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New House, Bare Stairs

I need some suggestions regarding the finishing of my stairs leading to the basement. 

We just had our house built in 11-01 and we love it. There are a few 
minor things that are kinda bugging me and one of them is the stairs to the basement. 

Here's the problem: the foyer, as well as our kitchen and dinette has beautiful Mannington Laminate wood flooring, In order to get to the kitchen you must pass the entrance of the basement, well we have that door wide open for convenience purposes and the stairs are unfinished rough looking. 

I am tired of looking at the contrast of the laminate vs. the unfinished wood stairs. I want to do the project myself so I have eliminated carpeting the steps for the time being (basement isn't finished, so that can wait), I have never heard of steps that are laminate wood, so maybe that's out, so maybe staining the steps and using some oak trim may work,,,, but I wanted to find out if there was something else... maybe a little different out there I can try to use. My parents have the vinyl steps and I kinda don't like that. So I am putting out there for some suggestions.

Thanks in advance

The normal approach to stairs like yours is to cover them with something. Carpet is the most common covering, but for basement stairs carpet might get destroyed prematurely. Vinyl is another option, but the nose (front edge) of each tread needs a metal corner strip to keep the vinyl from peeling up.

The other basic options are:

Floor paint. After cleaning and priming, you can use a high-quality latex porch-and-floor paint (we've been using Sears Weatherbeater, which is made by Sherwin-Williams). Some floor paints are available in oil-based which are more resistant to abrasion but may be too slippery. Good latex products will hold up for years and can be touched-up easily.

Stain and urethane. I personally prefer this approach. In the first house I owned, I finished the basement nicely but the stairs looked awful... old, worn, dirty, plain lumber. So I sanded then down, cleaned them up, and applied a moderately dark stain and urethane. It looked much better, though it still looked like stained softwood lumber, that is, the knots were visible. Urethane is very durable and commonly used on floors, so it makes a great coating. Later on, if you finish your basement, you can always carpet over the stained stairs and you won't waste much money on this temporary solution.

A quart of urethane should provide the 3 or 4 coats you'll need, and a pint of stain should be more than enough. Use a high-quality natural bristle brush for smoothest results in the urethane.

Carpet Runner. You might be able to buy a decent carpet runner and staple it to the stairs. But the carpet runner must be thin enough and flexible enough to conform to the stair contours. And the runner needs to be well-stapled at the back of the stair treads and the top of the risers (below the nose of the tread above). If it comes loose, somebody could trip and fall.

But I'd use the stain and urethane if it was my house. If you don't like it, you can always cover it or paint over it (after a light sanding).

Bruce W. Maki, Editor.




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Copyright 2002

Compiled January 22, 2002