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Take your abode to new heights with a spiffy looking stairway


When it’s time for a remodel, many homeowners opt to either replace or refinish older wooden components, including the treads, risers, stringers, handrails and balusters — using an attractive wood species and handsome stain. - GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO
When it’s time for a remodel, many homeowners opt to either replace or refinish older wooden components, including the treads, risers, stringers, handrails and balusters — using an attractive wood species and handsome stain. - GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO - CTW Features

How to infuse new life into your staircase

It’s an essential part of most homes that’s used every day. Yet it’s also an amenity that is overlooked and under-appreciated. It’s your interior staircase, that simple series of steps used to travel between levels but often ignored for its potential to enhance your home’s appearance.

“Stairs get a lot of use and abuse on a daily basis, so they can become worn looking very quickly. Especially if your staircase is located near the entryway of your home or in another central location, a worn out set of stairs can detract from your home’s design and value,” says Cristina Miguelez, remodelling specialist with Wilmington, Delaware-based Fixr.com.

All the more reason to consider a stairway upgrade.

“You can improve the look of your stairs through a cosmetic makeover by adding minor decorative elements. Or you can redo your stairs — including replacing, expanding or refinishing the wooden treads and risers or adding carpeting to them — to improve safety, appearance and accessibility,” Kaki Zeigler, COO of Longfield Partners, a home building and remodelling firm in Columbia, S.C., says.

A major redo is particularly important if your stairs have become loose, broken, slippery or otherwise risky to navigate.

“Stairs with worn or loose carpeting can be especially troublesome, and stairways with open risers may pose a risk, too, as this makes it hard to visually judge step height and depth,” notes Julie Smith, executive director of Modcon Living, a Central Ohio nonprofit that provides home repair and modification programs and services to homeowners.

When it’s time for a remodel, many homeowners opt to either replace or refinish older wooden components, including the treads, risers, stringers, handrails and balusters — using an attractive wood species and handsome stain.

“Consider bare wooden stairs that feature a non-slip finish and a contrasting colour at the front edge of each step to make steps more decorative and to help cue people visually in order to prevent falls,” Smith says.

Or, you could decide to cover all or most of the stairs with new carpeting.

“In our house, we tacked down a sisal rug runner across our staircase, and it was one of the best decisions we ever made,” says Olaniyi Swarn, a Chicago-based interior stylist.

As an alternative to full carpeting, “consider tiling your stairway with decorative tiles on the risers and sturdy porcelain or quarry pavers on the treads to make for a long-wearing, unique and decorative staircase,” recommends Miguelez. “But, if you have kids and want something a little softer, look at carpet tiles that you can match over the treads and risers to create a really unique look. This way, if a single carpet tile gets damaged or stained, it’s easy to swap out for a new one.”

Painting some or all of your stairway is yet another possibility. You can choose to paint components like the risers, railings and/or stringers in complementary or contrasting colours.

Swarn suggests other creative options, including:

  • Painting or applying adhesive stencilled patterns on your risers;
  • Adding wallpaper on your risers or adjacent walls;
  • Installing wall moulding, “a beautiful architectural detail that makes the whole space look high end,” she says;
  • Adding decorative and functional stairway lighting — like the kind found in a movie theatre — for a dramatic look and better visibility.

Miguelez adds that it’s important to ask key questions before embarking on any stairway project.

“How much use do these stairs get and by who? Do people usually wear shoes inside the house? What’s the style of the area surrounding the staircase? Is there ample illumination? And what’s your budget?” she asks.

Note that stairway improvements can be expensive, as the components are often time consuming to measure, modify, repair, refinish, paint and/or accent; quality hardwood and commercial-grade carpeting can also be costly. Shop around carefully for estimates from experienced and trustworthy contractors.

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