready for use.

Summing up

Your home is your own and no one can tell you what it should look like and what features it should have. Replacing a staircase can give a home a new look and a new lease on life. However, if it is not done correctly, or the style used is not right, it can have the opposite effect. Not only could it ruin the look of your home, it could result in structural damage.

Using the services of a company that specializes in staircase construction, repair and replacement is the right way to go about this. They will be able to provide you with a wide range of design options; they will help you as well to find the one that works best for your home.

And perhaps, most importantly, they will be able to do the replacement in a safe and durable manner. You can rest assured that your new staircase is safe to use, and no damage done to the main structure of your home.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Staircase Replacement Basics for Your Benefit (Part – 1)

Few things can ruin the look of a home as much as an old dilapidated staircase. The stairs connect the different levels of your home, and become the axis from where its ambience flows. The best of decor and furnishing can never make up for a decrepit staircase.

Wondering if this can really be true? Recall memories of all the horror and mystery movies and TV shows that impacted you. How often is an old dirty staircase used as part of the scene to create an aura of gloom and fear?

In addition, there are safety issues to be considered. You don’t want a family member or friend fall down a defective staircase and get injured. Here are a few issues to keep in mind when you plan to replace your old stairs.

Design options

The staircase is a major traffic route though the home and is often overlooked and taken for granted. Depending on where it is located, it could be the first architectural feature that visitors see, and one that sets the tone for the character and style of your home. Replacing a staircase is an opportunity to make a statement about the kind of home you live in.

Over the years you would have seen innumerable staircases; some of them would have made a lasting impact on you, may be positive or negative. The ones you liked would have an influence on what features you want to add to your home. Those you didn’t would guide you what not to do.

You have the common design options like spirals, spindles and so on. Also, you have the options of common materials like wood, metal, granite etc. But most homeowners are not aware of the full range of choices available to them. Expert guidance will open up new possibilities, and could give your home the kind of style you never would have imagined possible.

Design integration

Subject to structural, spatial and safety considerations, you can have any kind of staircase for your home. But you must have a clear idea of what you want, and how it will look once completed. What looks grand in a design magazine may not look so in reality. A staircase that appears wonderful in Hummelstown brownstone in several buildings may not work in a Midwest ranch house.

Staircase professionals are knowledgeable about design and appearance issues too. They will be able to offer advice and guidance to help you avoid costly mistakes. Should you realize after installation that the new one is not what you ever wanted, are you going to tear it down and start all over again? Sure, you will not! Surer, the pain of the mistake will linger for long!

Functionality

The new staircase must be functional and safe. Is it of the right dimensions for easy use? Will children and the elderly be able to climb up and down safely and comfortably? Keep in mind, when deciding on a design, the present and future – the actual and probable – uses of the stairs by those who live in your home.

Compliance

If your new staircase does not comply with the local building regulations, you will be in serious trouble. Regulations and specifications are often complex and difficult for a layman to understand. Here again, a professional will know precisely what can and cannot be done, and will help you avoid future hassles.

Staircase replacement is not the job of a general contractor. The structural issues and appearance considerations demand that repair and replacement be done by a company that specializes in staircases.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

How You can Maintain Your Classic Wooden Staircase

In many period homes, the staircase is a reflection of the style and status of the owner. They are often highly detailed with complex construction. The style may vary, with the most ornate section near the entrance, to be seen clearly by visitors. The next level may be simpler, intended for use only by the family. And the topmost level may be completely plain, meant to be used only by domestic staff. Whatever the d├ęcor and embellishment, the staircase is integral to the character of your home.

Common Problems

  • Creaking treads can often be fixed by screwing through the tread into the riser to tighten it. If required, they should also be re-glued. If the creak is due to loose-fitting joints between the tread and string, you need to use wedges and glue to tighten them. If the treads are badly worn, they should be replaced.
  • If powdery deposits are seen on the stairs, it may be due to beetle or termite infestation. Have the pests removed by an exterminator before checking for damage to the wood and doing any repairs.
  • Spindles and balusters can become loose with time and use. Besides the danger of falling, the looseness could cause the wood to split or crack. Do not delay repairs.
  • Besides increasing the risk of tripping, worn or damaged nosing on the front of the treads expose to damage the wood below it. Replace them immediately.
  • Staining on the wood, especially near any metal components, could be a sign of rusting. Remove the stains and check for worn metal and damage to the wood.
  • Any dampness around the staircase could cause the wood to rot. Locate the source of the moisture ingress, and ensure it is fixed before examining the staircase for any damaged wood.
  • If a wooden staircase needs to be repainted, remove all the old paint before applying new coats. At times after removing the old paint, it may be seen that detail has been lost due to the buildup coats over the years. In such cases, the layers should be stripped to allow the true wood the show.

Wood is a wonderful material, but it does show the ravages of time. If you live in an old home with a classic wooden staircase, you need to care more for it. If you do not, it may become unsafe and unusable. Replacing it will be a major project – an expensive one.

The signs of deterioration are often hard to identify, and only an expert will be able to spot and fix problems in time to save wood. And if you should decide to replace it as part of a remodeling, an expert is again the best person to do the job. He will be able to build a new staircase that blends into the new look of your home.

Builders and remodeling contractors can repair and make new staircases. But when staircase construction and repair specialists are available, why not use the best? It will not cost more and you will be assured of a staircase that looks great and will last for a long time.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

How You can Maintain Your Wooden Staircase

A wooden staircase does add character and elegance to any home. If you are remodeling your home and you want to give it a new look and ambience, wooden stairs is definitely something that is worth considering. If you already have one, you know how important it is that it looks clean and well maintained. A shabby looking staircase can have a negative impact on the looks of a home.

Maintaining a wooden staircase is not difficult. All it requires is a little care and effort. Here are some ideas for you.

Basics of maintenance

Clean regularly: Daily vacuuming and sweeping will minimize the dirt and grit that collect on the stairs. These can be abrasive and each footfall can grind them into the finish, acting like sandpaper. Avoid using water on the stairs. Even with careful drying, some moisture may remain in the corners and crevices. This will soak into the wood and leave stains or even cause warping. If a thorough cleaning is required, use a cleaner that is made specifically for the floor finish on the stairs, for example a solvent-based liquid wax for waxed stairs.

Remove scratches and dents: Small scratches and dents need to be fixed promptly before the damage spreads. The best way to do this is by applying a fresh layer of wax on the scratched/damaged area. If it is a little deep, rub the area with penetrating finish and steel wool before applying the wax.

Remove mold: Mold can develop and spread quickly on wooden surfaces in humid conditions. Wiping it away is not enough as it will return rapidly unless the spores are killed. One way of doing this is to use a cleaning solution of half a cup of bleach dissolved in a gallon of water. Wipe down not just the spots where mold is visible, but the surrounding areas as well because the spores may be starting to grow there. Once the mold is removed, the stairs can be refinished.

Prevent damage: Place rugs near the staircase to remove gravel and grit from shoes. Otherwise, scratches will develop quickly. When you move furniture or large/heavy objects up or down the staircase, it is better to take this precaution: cover the legs, corners and any projections of those objects with foam padding or bubble wrap to prevent the stairs from getting damaged. Avoid using the stairs when wearing heavy shoes with studs, stiletto heel or other soles that could cause damage to the wood finish.
 
If your wooden staircase looks old and worn, the best thing for you to do is to call in a professional staircase manufacturing and renovation company. They will have the knowledge, experience, tools and materials to do the refurbishing and repairs that are needed to bring it back to life and add character to your home. DIY can only do so much. Delaying specialist care could render stairs irreparable, necessitating replacement.