Monday, January 9, 2017

This & That Projects; Out of Doors, Y'all: 6

Danger Stairs, Before. Please note that Delia still has a really nice collection of sticks up there on the deck.
Note the rise between the top stair and the deck is different than the rest.

The stairs leading up to our front deck... well, there are a few things to say about them.
  • They are sturdy and stable (at the moment, knock wood)
  • They were newly built when the house went on the market
  • They were painted with the same cheap, barn red paint as the deck, coop, picnic table, etc.
  • They seemed to have been assembled by someone who had seen & used stairs, but not studied or researched about making stairs easy & safe to use.
This is taken looking straight down. Note the couple-few inch gap between the inside edge of the stair I am standing on and the outside edge of the step above it. It just throws off the stride you assume you can have going up or down stairs.

Which is to say that the rise from the top step to the deck is WAY off and the run on all of them except the top one leaves a small gap between each. Not having a riser piece makes some sense for clearing snow, but with that extra space... well, we need to pay attention when using them. Especially because the rails... well, they look kind of like stair rails, but don't really function as a safety measure because there are no balusters and that 2 x 4 top is not really grab-able. 


A not atypical "feature" of our stairs is that they are under the drip line of the roof which mostly is just unpleasant, but in the winter adds to the hazards of one particular stair. Ideally, we'd just rebuild the stairs, BUT since in the next few years we want to rebuild the whole deck, including changing the orientation of the stairs out from under the drip line and we don't want to do the same work twice, we don't have immediate plans for making big changes with them.

Of course, ice is also going to form on the new rail and of course we'll knock it off of there so the new rail is grab-able.

BUT the other day I was out in the shop putting away the extra wine glasses I'd brought in for lunch after the Dr Potter photo shoot and I noticed that stored in the exposed rafters was the length of handrail that had been a closet rod when we moved in! It has been too short to be used on the inside stairs, but would it be long enough for the deck stairs? Indeed it would. Was. Is. Whatever.

Difficult to read the details, but that's the week's forecast from Sunday. Through Thursday the highest high is 12F on Monday, the lowest high is -5F on Tuesday. Monday, I cut and sanded the rail in the shop and brought it in to finish on Tuesday.

Why so dark? This photo was taken pre-dawn, the morning after the paint had dried overnight. It sure seems like the post-Solstice days are only lengthening on the afternoon end.

I intended to sand and finish it with the stain I used on the wood shed - a stinky job to do in the house, but it's too cold outside or in the shop, so I planned to set it up in the only room with a ventilation fan (ahem) and shut the door behind me. But when I was sanding this, there were paint spatters and a bunch of nicks n' dents and well... I decided to paint it instead. I set up in the living/dining room and used paint from the exterior door project.

I went after a few standard, run-of-the-mill rail brackets, but the local lumber yard only had some that were one notch fancier, so I got those*. At least I didn't have to get bright brass that way. Then I attached the whole shebang to the looks-like-a-rail and we're in business! When I was telling Eric my plan he asked, "Is it going to look weird, though?" I said, "Not any weirder than it already looks." I think I was right, but at least now we and our guests can feel a little more secure. Also, we live in the forest and we're all middle-aged n sh!t... time to embrace the weird-looking house stuff. Not that I said that, but he might read this.

Another project where the change in appearance isn't much compared to the thought, time, and effort that went into it. Safety is rarely glamorous, I guess. Still, I'm going to put three (3) photos in here anyway!

This last one is an action shot! It was a full 20 degrees Fahrenheit out there, so no gloves. Just kidding! I had taken them off so I wouldn't drop the screws into the snow and my finger tips were COLD. 

P.S. Like a lot of the wood millwork that came with the place, the rail is comprised of smaller pieces of wood, finger-jointed together. So it's probably not super great for exterior use - particularly under the drip line, but hopefully it'll hold up OK for a few years. Hopefully the week's worth of curing that the primer and paint did in the house will help.

*This is how project budgets get blown. You know all you need is a few couple-dollar parts and the rest is elbow grease. Then your couple-dollar parts turn into several-dollar parts and you're in the weeds. Luckily, this was a small, small project. So even with doubling the budget, it was still under $20.


  1. Although the rail isn't a sexy home improvement it is something that makes a big difference. Being shorter then the two of you, I agree, the steps are a

    1. You know, it never occurred to me that a shorter stride would make the stairs more challenging, but of course it would.


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