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Finishing Stair Risers on the Shore House

September 10, 2012

We are six months into the renovation process on our 106-year-old shore house.  We are trying to do everything ourselves to stay within budget, but some things need to be farmed out to the professionals.

It was a no-brainer when we hired an electrician to rewire the entire house to replace the old knob and tube wiring that couldn’t be insured because it was such a fire hazard.  But when it came down to finishing the hardwood floors, we had a momentary lapse of reason, thinking we could tackle it ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, we knew that our 6-year-old was a trooper at scraping up the old glued-on linoleum, but we thought with the right tools, it might be a job my husband could tackle himself.  When one 2 x 4 foot area took en entire day to strip and sand, however, we knew we might be in over our heads.  To our surprise, though, it wasn’t nearly as expensive as we feared it might be.

Our floor guys came in and did the entire house, upstairs and downstairs, including the staircase, for less than half of what we thought the cost would be.  The entire job, from nasty to beautiful, took only four days.  I almost cried when I saw how amazing the floors looked when they were finished.


It truly transformed the look and feel of the entire house.


The only downside to the floor refinishing project, however, was that we now could see what had been under the carpet running up the staircase.  The treads of the steps looked fantastic, but now we had leveler goo, staples, holes, and all sorts of other debris staring us in the face each time we climbed the steps.


After reading up on how best to scrape and paint stair risers, my husband came up with an ingenious idea to cover them instead.  Using white hardboard from Home Depot, he knew he’d be able to take our staircase from gruesome to gorgeous.

White Hardboard from Home Depot, 4 x 8 foot sheet for $12


He carefully measured, not once, but twice, before taking his dimensions to Home Depot to have them cut the 4 x 8 board into strips.  Even after the careful measuring, he still was off on one or two strips, so had to go back for a second board.  However, at $12 per sheet, it was a replacement he was happy to buy.

Using adhesive and a rubber mallet, he cut and shaved each riser to the correct size and shape.  Remember, there is a lot of settling in a house built in 1906.  Nothing is level or square.  Each riser is custom and unique.  Finding the right shape strip for each step was a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

But in one morning, he took our staircase that originally looked like this:

but had been transformed into this:

to the beautiful finished product that now looks like this:

Our staircase is literally the centerpiece of this house.  Now it looks good enough to stand up to the job.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Krista permalink
    March 20, 2016 11:32 PM

    We have same situation. What did u do for rounded riser at bottom

    • March 21, 2016 6:56 AM

      Hi Krista,
      For the rounded step at the bottom, my husband notched the back of the white hardboard in a few vertical lines so it was more flexible. Depending on the degree of curve, the hardboard already has some bend to it. We only needed two vertical lines scored into the back of the board to allow it to follow the curve. Just be sure to measure and buy a longer piece to fully wrap around without a seam. Good luck!

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