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This week, I have been hard at work removing the carpet, tack strips, padding, and staples from our stairs. As of last night, all of the boards have been cleaned, swept, and re-nailed. Tip:  When removing carpet, it’s always smart to go back around your surface and hammer all the spots where you see nail heads. When a house settles and you walk around on your carpet, the nails that hold in the underlying boards down will often shift and sometimes rise above the surface of the wood layer. I honestly wish the builder had used screws on the stairs, but sometimes you’re forced to work with what you’ve got.

During my removal/hammer process, one step appeared irreparably split. It would need replacing, or else the step would become dangerously wobbly when stepping on it.

Initially, I began with the first nail where the step’s split was the widest. By separating the split further, I was able to get a grip on the nail with my pry bar and slo-o-o-o-o-owly wedge it out of place. This took about twenty minutes, and I soon realized that these nails were far too long to continue trying to pry them up this way. I would never be able to get the pry bar underneath the nail heads to create any leverage! Looking at the other eight nails holding this step down, I thought this would take me hours to figure out. I later learned that these nails are also intentionally nailed at opposing angles to anchor the stair tread in place, which was making removal that much more difficult.

Thanks to a quick phone call, I learned a new technique (thanks, Dad!):  To remove nails that can’t be reached by prying at the nail itself, use a pry bar to wedge the entire stair tread up by about an inch. Then, hammer it back down, but be sure your hammer’s blow is several inches away from the nail head. When you do this, you should see the step go back down, but the nail will stay in place, thus raising the nail and nail head about an inch above the tread. Then, use the pry bar or claw hammer to remove the nail (FYI, this technique can also be used when removing baseboards and other molding). Easy! My twenty-minutes-per-nail time went down to an hour to remove the entire step.

Then came my next surprise:  the guys who built my house were apparently never taught to clean up after themselves, because they used the cavern hiding underneath my staircase as a trash can. I couldn’t see under the step, but the flash on my camera could! It looks like dust, construction debris, pieces of insulation and padding, etc… and lots of spiderwebs!

So, now what? I’ve basically got a big, gaping hole on my stairs. Scott protectively put a large piece of MDF (more on it’s purpose in a later post!) in front of the stairs to prevent Colby from hurting himself. We tried bringing him to bed last night, but he fumbled at the third step, so we decided it would be best to prevent him from using the stairs at all until the tread is replaced.

Sorry, Colby! It’s for your own good.

Tonight, we are having a carpet consultant come by to give us a quote on installation for the primary and guest bedrooms. This means, of course, that we HAVE to replace the stair before they get to the house. Also, I’ll have to clean up each room so I’m not too embarrassed and so they can take accurate measurements. But with any luck, we’ll have a good idea of what the carpet might cost, and then we’ll have one more thing to cross off our lists. Hooray for progress!

Soon to come:  stair lingo lesson, how to paint your stairs, before and afters, special projects, and more!

(Want more tutorials and tips? See my Lessons Learned page, which includes a step-by-step how to on carpet removal. Also, check out our flooring progress upstairs here.)

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