For the past few weeks I’ve been working really hard on my last big house project for a while: Renovating my back stairs. I’m not quite done, but I thought I’d share some of my progress so far. It’s come a long way from its wood-paneled beginnings. In case you don’t feel like clicking, the dark before:

back stairs before

Before I tore off the paneling, I was worried that there was some terrible damage lurking under it, because why else would someone put that up, other than to cover up something worse? When I mentioned this fear to Steven, he said, “The reason they put it up was it was the seventies. It was in style, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.” It turned out that he was right.

back stairs 1

The only damage was from the nail holes and glue (the yellow splotches) that were holding the paneling on the wall. That doesn’t mean they weren’t a pain to fix, though. First I tried removing the glue with chemical stripper, which mostly worked, but it also made the paint surrounding it bubble up. I was worried that if I didn’t get all of it off, the new paint wouldn’t stick properly. So there was a ton of stripping and scraping and washing. And then patching the holes left behind.

back stairs 2

The chemical stripper seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’m not sure if it actually saved me any work in the end. I might’ve been better off just sanding off the hard glue. With all of that practice, I’ve gotten really good at repairing damaged walls, if I do say so myself.

back stairs

Most of the remainder left to do is fix up the floors. If you look at the post-panel-removal photo, you can see that there was some black stuff on the floor underneath the carpet. That was the carpet foam, held in place with carpet glue, nails, and staples. I scraped off the foam, and then used adhesive remover for the old glue. It was a disgusting process of dissolving old glue and scraping it off, and then sanding the remainder. I gave up on the risers, where I can’t fit an electric sander. When I suspected that the wood paneling was covering up problems someone didn’t want to deal with, that’s because it’s a solution I’m liable to use.

back stairs

Which mostly catches us up to where I am today, except for the tiling of the landing. That’s the part I’m the most excited about. This was my very first tiling project, and it was a doozy. Doing a dry layout of the pattern, then actually attaching it and grouting it, took the better part of three days. All of those little 1-inch hex tiles, on a very non-square surface, with such a complex pattern, may not have been the best choice for my first tilework. But it’s done now, and I’m really happy with it.

back stair tile 1

Now I just need to finish fixing up the rest of the steps!

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6 Responses to Back Stairs Renovation Progress

  1. Pat Schwab says:

    Rachel, The floor looks really wonderful. I know I few people who have painted over their paneling which brightened up the whole room. Pat S

    • Rachel says:

      Thanks Pat! Painting would’ve been so much easier! That’s what I would have done if the paneling didn’t line up so badly. The parts above and below that diagonal board were totally askew and poorly fitted so the wall.

  2. jaine kunst says:

    It’s beautiful! Well done!

  3. Catie says:

    Whoa, your tile work is so impressive!

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