Stairs and landing areas present a number of tricky problems when renovating. Being able to do all the jobs safely is a big one and unless you have a special mini-scaffolding set, you’ll be trying to reach areas that are two to three times your height, which isn’t easy.
The stairs themselves aren’t too much of a problem, once built and installed; they don’t usually present any problems for decades. If you have an older house and the staircase is creaking a lot, you can fix individual steps if you can reach the underneath of the stair in the right place.
Get a block of wood and cut it in half diagonally so that you have two sides at right-angles and one at 45 degrees to the other two (like a chunky slice of cheese). From under the step, fix it to the inside of the step, at the front, and secure it first with glue, then with screws through from the diagonal side to the tread and the riser of the step. This will hold the tread (the flat part) and the riser (the vertical part) of the step together and stop them moving against each other, which is usually the source of the squeak.
If you can’t get to the underside of the staircase, remove the carpet or other covering, if any, and wedge open the gap between the tread and the rise and squeeze some French chalk or talcum powder into the gap. If that doesn’t work, you can screw the tread to the riser with a countersunk screw then replace the carpet.
Banisters can be tricky, depending on their construction. If a baluster, the upright post, breaks, then you might be able to get a match from a shop if it’s a plain one. But if it’s older and more decorative, then your only option will be to take an undamaged one out and take it to a wood turner who can copy it.
Loose balusters and handrails can usually be fixed by simply nailing them back together again. Either remove the original nail and put a slightly longer, wider one in, or, if you can’t get at that, put another nail in a little further along. It’s not wise to glue these parts as they may have to be dismantled again in the future.
Painting and Wallpapering
As far as decorating around a stair well or a landing goes, there’s no difference to any other wall or ceiling except for the heights involved. Use ladders and scaffolding planks to make secure platforms to reach the higher areas. If you have to put the foot of a ladder on a step, nail a batten into the step to hold it in place. If there is carpet on the step, this won’t show when the batten is removed. If the steps are plain wood or decorative rather than carpet covered, use G-clamps to hold the batten down. It won’t be as good, so you should still take care, but it will be better than nothing.
Once you have ladders in place on the landing and stairs, you can use scaffolding planks between the two to give you your platform. Consider tying the planks to the ladders to increase safety. Particularly when wallpapering, it’s wise to have a second person with you. Not only can they help with the lower parts of the paper, while you attend to the higher bits, but they can steady the bottom of any ladders when necessary.
Go for Gold
There are a number of multi-purpose ladders on the market that can be put into many different shapes and configurations. If you can get hold of one of these, then they may well be useful to reach many out of the way places. Whichever way you go, be careful but also go all out to get the best finish possible. It’s well worth it.