Staircase from Hell Turned Stairway to Heaven

Okay folks! This project was by far the worst and the most satisfying – once it was done.

I don’t have a picture of the stairs back when they were carpeted. All of the carpet was removed the day that I moved in and I remember the guys asking me if I wanted the carpet removed from the stairs as well. I thought about it for a moment and decided that the dirt from having two boys going up and down over time was going to be gross.

Once the carpet was removed I saw that the treads did not meet the wall. There was a 1.5″ – 2″ gap on both sides.


My next hurdle (that I didn’t know was going to be a hurdle) was that my stair treads had a bull nose. The bull nose made it impossible to use my flooring on the stairs because there was no way to put a flat plank around a bull nose. I did a lot of research on this and found that there are tons of people scratching their heads over the same thing! You may be wondering why I didn’t just pull my treads off. I couldn’t. I tried. I literally could not have removed them without a bobcat. Those babies were on for life.


I found a product called Cap A Tread that fits like a slip cover over bull nose stair treads. This product comes in colors that match up to most laminate flooring, but it is very expensive! I kept this in the back of my mind, but decided that I was going to just cut the bull nose off of my stair treads instead. Once the bull nose was cut off of one of the stair treads, I screwed a new riser on and put my laminate wood flooring over the tread.  This new riser and laminate flooring on the tread were measured and cut to go all of the way to the wall, covering up the gap! The overall look of this was janky though. 😦

It looked like a really crappy DIY job. I was back to considering Cap A Tread, which was going to cost me ~$45/step. I have 12 steps.


FullSizeRender (16)

Eureka! I had a new game plan! I bought new stair treads to put right on top of the existing treads. I left the old bull nose and cut these new Pine (~$10 each) treads to fit. If you can picture it, that left TWO bull nose stair treads showing. Not good. But, I had new risers, too. The risers are tall enough to cover the old stair tread. I had to double up on the risers…

Each step has two layers of pine risers. The first riser (that isn’t visible) was needed to create an even surface for the visible riser. Without it, the old bull nose bumped the top part of the visible riser out and the bottom part of the visible riser (where your foot would kick) was slanted in.

The hole you see cut into the bottom step is for an air vent.


Once the steps were cut to fit and screwed on tightly, it was time to patch the screw holes and any little gaps where the treads and risers meet one another. I also filled in any small gaps along the edges of the walls. Do you see how this job is turning into a time suck – and a bit of a money pit? I literally loved and hated this project. The rewards were great, but the effort was much more than I had bargained for.

You’re mostly seeing one flight of stairs throughout this post, but this is a split entry, so everything that I’m showing you, I’m actually doing on two sets of staircases.


My big lesson learned when patching the screws didn’t come until later. There was one screw that was not flush with the stair tread. I just couldn’t get the bugger to screw in any further. I thought that the patch would cover it up and nobody would ever see it. Maybe? Nope. Get your screws in all of the way, folks. Your eye will never not see the little blemish that I thought would be masked. You’ll see…

After the stairs were patched and dried, I sanded them and vacuumed and wiped them clean. It was time to stain. Finally! I read a bunch of DIY/How-To tips for this before I started. One of them mentioned that you can be a little sloppy because you’re going to be painting the risers and along the edges anyway. If I had to do it again, I’d be a little less sloppy here. I was going to be painting with white paint.


This dark stain took a few layers of white paint to cover up my sloppiness. Are you wondering how we got up the steps? We took great leaps for quite a while! 😀

The dark board that you’re seeing on the top is a panel of the flooring from upstairs vs. a pine riser. There isn’t any particular reason that I did this. It was part of my earlier trial and error solutions and I just never replaced it with pine because it fit snug and seemed fine, plus I knew I was going to be painting it. It truly isn’t a big deal and looks just like the other risers now that they’re all painted.


One of the most frustrating things for me was the amount of time that was needed for the stain to dry, plus needing to use the stairs. I read on one blog that they locked the front door and only used the patio door while the stairs were under construction. That wasn’t really an option because it was winter here in MN…or was it? After a few weeks, I got so impatient that I actually took that advice. We trudged through the snow up the deck and into the house for a few weeks. Bwahaha! Of course, this only resolved the issue on one of the staircases. There wasn’t an option like that for the stairs leading to the basement – unless we would have climbed through a window. 😀


After 3-4 layers of stain, it was time to make them shine! I thought I knew it all when it came to polyurethane, but I received an impromptu lesson from the old man at Ace. First, I told him that it was going to be used on a staircase. He pointed me to a poly that was going to be less slippery. That was something that I hadn’t thought of! Next, he said, “If your husband thinks he’s going to be doing you a favor by shaking the can before you open it and you don’t stop him before he’s shaken the can, you will need to let it then sit overnight before you use it.” (old men think all ladies have a husband?)

If you shake a can of poly, what you’re really doing is creating air bubbles and a little bit of foam. If you try and use your can of poly with bubbles and foam in it, you will be spreading that onto your stairs. Don’t shake your poly can folks. Just use your stir stick and stir the poly around slowly before using.


I applied 3 layers of poly.

This project is sucking the life out of me. My friends don’t even ask me what I’m doing anymore. They all know what I’m going to say. I started the steps in early January. This picture was taken on FEBRUARY 21st! Of course if this was the only thing that I was doing, it wouldn’t have taken so long, but I have a day job and my staircase is my after work/weekend job.

Here was my life:

One weekend cutting off bull head and scratching my own head about how in the world to do this project.

One weekend buying new treads and risers, cutting, screwing, filling in screw heads and gaps.

One weekend sanding, wiping and putting on a first layer of stain.

One weekend putting on a second layer of stain.

One weekend painting risers and putting on a third layer of stain.

One weekend painting a second coat on the risers and putting on a first layer of poly.

One weekend touching up paint and putting on another layer of poly.

One weekend staring at the finished staircases. (remember I did two of them, even though you’re only seeing one).

Once the steps were finished, they were a little noisy and a little slippery. I contemplated a runner or little stick on rug things. I purchased a runner at first, but it was really sloppy looking – and there wasn’t one that was going to be long enough to go all of the way from the top to the bottom without me having to deal with hiding a seam.

I found these little things instead and they came in a pack of 13 for under $100, including shipping.



Overall, I spend about $250. That includes the new treads, risers, stain and little rug things. If you recall, the Cap A Treads were ~$45 each (and I have 12 steps). That would have been $540 and I still would have needed to purchase the rug things. So, the Cap A Tread option would have been $640.

By spending a bit more on blood, sweat and tears, I saved approximately  $390.00. Would I do it again? Not anytime soon…







Ready to Ship Carpet Stair Treads

Cap A Tread (I did not use this product, but I do mention it)

Thank you everyone for the encouragement along the way!





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