Let’s just put it out there that we’re still talking about the entryway. Who knew such a small part of the house would take up so much of our time and energy? At the same time, it is the first thing you’ll see upon entering the home, and we’ve always been big believers in making an impact where it counts.
The entryway counts.
Right now, there are THREE items on our short list (which will of course be followed by the ten little things that domino afterwards: painting the stairs, choosing a runner and installing a little table or shelf – for starters). Ready?
ONE. With most of the baseboards installed, we’re thisclose to installing big, hunky wood caps at the base of our stairs and along the knee wall at the second floor landing:
TWO. The only reason we haven’t knocked out the entryway baseboards yet is because we still have bare sub floor at the top of the steps. We found a perfect match for our existing hardwood floors (surprise, surprise, they were the least expensive option, as we’ve found every previous “upgrade” in our home to be), so while the price was right, we still need to install them. We’ll be working on that over the weekend with the help of a friend, and fingers crossed, it won’t be a major undertaking. (Famous last words?)
THREE. The stair rail! As in, we need one. There wasn’t a banister to salvage when we moved in, so we picked up a sturdy red oak option at Home Depot, then, of course, realized that we had a few challenges to deal with – who else is surprised?
For starters, you’ll notice above that we’ve already marked off (approximately every two steps) the right height and angle of our future rail. To do so, we measured 36″ from the top of the step – a measurement we decided on after internet sleuthing told us that a standard height is between 32-38″.
We originally thought we wanted the rail on the right. That wall starts about 6 steps up from the bottom of our staircase, and while we’re absolutely okay with that, we wondered if we should install a much longer handrail on the opposing wall. This would allow the banister to follow along the entire length of the staircase, which would be ideal, yeah? However, a few quick measurements later had us noticing that our large window at the top of the steps wouldn’t allow for even the lowest 32″ rail height, and we’d be staring at said rail every day from the couch. (That’s not an actual problem, but something we had to consider.) This is an older photo (pre-baseboards), but it’ll give you an idea:
When we installed the knee wall at the top of the steps (after tearing the floor-to-ceiling wall down!), our contractor made sure to build it up to 38″ tall, which he told us would allow for a proper banister, and so, we stuck with our first intuition.
Rather than make straight cuts on our rail, we opted to create a return, which would give us a chunkier look. Wood glue and two nails hold each end on, although I’m not going to sugar coat it – even that gave us some heartache, as it took a few tries (and more than a few nails all said and done!) to get everything aligned properly.
As for the wood caps, we knew we needed a really durable hard wood (soft pine was not going to cut it), and we wanted something that looked substantial – even if it would cost a little more. Again, this will be the first thing you see when you walk in the front door!
We went to a local lumber supplier, where we had our pick of anything we could have wanted! Prices are reasonable (considering they have some good wood), the options are limitless, and you could spend as much or as little as your heart desires. In the end, we chose a 14′ long plank of gorgeous walnut with a 1 1/4″ depth, knowing we’d need to use our table and miter saws to make the exact cuts:
Probably the most difficult part of the capping process was getting all of our angles right – we measured five times to cut once, and even still, our hearts were thumping with every turn of the blade! We actually practiced first with a leftover 2×4, cutting it at the necessary angle to fit the cap-to-be at the base of our stairs. You can see below that this went terribly wrong, as the drywall – go figure – isn’t anywhere near a perfect 45 degrees. This looks obvious (on the left), but we made a cut on our practice piece just to see how bad it might look (on the right):
After brainstorming a few ways that we could fake a straight edge along the top of our cut, we realized – of course! – let’s just build up some drywall mud to get that angle right! This, naturally (as the story goes!), set us back a handful of days as we built up thin coats of mud, sanded, re-applied, sanded and did our test fits once more. Finally, we had an angle that worked much, much better.
At the very least (and while the mudding and sanding was taking place), I was able to get started with stain on the second floor cap and banister! We’ll ultimately be painting our stair treads black with white risers, so when it came to the stain of choice, we just went for it, opting for Ebony:
And when it came to our handrail brackets? Well, we just went for that, too.
In addition to laying down the hardwood on the second floor landing this weekend, we are really hoping – that is, if things go smoothly – to also knock out the caps and handrail! We mean, what could go wrong?