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remodeling problem on a set of stairs

For the past few months I've been helping my parents remodel their home. This home was built in the early 1900's and has had 2 additions made and a couple of other remodels over the years, so I've encountered all sorts of fun "Why is this done like this?" moments. Yesterday I hit one that I'm not sure what to do to fix it and I decided to ask here. The stairs leading from the main floor the the 2nd story where part of one of the additions I spoke of and as part of the remodel they decided to repaint and re-carpet them. We purchased the carpet from Home Depot and the installers came to measure the areas. When the installer made it to these stairs he said that the sub floor on the stair landing needed to be replaced because it was "mushy", at this time the old carpet had not been removed yet. I got the old carpet and padding pulled out yesterday to find that there wasn't sub floor underneath this area. When it was built they used 4 lengths of 2 by 12 to form the landing. The mushy feeling was being caused by 2 things. First the middle 2 boards are flexing a lot whenever they have weight on them, about a 1/4 inch or just a bit more down. Second 3 of the boards have cupped so the edges are coming up, however, one of the middle boards was installed the opposite way and is cupped so the center of the board is raised almost a 1/2 inch above the others. I looked at possibly removing the boards and rebuilding with plywood or sub floor material but there is another set of stairs built on top of this landing to reach the 2nd floor and with how it was built I don't think it would be possible to disassemble them. I've been thinking of adding a layer 1/2 inch plywood to the landing to stiffen it, and I can change stair heights by a 1/2 inch to compensate, but i can't go much more than that or I'll be unable to adjust stairs and the top step to the landing will be over 8 inches high. I do have access to the underside of this landing through a closet as well. My question is would it be better to try the 1/2 plywood, or would adding some bracing under the landing be a better option? (carpet installation is on Friday the 11th so I'm on a deadline, and still have 2 more areas to remove carpet and address any oh crap situations)
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Posted 2011-02-02T07:22:25+0000  by hoboman5000 hoboman5000

Good morning, Hoboman, it sounds like you have a strange situation here, but if I'm reading the question correctly, your solution is an easy one. I've read and re-read your question several times, and done a little pacing here to stimulate thought, and I have a question for you... you state that the landing is made 2 x 12's; are they laid down so that they form the floor itself, i.e.. flat and side by side? If that is the case, you may have a situation where the contractor "over-built" in a good way, as opposed to trying to cover a flaw. A 2 x 12 laid down this way would certainly be strong enough as a floor; think of a wooden deck. Take up these boards and check for water damage, you said they were warping, and if it's o.k., replace them with new ones. They should be screwed to the joists every 8 inches or so, and this will eliminate your clearance issues.

Give this a shot, and post some pictures here... if I've read the question wrong, some photos will help me, help you.

Welcome aboard, and feel free to post any other questions.

Ray the Hammer

Posted 2011-02-02T13:12:32+0000  by TheHammer

View from 2nd floor:


steps to 2nd floor


2 reasons I don't think I can take these up:



Board causing issue (I think):



I'm really not sure I could disassemble this area. The 2nd set of stairs, the ones cut on the angle, are built on top of this landing, and are attached into the framing of the wall underneath them in such a way that I'm not sure I can get them out without causing damage to the wall behind them. That wall is not one that I can take apart right now anyway as it is their bedroom and they have no other option for sleeping right now.

Posted 2011-02-02T14:40:51+0000  by hoboman5000

Thanks for the pictures, we are still on the same page; my answer is still the way to go, but with a few modifications.

You need to replace those boards on the landing, but you need to remove and replace the steps. It looks like the wall is plaster, and in this situation, this is a good thing.

I think I see nails on the "fat " end, so if you remove those and cut the tread in half, you should be able to wiggle the step out and do little, or no, damage to the wall. Small chips can be patched, or will be covered by the carpet and trim.

It looks like the "skinny " end is just nailed to the stringer, so it will come out easy.

You shouldn't have any problem other than figuring out a way to cut those nails if you can't pull them out, then just rebuild the stairs after you have replaced the boards on the landing. New treads can be trimmed to fit into the"fat" end, into the hole left by removing the old tread.

The pictures seem to show a good solid build for you to work from.

Hit me back with any questions, and I'll give you all the personal help I can.

In addition to working at Home Depot, I'm a blacksmith and if that is a plaster wall, I've had to install a custom handrail that required me to deal with this same situation, and even though it looks daunting, it really is fairly straight forward.

The Hammer

Posted 2011-02-02T15:13:26+0000  by TheHammer

C.C., if you have anymore questions this week, I'm going to ask my good friend and fellow associate Above Average Joe to keep an eye out for you. He has read my initial post and is aware of what you're trying to do.

He agrees with what I've said, but if any other problems come up, he is very knowledgeable and will be able to help you out.

Ray the Hammer

Posted 2011-02-02T18:37:30+0000  by TheHammer
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