Stair Repairs and Tackling an Odd Shape

For the first part of our basement Saturday, I focused on patching up the old and wobbly stairs to our basement. Of late, they had gotten… wobblier. So I took a stab at making them a little sturdier.

My first attempt was to throw in some 4″ screws into the top tread, and into the stringer. In hindsight, this wasn’t the best approach as it didn’t really reduce the swaying to the left/right.

After that, I cut a board to fit between the legs, hoping this would steady things a bit. Liz had a good suggestion to set up some cross braces, but I was more interested in a quick fix – so I opted for this route.

With the extra board in place, I put the stairs back – better, but still a little shaky.

This top piece of wood was here when we moved in, and I’m guessing it was used to cover the slight gap between the brick and the first tread. Seeing as how this board fit pretty snugly from brick to brick… I threw in some screws, putting that piece into the top tread.

This felt like a hack, but with that top board in place… it reduces the left/right sway a lot, when going up and down the stairs. Not overly elegant, but it’ll serve for now.

While I was working on that, Liz was measuring out the next piece of plywood we had to cut.

Remembering how we had some mistakes in our assumptions last time around, she used a level to create a new control line… and mapped that control line to the plywood. Here, she’s figuring out the first stud, and then measuring out the 16″ to the adjoining studs.

With this next piece of plywood, the ideal is for us to slip it up a few inches behind the current stairs/stringer that leads up to the second floor. To do this, I had to go up and pull out a lot of lathe that was behind the stair.

Lots of dust and plaster and muck.

It took a crowbar, and a lot of elbow grease… but I eventually got enough room behind the stairs. It was tricky work, as it was difficult to see – so a lot of it was just navigating by touch.

I got a few nails cleared using the sawzall, but there was one small remnant that I just couldn’t quite get. Liz went up, and was able to finish things off for me.

With the space behind the stairs cleared up, Liz finished her measuring. With all the lines in place, I cut the board with a circular saw, and Liz came in afterwards to do some cleanup work with the multitool.

Here’s kind of a view of the space we need to fit. Note that there’s a slight jog in the plywood at the bottom (near the middle). And that our goal is to slide in behind the stairs, starting where the wood is painted white (top, middle).

We got close but, unfortunately, this was a little too unwieldy for us to work with. We got the plywood in place for our first dry fit, but it got stuck (and we couldn’t easily spot the cause).

I was ok given my position, but Liz I think was struggling with her end of things. Even with two ladders, it made for some pretty awkward positioning.

By the time we called it, it was already close to 4:30 PM (I’m amazed at how time just zooms by when we’re working on the house). I think putting this in will be easier with Bob, or with a scaffold (rather than two ladders). It’s just high enough to where it’s not quite manageable for us.

Fine Tuning the Plywood
Saturday Basement Day

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