Stair Repair — part two

A handyman project to fix a broken staircase in an old house with pictures and advice



In a house built in 1860, the fifth stair bent forwards at a weird angle. On closer inspection, there were cracks on the support boards on the right side supporting other stairs. This project details a step-by-step (!) handyman project to fix the flaw — to repair the stair — complete with pictures and advice and pointers. Hiring a professional carpenter might cost several thousand dollars so it’s worth it to do it ourselves. I’ll share handyman tips and ideas.

This is the second of a three-part series. To go to the beginning, click Stair Repair (part one).
To skip ahead, click Stair Repair — part three

This is looking down into the hole. The debris is mostly shoveled out. There was NO STASH OF MONEY; that’s only in movies. But there’s a hole in the floor (middle slight right). It is a vent pipe leading outside. But it doesn’t connect to anything. It probably USED to be connected to the first floor bathroom under the higher portion of the staircase. There’s a bathroom behind the wallboard (top).

In the bathroom under the staircase, there’s a fan but no exhaust. Somebody hooked up the fan without an exhaust pipe. So the fan only blows air around. So I knock a hole in the wallboard that leads to the bathroom with a hammer.

I attach a metal pipe. It was a dryer exhaust pipe, bendable, but weak.

I put a circular metal shape over the pipe to make it stronger. I add duct tape. So I’ll build only this section of the pipe. Later, when I have time, I can finish the reconnect-the-vent-pipe project.

The junction on the left between the two boards looks like it isn’t strong. I glue in a triangle. I don’t screw it in since the triangle might splinter, So force (downwards from top right to lower left) will pass through the beam more effectively, hopefully.

I set up a workroom nearby. I learned this trick from plumbers working on another project. Moving the circular saw close means less trips back and forth. Drop cloths will make cleanup easier.

I put in a window fan to spew out sawdust.

The circular saw’s “blade guard” has stopped closing. It sticks open. So I add 3-in-1 oil to the mechanism. It closes. It’s important to fix key equipment quickly, especially safety features.

The floor underneath the stairs is uneven. So I add boards. I cut out shapes. They’re not perfect but they’ll do. They won’t be visible much longer.

When “ripping” with a table saw, you want the blade to protrude perhaps a quarter inch higher than the wood being cut to lessen the risk of the blade jamming.

It would be difficult to replace the beam to the right. Instead, I shore it up with three boards. But the main supports will come from a center structure I’m about to build.

Next I build structures beneath the stairs. I have stairs #4 and #3 open.  So I build supports for #2 first, then #5, working from hard-to-get places towards the open center. But there is no plan. I’m winging it. Wherever it looks like boards should go, that’s where I put them.

Some boards have to be screwed in at an angle. So begin drilling a hole regularly, going in about a quarter inch or so.

Then, while the drill is spinning, turn the drill slowly at an angle. Then drill. The screw goes in diagonally. It isn’t as strong as a metal brace but it’s fast.

Here’s what goes under stair #5. It looks like an “H” of sorts. I start using wood glue in addition to screws and metal ties. It gets messy.

It’s easier to build stuff outside the staircase. I measure and build and put in the assembled structure then attach it to other structures.

I build a cross brace. This means it won’t collapse sideways. It’s strong. Oh no my shoe is glued to the boards! Just kidding. To cut angles, mark where the cut will go and adjust your table saw accordingly.

I start getting creative. To attach the structure underneath stair #5 to the structure under #4, I cut what looks like a rhombus. Too bad if its not a rhombus. That’s what I’m calling it. It distributes the force and holds things together.

Then I attach the “rhombus” using glue & screws.

The thing is starting to look like a jungle gym. I’m careful to remember where the stairs will go and the risers. I leave fudge room for the risers. But the boards are lined up exactly under where the stairs will go.

Now it’s time to reattach the stairs. Some nails have to be removed. When a nail is long and slender, add a piece of wood underneath the hammer to help pull it up.

Stair #3 goes on easily. #4 is more problematic. It slides a bit.

This is the end of the second part. To go to the third part, click Stair Repair — part three
To go to the beginning, click Stair Repair