Fix Something Around My House: Staircase

Fix Something Around My House: Staircase

Annie Werbler
Oct 13, 2009

Today is a big day. After getting the thumbs-up from my landlord, I've started work on my staircase, which I asked for advice on in a previous post. Click through to see how it all goes down.

I start with my first trip of the day to the local hardware store in search of a floor sander. There are no rentals available, so I purchase the cheapest model, which comes out to what I would have spent on renting for several days, anyway.

When I come home to peel back the linoleum on the top step and find what's lurking beneath, the wood seems nice, but most of it is covered in layers of brown paint and black adhesive tar paper. So I tie a scarf around my face and get to getting. The sanding removes the mess up to a certain point, but after 30 minutes spent on one step and only getting it partially cleaned, I realize I'm gonna have to call in the chemicals if this is ever to get done. The sander will be more useful once the wood is completely stripped.

So I make my second trip to the hardware store, and pick up something called Zip-Strip. It seems gnarly, so I make sure to get a real mask, goggles, and gloves. Safety first!

The chemical does a good job of eating through the paint, but four rounds of goo and steel wool scrubbing in I realize that the tarpaper on the stairs has somehow fossilized and become one with the wooden treads. This is not a realistic plan. I call my dad for advice and he recommends that I rent a belt sander, because he claims, as I suspected, that the chemicals won't be able to remove the adhesive entirely. So I call the local construction rental place and they're all out of sanders for the afternoon. Bummer.

I spend the rest of the day removing the first layers of gunk on the stairs and devising a plan. On the risers, the linoleum is in good shape. I'm considering just sanding and painting these rather than attempting to refinish them as I am the treads. It seems like an impossible amount of work, but I'll be able to make a better decision tomorrow once I've experimented with the proper equipment. But I'm now thinking that putting some sort of solid surface down instead of trying to revive what's already there may be the best option...

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