Since moving into our house, we have done so many projects. When we bought our home, we knew we wanted to make a lot of changes. We got a lot of projects done when we first moved in, but things slowed down when we had our first child. Now that our kids are older, it is easier to find the time to work on house projects.

One of the things that had been bugging me for a while was our staircase. We knew when we moved in, that we would be redoing everything. I love this staircase, so it was just a matter of updating it! The stairs had old carpeting on it, the railings were beat up. The railings and stringers were stained a dark brown color, so between that and the carpet, the stairs felt old, dated, and dark.

The first step to redoing the staircase was to remove the old carpeting.

For this, I needed:

~ a mask (this is a dusty, dirty job)
~ gloves
~ hammer
~ utility knife
~ chisel or skinny crowbar for pulling up carpet strips
~ trash bags and/or large trash can
~ vacuum
~ small pliers

The first step is to simply start pulling up the carpet. This was a very messy job, as the carpeting was old, and the carpet pad was completely worn out and worn down. Combined with accumulated dirt, the dirt and dust under the carpet was pretty bad.

As you pull up the carpet, watch for carpet strips. These are strips of wood with very sharp carpet tacks sticking up. I used a hammer to gently hammer a chisel under the edge and then pull up the strips.

For longer pieces of carpet, I ended up using the utility knife to cut the carpet every 4 stairs or so. The carpet wasn’t actually one continuous piece for all 14 stairs, which made it easier for me when I would come to a section already cut.

Once all the carpet was removed, I vacuumed. This project generated a lot of dust, sand, dirt, etc. The previous owners had dogs and cats, and we have cats, so it was a relief to say good riddance to the carpeting and do a thorough vacuuming.

Next, I made sure I had removed all the carpet strips, and used needle nose pliers to remove all the carpet staples. (You can also see a rusty staple in this photo, that had to be removed as well).

Many of the staples were are under the stair nose to help hold the carpet in place where there is no carpet strip. There were many that were broken, rusted, etc. – so I had to carefully inspect each stair.

Lastly, I sanded, using a palm sander and a Ryobi sander. There was so much dried spackle on the stairs, rough patches, and dark stain that had spilled over from the stringers. Plus, the previous owners had large dogs (Great Danes), and there were so many scratches and gouges in everything.

I sanded everything here – the stringers, the stairs, and the risers. I wore a mask so as not to breathe in all the dirt and dust, or the old stain.

Sanding was a tedious job, especially to remove the old, dark stain. I would often find the stain gumming up on the sanding pads. (I also entirely removed the molding along the edges, to be replaced).

I did not sand everything perfectly. While I was originally going to refinish the stairs, the plan was always to repaint the stringers a nice white color.

Here is how it looked after sanding:

Now, my original plan was to refinish the stairs with a coat of polyurethane. However, once I pulled up the carpet, we were disappointed to see pine. The more we worked on the stairs, the more we realized it was a very cheap pine, with lots of damages – holes, cracks, construction marks, even nails and screws driven through the wood.

The original plan was to try to salvage it, which was not possible. Then we decided on re-carpeting. And finally decided on painting it, at least for an interim time period.

Read about the rest of the project in my other blog posts.

Read Part II: Railings.

Read Part III: Painting the Stairs.

Want a sneak peek of the final results?