Moving the Stairs

So if you ever look at a set of stairs and think to yourself, “I’d really like those to be somewhere else”. Read this post before you reach for your saw! I would do it again, mind you, but I would have a much better idea of what I was in for. First here is a picture of the stairs in the kitchen when we first bought the house. (Refer to the last post for the house layout or view this image.)

Original Kitchen


I stated previously that we were already in work on this project. I should probably clarify that as I look at the size of my children here in this photo. We bought this house 3 years ago. We made the first couple changes I’ll be covering back then. My sister lived in the house for a couple years and now we are continuing with the remodel plan. So you will see some older pictures of the stairs, the expansion of the doorway between the living room and the kitchen, and a little work in the kitchen, mostly around the removal of the stairs, but also some trim work, and paint. Also, since you will see these same working children in some of the newer pictures I didn’t want you thinking we had some kind of super growth hormone we put in our foods here in TN.

So the first thing I did is pick up a hammer and knock a whole in the center of the wall in the dinning room. Not for any particular reason other I always wanted to be able to pick up a hammer and knock a whole in the wall and never had the opportunity. (sorry I couldn’t find that picture, but I’m still looking) After a great anticipatory let down when nothing happened other than a hole appeared in the wall, I pick up a screw driver and the hammer and started removing the trim.

Starting Place

Notice the narrow standard size door I’m working over, this was a 32″ doorway (If I remember correctly – it was small anyway) and the first thing we did was knock out about 20 or so inches to expand it into more of a walk through.

stairs moving door

You can see the new dimensions of the door after we made the cuts here. We removed the paneling and sheet rocked the remaining portion of the wall shown exposed here. Also shown is the move of the stair well door. Notice the open stairs to the right and the new door to the left. If you were to open this door at this point, it would go into the back side of the closet in bedroom 1.

The next effort was to remove the stairs from their old position and remove the walls, thus adding a good 3 and a half feet to the kitchen. It makes sense, at least to me, that if you are going to move a large family into a small house then the kitchen and dinning space is going to be a premium. But then again, it made sense to me to start this project to begin with so I may or may not be a reliable source. At any rate, that was our chief motivation for moving the stairs in the first place.

Here is a view of the old stairs from below. The calm before the storm.

Original Stairs


The storm begins as we stripped off more paneling and removed the coat closet that was in the living room and over the end of the stairs.

remove the wall to the stairs

You can still see the door to the closet, and the 30 year old nicotine stains around the old cabinets. Notice, the paneling to guard against the open pit below. Once I figured out I had created a small child hazard, I had to get the new place for the stairs ready so they could be moved and my wife could be at ease again with the children “working with daddy”.

Stairs New Home

 new stair hole

I first started with a drill and made a hole in the floor board – then proceeded to use the new reciprocating saw that I justified just for this project. 🙂 Ah yes, did I mention new projects justify new tools? You should see what I got when we started the bathroom! OK, back to the floor, before I get carried away….

Just a note of caution, you should really watch out for electrical outlets when you start cutting on walls, moving floors, etc… they tend to get in the way, and I understand the can be dangerous….don’t ask me how I know. Just a word to the wise, one man to another – I would also recommend that your wife not be present with you when you work with electricity… it’s easier on her that way.

So after much demolition of the closet, the outlets, and anything else that got in the way, I was finally able to role back the carpet and get a clear run with the recip saw. It did great.. I was a little shaky, but the saw did great. I somehow got a hole in the floor the size of the stairs, more or less. Now I had two holes in the floor where small children could fall through! The plus side, was that the old floor made a great landing for the bottom of the stairs.

Now to actually move the stairs. Did you know that apparently sometimes they cement stairs in the basement when they poor the basement? I did not. Neither did it ever occur to me, until I had every nail, screw, and anything else that looked like an attaching device removed from the stairs and they still would not move. I would also add that the nails they use in the attaching of stairs are not small and don’t just “pop right out” as most other nails one commonly comes in contact with. As a frequent stair user, I’m thinking this is a good thing. However, as one who was then trying to move the stairs I couldn’t for the life of me think of what the people who installed these were so afraid of.

So the concrete… I finally figure out the stairs were not just sitting on the basement floor, but that they actually extend – for some distance I might add – beneath the floor. Fortunately, I had this great new tool… did I mention the new recip saw? Yea it’s great. I wouldn’t destroy a house without one. So I cranked it up and left nothing by nubs sticking out of the concrete where the stairs use to be.

Of course now I had a bigger problem. The stairs were free. Do you know how much stair weight? Me neither… but they’re heavy. The first thing I thought of, was no wonder they had all those rail road spikes hold these things up! What a massive work of wood. Somehow, with the use of straps, chains, and ropes I managed to get the stairs down without breaking anything on me or them. If I recall correctly, they laid on the basement floor for several days before I would even consider dragging them to the new hole in the floor and look longingly up at the top towards the new door and wonder how in the world I would lift the massive things back up to the floor they are suppose to connect to.

Again through the miracle of ropes and chains, and what ever else I could find to prop them up with at the various stages of “lifting” I managed to get them “hung” on the main floor again. I say hung because it took me a while to find a railroad supply store to get the right size spikes to secure them properly! But in the end, they were moved and are still standing today after a couple good years to test them out properly.

I did still however, have two big holes in the floor. All I had done was trade the location of the stairs, I hadn’t made any progress in securing the place for small children, who by now were learning to not fall down big holes… just kidding, but they were learning to stay away from them! I don’t think I have any pictures of the replacement of the floor in the kitchen. I know my father was in town that week and helped out with that project along with my youngest brother, but it seems that we were too busy swinging hammers to pick up a camera. If I find any I will post them later. But we just laid “matching” boards around the hole we had made and then extended the support joists underneath as close enough to perfect as we were able. One glitch, was we had to replicate the extra layer of linoleum on the old floor so we purchased a cheap patch of it from Fred’s and put it down… worked like new and provided the foundation for the wood flooring we put in latter. (Some men from the church, surprised my sister while she was out of town, so this was an unplanned project that ended up being a temporary solution for my sister, but that we are changing currently. – more on that later too) Speaking of later, be sure to note the “hanging” electrical outlet. It just keeps getting in the way.

At any rate, here is the new kitchen as it appeared after the musical stairs and doors game and after the new floor.

Notice the ceiling that needs attention… I’m sure you will hear me talk a lot about it in the not too distant future. As Peyton and I worked on this today in the rather small area in the bathroom, it is all I can do to lift my hands to the keyboard. I’m not looking forward to the kitchen. We are trying to get rid of the 1970s texture. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. We are scraping and sanding.

This post covers three years… not in actual work on the house or attention time, but in actual living time. This will bring us up to the current projects that have been taking place during the last couple of months. We should be able to catch up fairly quickly now that we have moved into the current year. Take a good look at this picture, because now that we have all that finished, we removed it all… all the way to the studs. More next time.

– Paul TN

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