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Anonymous

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Hi All,

We are restoring/renovating our house which is getting on for 300 years old and the next project is to replace the treads and risers on the staircase. As i have never done this before i am hoping that someone can give me some advice.

We are not sure if these treads are original to the house but by the wear on the centres of each tread you can see that they have been there for a very long time, because the edges are still about 1 1/2 inches thick yet the middle has been worn down to just over a 1/4 of an inch.

The stairs have one stringer attached to the wall and on the opposite side the balistaires are morticed into the treads. Is this an open stringer?

The hand rail and the balistaries are in good condition (we want to keep as much of the original parts as we can), as is the stringer.

Am i right in thinking that i can just remove the hand rail, balistairs, treads and risers (not the stringer). Then after morticing the hole for the balistairs, glue new treads and risers into the stringer?

A couple of things that are worrying me are, after looking under the stairs i noticed that there were no triangled glue blocks attached to the backs of the treads and risers. Yet i am sure that i heard somewhere that you have to install these to strengthen the stairs.
Also again looking under the stairs i noticed that the bottom of the risers are attached to the back of each tread. Is this correct? because i thought that the back of the tread would be housed in the bottom of the riser or the bottom of the riser would sit on the top of the tread, again to give the stairs strenght when any body walked on it.

I know that because a staircase is classed as structural you need planning permission to alter or install a new one, but would i need permission just to repair one?

Is this a job for a novice?

Finally the risers on these stairs are made from some sort of softwood. Can i replace them with ply? If so what thickness do you think i should use. The treads will be redwood.

Any other tips would be great.

Mike.ca
 
A

Anonymous

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Is this an open stringer?
An 'open string' means the top of the stringer follows the end profile of the treads and risers i.e If you looked at the stair from side on, the top of the string would be zig-zagged. A 'closed string' means the string covers the end of the treads and risers, and the top of the string runs parallel to the bottom edge of the string.

Am i right in thinking that i can just remove the hand rail, balistairs, treads and risers (not the stringer). Then after morticing the hole for the balistairs, glue new treads and risers into the stringer?

Yes, but traditionally they were wedged in the stringer housings.

A couple of things that are worrying me are, after looking under the stairs i noticed that there were no triangled glue blocks attached to the backs of the treads and risers. Yet i am sure that i heard somewhere that you have to install these to strengthen the stairs.
Whenever possible each tread and it's riser should be jointed together, glued, nailed, and blocked at the bench seperately.

A short lath should be temorarially sprigged to the edges of the tread and riser, across the angle, to keep them at right angles to each other until the blocks are glued into the internal angle, and the whole joint properly set.

Your stairs have survived '300' years without blocks on the internal angle!

Also again looking under the stairs i noticed that the bottom of the risers are attached to the back of each tread. Is this correct? because i thought that the back of the tread would be housed in the bottom of the riser or the bottom of the riser would sit on the top of the tread, again to give the stairs strenght when any body walked on it.
Very common, so is the riser sitting in a housing at the back of the tread. Never seen a tread sitting in a housing at the bottom of a riser.

I know that because a staircase is classed as structural you need planning permission to alter or install a new one, but would i need permission just to repair one?
No!

Is this a job for a novice?
depends on what you think your capabilities are. If it is a straight flight, then it should pose no real difficulties, especially as the strings are already cut for you.

Finally the risers on these stairs are made from some sort of softwood. Can i replace them with ply?
What on earth for? Why don't you try and preserve them and restore them, using traditional methods and materials? Have some respect for them, they are three hundred years old!
 

Shadowfax

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Regarding the planning permission thing. I think this is not a planning issue because it is a repair. However, you might need to make a Building Regulations application as the work could affect the means of escape from the building, amongst other things.
If you call your local Building Control (not Planning) they will give you any help you might need. I think a Building Notice will be the form of application that you need IIRC.
Hope this helps.

SF
 
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Anonymous

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Regarding the planning permission thing. I think this is not a planning issue because it is a repair. However, you might need to make a Building Regulations application as the work could affect the means of escape from the building, amongst other things.
If you call your local Building Control (not Planning) they will give you any help you might need. I think a Building Notice will be the form of application that you need IIRC.
Hope this helps.
Because it is existing and he wants to make repairs and put them back as they are, there is nothing either the planning or building control can do.

If the house was not lived in and was in a dilapidated condition and it was going to be completely renovated and structurally altered, or if the building was a change of use, then they might be able to say something, especially if the stairs wanted to be kept! But even then, only a few basic requirements are needed, usually the balustrades spaced at 4" and another for fire regs which suggests the width of the treads must be no smaller than 2' 8", not including the rail.
Also the headroom above the whole flight must be no less than 6' 6" measured from the pitch line of the nosings to the stair-well ceiling, for the whole width of the tread.
I have seen this head-height rule relaxed on many occasions because to achieve it in many old cottages, would mean destroying them.

If the building is old or listed and the council want to deface and destroy the fabric of the building (like they try to do in 95% of cases) who-ever controls ancient monuments and building of architectural interest or buildings of national heritage can over-rule the council decision, which has just happened to me, and which I have seen many, many times before concerning many different aspects of building.

I have a grade 1 listed building built by a famous architect and the roof is a 47.5 deg, diminishing course, random width, natural slate roof with ornate lead-work. It needs repairing because vandals had ripped the lead ridge-roll off and tried to steal the hand dressed 4' chimney pot .

Anyway the water has been getting in for a great number of years and rotted the heads of the 7"x2" rafters, it has also washed out the old lime torching and rotted the sarking.

I can go and remove the slates, splice new timbers on to the rafters, or replace them completely, relay the sarking and do the ground-work, and re-lay the slate.

If I do that and put the roof back as it was found using the same materials for my repairs, don't alter the pitch, or alter the ridge-line and re-lay the same slate in random widths and diminishing courses...There is not a thing the council or anyone else can do!

And more to the point, only a fool would even go to the council to ask whether a few treads can be replaced.

And remember:- 'If you can't build, you become an inspector!'
 

Keith Smith

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Mike, how are you going to manage with the stairs out of action? Think how long it will take you then double it. The thing building control would want to know, if you were to tell them, is that you have adequate (safe) access to upstairs while the work is in progress and that you would be able to escape from upstairs in the event of a fire for instance.

I too have a listed house which I seem to be forever working on and I also do repairs to other listed properties, generally I don't ask permission, last time I did it took nearly a year.

I try to leave as much of the original as possible and replace like for like. It may not be built according to todays standards but if it's lasted a few hundred years that's good enough for me.

As for specific advice it's very difficult without seeing it. Does it need such a radical repair, can you not repair the treads in situ?

Keith
 

Mike.C

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Hi All,

I have now restored/repaired the staircase and as you suggested i saved as much of the original as i could. This consisted of all the risers, balistaires, and the handrail. As for the treads, these had 300 years of wear, but this was mainly to the front few inches, so in the end i removed one step at a time, cut the worn parts out and let in new wood.
In other words 90% of the original staircase has been saved.

Thank you all for your advice, which in the end saved an old staircase.

Cheers

Mike.C[/quote]
 
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