Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Tale of Two Stairwells

In reviewing the blog, I see that I have not posted since March!  Do not interpret this to mean that we have been idle, or... that the house is finished - oh no, not at all! 

We continue to take punches at the punch list, and one of the biggest projects on the list was finishing the main staircase in the house.

This is a huge project because of the cathedral ceiling which required us to build scaffolding in order to get the job done.  So, without further ado...

We started with Dean painting everything that could be reached from ground level or a ladder.

Once this was done we got to work building staging to get to the upper reaches.  We used 2 X 6's held together with big bolts for the uprights and main parts of the structure.

Cross sections were nailed in place, and we taped rags on the corners so as not to ding the already painted lower portion of the stairwell.

My primary contribution on this job was to hold things while Dean nailed and bolted.

And our supervisor, of course, keeps an eye (or two) on us at all times...

We used various pieces of plywood and scrap lumber for the stabilizers.

And one of my proudest moments on this project was when the staging was still wobbly, I suggested that we nail to the railing, and it worked!

We nailed a short piece of 2 X 4 to the underneath of the railing, then secured the staging structure to it.  Yes!  It worked like a charm.  And did I mention that it was MY idea??

You can see the paint line in this photo.  We were concerned that there might be a visible line of demarcation here, but when the painting was finished, it blended right in...

Working from the staging, Dean does the pre-paint prep on the upper half.

With the painting done, we were ready to install the light fixture.

We started by laying out all the components.  We are using the bed as our work bench...

Before we disassembled the staging we decided it would be useful in the installation of my seven foot tall original woodblock print of Artemis, by artist Bill Evaul.

She's been wrapped up like this for about 3 years now, since we moved out of Townsend.  Let's see how she held up?

Looking good!

Dean thought we should use a cleat to hang her from.

Ready for the art...

With this accomplished, we were able to take down the scaffolding, and could now go up and down the stairs without having to duck each time!

With the weather getting warmer, and riding high from our success on the inside, we turned our attention to the outside stairwell...

Seems like a long time ago now that our excavator constructed some terraced stone walls leaving a space for a stairwell, and we have been living with a sandy ramp leading from the driveway up to the house's main entrance...
We had options to consider:  Granite was too expensive.  Natural stone would have given an irregular surface that we felt would make snow removal difficult.

After weighing the pros and cons, we decided to use pre-cast cement individual steps to construct the stairway.  We ended up with a product called "Rocka", which is cast to look like stone, that we purchased from Powell Stone and Gravel. 

A few of out Rocka steps awaiting installation

So here we go...

Here comes the second step.

We found the steps pretty easy to work with. 
After lifting it into place, Dean uses a lever to fine tune the placement.

Then checks for level -  we are pitching it slightly for water to run off.

The space between the two stone walls varies between about six and seven feet wide.  We are using five foot wide steps.  I had this idea to offset each one by a few inches, and filling the gaps on either side with natural stone and plantings.

Here I am hauling a couple of the MANY stones on our property to be incorporated into the stairwell.

Dean prepares the surface for the next step

And so on, and so forth....

The supervisor approves.

And so do I...

And with twelve steps in place, we've reached the top. 

I plan to finish that spot at the top of the staircase with a pebble mosaic ...

... kind of like this

Source: via Cathy on Pinterest

If you are interested in seeing more pebble mosaics, I have pinned quite a few examples on my Pinterest board here.

I am tucking plantings in the gaps between the steps and the stone walls.  I think when the grow in, the will soften the edges and give a more natural look.

Here's one of my inspirations for this idea...

So here is a look at the stairs as they stand now.

We are enjoying using it, and now that we don't have to climb up a sandy ramp, we find we are using the main entrance instead of the basement entrance almost all of the time.

That's it for this post.  We have been busy with a few other projects, and it is my hope to quickly post about these very soon.


  1. Awesome Cathy enjoy!

  2. Great results!!

  3. It all looks awesome! Great idea for stabilizing the scaffolding, Cathy!
    LOVE the idea for the pebble mosaic. Can't wait to see how it comes out. xxoo -P