Can I edge, plane, and glue 1×3 pine together for landing and stairs?

Q: A few years back I removed the carpet in my son’s room and put down wood floors. I wanted it to be rustic so I went with some old pine I got my hands on. It was approx 8″ wide and 1″ thick. I planned them, tongue and grooved them, then glued and nailed over a wood sub floor (with a sound deadening pad). They came out great and after years of ‘teenage boy’ stuff in his room they still are holding up very well.

I wanted to carry that look into our landing area upstairs and then on our stairs with a narrower plank. The pine I used on his was very heavy and I really cannot find it anywhere. The closest thing I can find in hardness (in a pine) is a 1″x3″ called ‘Appearance Grade SYP’. This is in the general lumber area of the big box stores. It’s very hard and heavy, and saws clean and sharp.

I was thinking of making one tread out of it and see how it holds up. I just don’t know if I’ll be able to edge, plane, and glue them together to make a 11.5″ plank that will hold up. Is this as hard as I think it is and will it take to normal wood glue, oil based stain, and poly? I beat on it with a hammer just to see what it would do; it dented but didn’t break apart like the regular pine does.

Thanks for any advice on the use of this wood. I really love the look.

A: Your pine floors sound really great. Of course you have to understand pine is quite soft so you have to be prepared to live with the floors getting dings in them. Your comments about finding a wood as hard confuses me. Pine is soft. If you can find a local small mill someplace they should be able to mill some pine to match and then you can stain and finish it.

Tape pulled off finish around stairs

Q: I am a stain and lacquer railing/cabinet finisher. I recently worked on a railing in a home that had the hardwood floors refinished almost a year prior. I noticed the work was sub-standard; the sanding was uneven, the stain wiping inconsistent.

In order for me to complete my job I have to mask the floors using high tack tape. I was told the top finish was Bona and I know it is not an issue masking to it.

After completing the railing and removing the masking it was noticed that there are two different ‘strips’ where the tape pulled the finish as well as some of the stain from the floor. Further inspection of the floor reveals a finish full of debris or dust like contaminants. Further inquiry into the products used reveals use of a stain that is not sold as flooring product. It is an oil/solvent base product with a specified dry/curing time.

The homeowners would like to hold me accountable. However, I have taped literally hundreds and hundreds of floors. A proper finish on a floor is never removed by tape.

It is impossible for me to use any stain, regardless of its viscosity, and put a finish coat of lacquer with an airless sprayer without protecting the surrounds.

The homeowners had their flooring finisher back in and he gave them a quote for an attempted repair, an entire re-coat, as well as re-sanding and refinishing.

This floor was improperly finished, with improper products. Had this been done correctly, we would not have this issue.

A: I’m not sure what stain was used but apparently it is not a semi transparent, penetrating stain to pull off the floor. A solvent stain would have to be 100% dry with all solvents evaporated to apply a water born finish such as Bona.

I absolutely agree with you the finish, if properly done will not pull off with tape. There has been much talk about this over the years, so clearly your issue is not the first time it’s happened. I did a test more than 8 years ago. I had several oak boards which I had stained and finished. Some had solvent/oil based polyurethane and some had water born. I applied several types of tape to the boards, pressing it down hard. Green painters tape, grey duck tape and even the black gorilla tape. I left the tape in place for a week before removing. Guess what? No issues. No issues because I thoroughly sanded and prepped the previous coat of finish before applying another. The Bona finish coats did not gain good adhesion. This particularly happens around the edges of rooms near the quarter round because some guys don’t like to get on their hands and knees and abrade the finish right up to the trim, so the finish coats are really just sitting there waiting for someone to put tape down in preparation for painting and they end up with what you have. No, this is not your fault. You were just the unfortunate person to expose the existing problem.

Similar Q: We moved into a new house and noticed the polyurethane peeling off our steps. They wiped the poly off with steel wool and reapplied. Now after about four months the touch up is peeling off, mostly where our small dog goes up and down the steps. What do we need to do so that the poly sticks to our hardwood steps?

A: You need to remove whatever finish is on the steps, down to clean, bare wood and start over. If this is a solvent or oil based coating, each coat needs to be gently but thoroughly buffed or sanded with fine sandpaper before another coat is applied. It is this scratching or sanding that allows for a mechanical bond of the finish.

Related Q: We delivered a customers household items. We used floor runners on the steps, and we used painters tape to hold the runner down for safety. When we pulled the tape up the urethane finish came up with the tape in some areas. The customer now wants us to refinish the stairs. We know the floors had been refinished, but we’re unsure how long ago. Is this our liability?

A: My opinion: Painters tape is meant to release within so many days without causing any damage. Regardless, the pulling off of the finish was not really caused by the tape. The real problem is the top coat of finish had not adhered to what was beneath it. This can be caused by contaminations between the final coat of finish and the one below. But more often the cause is improper or insufficient preparation of the previous coat of finish to ensure proper adhesion.

I’ve done tape pull tests on polyurethane finishes before using a number of different types of tape. I couldn’t get any of them to pull the polyurethane off the sample board I had prepared. If the finish had pulled off I would have considered that I failed in my preparation of the sample board.

Drafty stair case

Q: We have a house that was built in the 20’s. The stair case going upstairs to the master bedroom (a.k.a. attic) is leaking very cold air. We’re fighting to heat the upstairs. Can you advise what would be the best sealant for the stairs? Any other thoughts? We would like to put in a carpet runner to help keep out the cold after we do the sealant. Thank you for your time.

A: If it was possible to gain access to the back of the stair case, this would allow you to have the stair treads and stringers tightened up and seal any areas along the wall where air in coming in.

Do I need to get the stairs refinished just because they’ve been sitting under carpet?

Q: I recently moved into an 11-year old house with red oak floors throughout. A previous owner carpeted just the stairs, perhaps to prevent slipping, although I have no idea if this was one year ago or ten years ago. The carpet looks to be at least five years old based on stains and wear. The flooring underneath looks fine, from what I’ve seen so far.

Do I need to get the stairs refinished just because they’ve been sitting under carpet?

A: No, not if they look OK. Depending on the finish previously used on them you may want to do some good cleaning of them and put on a fresh coat of the same type of finish.

Did not wipe excess stain off my stairs within recommended time period

Q: I had this great idea to recondition my stairs, rather than completely refinish them. I roughed them up enough to remove the old varnish, and applied a dark stain to match the existing woodwork. I did not wipe the excess stain off within the recommended time period. Now, days later, the stain is still very tacky.

I am loosing my hopes of it drying sufficiently for polyurethane to be applied. Any ideas on what I should do?

A: Try rubbing them down with some mineral spirits and a cloth. Try some fine steel wool if you need a big more bite.

Large gap in plank beside step

Q: We have a very large gap on our wood floor, about 3/4″. It’s the last piece on a step inside between 2 rooms, right next to our entryway. We’ve noticed that the gap is getting bigger which could be the result of the winter we’re having. We’re concerned with the board breaking. Would using rope between the boards be the best solution for this?

A: I’ve never seen one board shrink 3/4 of an inch. I don’t think it is even possible. I’d need to see a picture of this. If this is an actual step, as in stairs, is it possible the structure itself has moved?

Follow-up Q: Thanks for the response! It seems like the space changes daily if that makes any sense because it’s doesn’t seem as wide now. Hope the pictures help to explain it better. The previous home-owners did a lot of the work themselves but I don’t think they always knew what they were doing.

A: Wow, wide plank. Is that hickory? I ask, because hickory expands and contracts a lot. Does that nosing move at all when you step on it or even if you try to move it by hand? I would bet it does and it isn’t secured well. I think I would remove it in one piece if possible, but if not replace it. When you secure it use wood glue.

Staining oak stairs dark

Q: We moved into our new house about a year ago, and we are now ready to stain the oak stairs. We thought they were “conditioned” only, but now found out that they are “sealed”. I don’t think a top coat such as a polyurethane has been applied. What would be the best procedure to prep the stairs for staining? We want a dark brownish/black colour. Also, Should I condition the wood after sanding? Or is it doing the same as a damp cloth to open the pores?

A: Whatever coating was applied will need to be totally removed to bare wood. Conditioners are to help primarily the DIY person especially with certain woods like pine that tend to go blotchy when stained. They will cause the stain to be less dark. On oak, if you are using a dark colour the easiest way to achieve the true colour is to water pop first. When the wood is dry, apply stain with a cloth and wipe off excess in 5 minutes or so.

How do I cut treads overhang to make them flush with risers?

Q: I have ripped up the carpet on my stairs, and I am going to paint them and install a runner. The risers are in poor shape and I am hoping I can use a thin piece of oak to fix that. How do I cut the overhang of the treads to make them flush with the riser below? There is no room for a straight cut. What tool do I need?

A: You could cut the bulk of the tread lip with a circular saw. The last few inches could be cut with a hand saw. There are also special blades for jig saws that allow a flush cut. I have a tool that would do it, but you aren’t going to spend $1200 to use a tool once. It’s a Fein Supercut.

Painful lip on stair treads

Q: I had a professional floorer install a natural oak (2 1/4″ engineered hardwood) in my living area and two sets of stairs.

My question is: The stairs are installed with a lip at the very end of the tread (the thickness of the engineered wood, which was glued together at a 45 degree to make the stair noses). The installer told me that we could not cut the ends (overlap) of the stair tread off (it’s a 8″ x 12′ cut to the width of the stair treads with about 1.5 – 1.75″ overhang on each tread) due to rise and run codes for stairways. Now, I have this lip that every time I walk up and down my steps hurts my wife, kids and my feet. Very frustrating.

I am looking for some type of 1/8″ thick x 45 degree by 3′ – 4′ length trim piece (or a “quick fix”?) so that I don’t have this sharp angle right where everyone steps, and so I can sweep the floors/steps without going nuts. Any insight would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

A: In my view, the lip should have been cut off flush to the risers and a proper stair nosing installed. I would think the manufacturer of your engineered floor also makes stair nose and other transition strips to match their products. I guess the horse is out of the barn now though. You are going to have to try and hunt down a tiny piece of quarter round or such trim at local building supply/lumber yards. You might even have to find something close and adjust it to make it fit.

Would re-doing the stairs and handrail be prohibitively expensive?

Q: I have oak parquet in living/dining and kitchen, and oak stair treads and handrail. Everything is stained dark ebony. I want to refinish, and would like to have a lighter, taupe/grey, high-gloss look. Questions:

(1) Is this possible?

(2) Would re-doing the stairs and handrail be prohibitively expensive- enough to make me consider keeping the ebony?

A: One thing that needs to be kept in mind with stains is that it is about impossible to remove all trace of stain from heavy grain. So, if you go from ebony to a pastel like taupe, you will still have some trace in the heavy grain and it will show. It is impossible to predict how significant that would be. It also works the other way when going from, say a white stain to ebony.

Your case would be even more expensive because a non yellowing water borne finish would have to be used with a pastel colour. They are always more costly. About a third more.

Leave a gap around the banister?

Q: I’m removing the banister in the hall way to install laminate flooring. I understand that we have to leave a gap around the banister. What do we use to cover the gap? Quarter round?

A: If your banister / picket assembly also has a shoe plate that the pickets sit on, I would remove all that, install a proper stair nosing around the stairway opening, and then install the laminate up to it, except leave the required space. Then, when you put the shoe rail or plate back down, it will cover or sit on top of the gap.

Smooth transition between stair bullnose and new hardwood

Q: I ripped up carpet in a balcony/hallway and am installing 3/4″ hardwood.

Issue #1: The top of existing stair bullnose is about 3/16″ lower than where the top of the new hardwood will be. How do I make this a smooth transition?

Issue #2: There is an open rail on one side of the hall that runs perpendicular to the hardwood. The top edge of the hardwood base plate under the railing spindles has been sanded for a rounded edge. If I butt the ends of the hardwood to this base plate there is a noticeable gap due to the rounded top edge.

What should I do?

A: I installed plank for a couple of nice doctors who had a similar issue with a lower stair nosing height.

The only choices were to dismantle the entire baluster assembly, replace the nosing with one that is 3/4 thick, install a thinner flooring or find a very tiny piece of trim molding to attach to the edge of the floor where it meets the nosing. They decided on the last option.

It looked fine and hasn’t presented any tripping issues. In your case it only involves the short length of nosing at the top of the stairs. Perhaps you could cut the nosing on each end to remove it, then either replace it with a new one or shim underneath and re-install. Make sure you use glue.

Not sure what you can do with the rounded edge though. Is it possible to make it a square edge with a belt sander?

Stair spindles and installing flooring on the stairs

Q: How do I deal with stair spindles while trying to install laminate or wood flooring on the stairs to my second floor? Assuming I remove the spindles, how do I fit the wood or laminate so that the spindles can be replaced?

A: You really need a professional stair installer. The spindle assembly needs to be all disassembled before cutting back the lip on all the stair treads. I wouldn’t be installing laminate on stairs, if I was you. Solid slab is the way to go. Then, all the spindles have to be cut to fit, new dowels drilled, holes bored in the new treads, etc. Not a job for DIY.

Stair nosing in more than one piece?

Q: I plan on installing laminate wood flooring on a stair landing and a couple of stairs. My question has to do with the stair nosing. My steps are about 47-1/2″ wide. Most pre-made nosings I’ve seen come in 47″ or 94″ long pieces. As you can see, I will either have to splice the nosings or have a ton of waste. Is it OK to splice laminate stair nosing? I understand it has to glued down and also nailed. Any advice? Thanks for your help.

A: You never want a stair nosing to be in more than one piece. Waste or not, install one nosing on each tread. Additionally, the existing over hang on the treads needs to be cut back flush with the riser below it if such an over hang exists.

Have to interlock floor and stair nose?

Q: I am installing tongue and groove engineered hardwood floors into my living room and dining room. From the dining room to the living room, I have three 6 feet long steps. The floor is being laid perpendicular to the steps. What do you think is the best way to handle the tongue and groove while connecting to the stair nose and still cutting my pieces to fit the length of the dining room? My questions comes from the fact that in order to cut the last piece from the edge of the stairs to fit the remaining space, I will cut off the tongue and no longer have an attachment to the stair nose. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

A: I think I would just use polyurethane adhesive along the stair nosing and not worry about the tongue and groove interlocking.

Spindle bottom not flush with floor

Q: We have removed carpet from our wood stairs and we want to leave the wood exposed. The banister spindles have unfinished pegs at the bottom that sit in holes in the stairs. The pegs are exposed to differing degrees (the bottom of the spindle does not sit flush against the floor, likely because the carpet hid the poor installation). Is there any easy way to correct this short of removing the entire bannister, like some sort of decorative elements that could wrap around the spindle base to hide the peg? People have suggested installing moulding, but this will be very time consuming with dozens and dozens of mitred joints around all the spindles. Any thoughts? Thanks.

A: I’ve seen this before. I think it’s likely the spindles were installed after the carpet. I think you will need to get someone in to replace the spindles.

Gaps in stringers

Q: For our stairs, carpet was replaced by new oak treads. I will paint the risers and stringers. There are large gaps in the stringers. How can I fill these areas in? Can I start by somehow wedging small pieces of wood and then using a filler?

A: I haven’t seen the gaps but sometimes you have to improvise and use your imagination. You could glue and nail wood strips and use wood filler if that would be easiest. You could mix a stiff concoction of wood glue and fine wood dust, then fill over with patching material that can be painted (and sanded / buffed easily).