Step By Step

Day by day, a fresh start over, a different hand to play...loved that show.

Mike finished the steps over the weekend before we went on vacation, (yes, we've been back from our vacation for a while, but this post has taken a long time to write up).  Notice how I didn't say they were done.  He just finished his part.  We still need to fill all the holes, sand, then paint my little heart out.  Though all that seems like a lot, it's nothing compared to the work Mike did.  He's really my hero.  I sent him so many pins of stairs and paneling, that I thought he was going to block my email.  He took all my ideas, then designed a way to build everything.  He bitches a lot that I'm an architect and he's the engineer, but it's the truth, and it works out for us, although sometimes in the middle it doesn't seem like we'll ever come to an agreement.

The last time I specifically talked about the stairs was way back in November when we replaced all the existing drainage pipes.

It's crazy how excited I was and what an improvement I thought it was.  I mean, it was compared to the set-up we were using:

You may have noticed that since the extra stairs were added, Mike had completed all the drywall and had even built the storage boxes that would be the finished insides.  I posted a picture showing this progress when we textured the ceilings:

There wasn't much that needs to be explained except Mike added new risers and plywood to the stairs and added drywall on the upper part of the cabinet wall and in the closet as well.

You may also notice the beginnings of our built-ins.  Mike started by framing these two new cabinets out.  He also added some insulation between the closet and one of the cabinets.  The reason for this being that the closet will be used to store fermenting beer and wine, (no more first floor fermenting for us!), and we need to be able to control the temperature inside the closet.

For the actual cabinet interiors, Mike built boxes to fit inside the framed out areas.  After sliding the beasts into place, he leveled and added shims as necessary, and nailed every thing in place.  The added piece of plywood to the left of the closet door is the beginning of our faux paneling wall, (see the beginnings of our planning here).

The awesome plan Mike came up with is hidden doors that look to be a part of the paneling, but push open with hidden hinges.  Don't worry, once it's done I'll show pictures that will make more sense.

The hardest part was determining the finishing thickness for all the pieces.  Mike explained it to me a million times, but it was way to hard for me to picture it so I just let me do what he needed to do.  Part of that was routering out the boxes to allow the doors to sit a little recessed so that it matched the rest of the paneling.

The next step to trimming everything out was the face piece along the risers.  Mike had been dreading this piece.  It involves a lot of cuts, and needed to be one continuous piece to look nice.  The best way he determined to start was to cut the easy cuts, then temporarily attach it to the steps with a giant screw to draw the cut lines for the greatest accuracy.

He then got into a dozen different acrobat positions to draw all his lines.  Obviously, I stood back and laughed and took pictures for laughing later.

Once his lines were drawn, he removed the piece double checked the sizes and angles and got mentally prepared to cut it.

Since we were using cabinet grade plywood, we knew we had to figure out a way to prevent any exposed edges.  The only way Mike determined how to achieve this was by cutting each stair piece on an angle.  That way the stair riser would be cut on a 45 as well and no edges would be exposed.  This was the proper way to do it, but also the most difficult, remember this is all cut from one piece so there are no do overs.  Dun, dun, dun.

I wasn't around when Mike cut them, but after I came home I was so impressed with his skills.  I know the man has skills, but when he starts to get apprehensive I get a little worried.  Turns out he's amazing.

For those that have no idea what I was just talking about, here's how it looked after we permanently installed it. 

The angled edges were so sharp that Mike cut himself on one and started bleeding!  He warned me, since I'm usually the clutz that falls up the stairs, and I couldn't help but imagine tripping and falling off the side and cutting myself on the way down.  Needless to say I came up with a lot of excuses to stay upstairs until the stairs were better enclosed.
Before finishing the steps and risers he added the base trim up the steps.  We went back and forth on the style we wanted at the bottom, and finally decided on a step pattern, as opposed to angling it with the steps.  To finish the steps, Mike wrapped the risers with plywood, mitering the edges along the exposed side to come to a nice finished edge.  The top of the risers are obviously covered with the step so you can get away with using plywood.

He then placed pre-made hardwood steps on the regular steps using glue and nails, and used wood planks with nosing to create the oddly shaped steps at the bottom and at the landing.  I was out while Mike finished these, so I only came back to the completely finished project, but I have to say I was ecstatic with the work he did.  Not only because there were no longer any safety hazards I had to watch for while walking down the stairs, but they looked so damn good!

To finish out the paneling, Mike added pieces of 1" thick wood to create the "batten".  The doors will be level with the panel in place to create the "board".  If you can't see it yet, you will when we finish painting and installing the doors.  Obviously, we already like and use the additional storage.

The corners came out really nice, and even though it was a pain in the ass, Mike's glad he took the extra time to miter the edges.

We built the paneling to end level with this step.  To cap the paneling and incorporate the steps, we chose to extend the nosing along the wall.  Mike realized we needed something to finish the edge of the drywall, so he cut a really thin piece of molding to cap it off.  

You can see the pencil line from the first draft of base molding.  The typical stair angled base board looked really weird along these bottom steps and we nixed that idea as soon as it was drawn.

Like the rest of the room, the stairs have come a long way, and since they are the first thing you see coming down into the new space, it was definitely worth all the work and inconvenience.


  1. damn, you guys, that is phenomenal work.

    1. Thank Reuben! It's all of my fiance's handy work up to this point, I come up with the crazy plan and he, tones down my crazy first, then builds it!

  2. I love your house!! What kind of wood flooring is in your basement?

    1. Thanks Jaime! The flooring in the basement is discussed here: