Miscellaneous My Home

My Stairwell Project is Complete!

November 21, 2011

Another small home improvement project completed! This time I focused on the stairwell leading to my second floor. I patched up a couple of decent sized holes in the drywall (about 2 inches in diameter each) and some accompanying scraping action in the paint and drywall that occurred when I (barely) got my queen size box spring upstairs over a year ago. The holes really haven’t bothered me, because apparently I’m classy like that. But it’s still wonderful to have them gone. And now my Mother won’t mention it every time she comes over.

Let me just take a moment here before we begin to mention that I do not like this wall color. Like not at all. It runs through my entryway and up the stairwell, and I liken the experience to entering a muddy clay cave. For now there are more pressing projects to address than repainting, plus I would have to hire a professional (again) to paint the stairwell since the ceiling is so high. And that is surely not in the budget. So for now, a muddy clay cave it is!

  1. Drywall Sanding & Finishing Sponge
  2. Sandpaper
  3. Dust Mask
  4. Utility Knife
  5. Self-Adhesive Drywall Patch
  6. Palette Knife (or do you call them paint scrapers?)
  7. Drywall Knife
  8. Drywall Compound

That there’s what I used to repair my drywall. It seems like a lot, but I actually had everything on hand except for the Drywall Patch itself. Well, that and the snazzy Drywall Sanding & Finishing Sponge which I bought on an impulse when I saw it at Lowe’s. It promised to reduce or completely eliminate drywall dust when sanding due to being damp when you use it. It totally worked, but I wouldn’t recommend using it alone if you need to do some pretty intense sanding. I ended up using regular sandpaper in addition to it.

Here’s how the wall looked after I prepped it for patching. I know, it doesn’t look like much changed. All I did was use the utility and palette knives to remove the big loose chunks of drywall and then sanded the edges of everything.

Drywall patches like this are stupidly easy to use. It’s self-adhesive, so you literally just slap it on the wall. I got one big 8″ by 8″ patch to cover both the big holes. The uncovered damage you see to the right didn’t require a patch like this since it’s just surface scraping.

This is what I had after applying drywall compound to the patch. I have a bit of experience with material like this since I had to do so much wall repair in my half bathroom. That being said I still ended up applying a second coat because the compound wasn’t thick enough to cover the mesh of the patch completely at first. After sanding the edges a bit to try to create a more seamless edge between the patch and the wall, I put up some primer over the area. At this point I took sandpaper to the edges once again because it was pretty obviously raised around the patch. Two coats of paint later (luckily I had a bit left over from the original paint job), and this is what I had…

It’s barely visible in this photo, but you can still pretty easily tell where the patch is. I don’t know if that was just unavoidable given my methods or if I wasn’t patient enough to sand it adequately. Either way, I’m content with the results. The surrounding wall is pretty uneven as it is so not much harm done. And clearly this is a million times better than having big gashes. So yay!

The second part of my stairwell project was to put back up the handrail that was taken down for painting over a year ago. Not having a handrail really hasn’t bothered me, because apparently I’m coordinated like that. But I think it’s sort of illegal not to have one, and even if it isn’t I obviously want to have one back up before selling my home one day. The existing handrail had a very builder’s grade look about it, so I decided to renew it with my first attempt at staining wood.

  1. Lint-free Rags (for removing excess stain)
  2. Mineral Spirits (for clean up of oil-based stain)
  3. Brushes
  4. RostOleum Polyurethane
  5. RustOleum Wood Stain in Kona
  6. New Handrail Brackets
  7. Sandpaper

Here’s my tool set for staining the handrail. I used Purdy brand brushes for the first time, and I loved them. I also used a rag for some secondary stain application which worked okay (but was very messy). I did that because despite having mineral spirits on hand, I could not for the life of me remove all of the stain from the brush I used at first. Anybody have any tricks for that?

I am by no means an expert on this process, and in fact I think I only did an okay job at it. Haha. Here’s what the handrail looked like when I began…

It was pretty scuffed up and dirty and had very old, very tarnished brass brackets. After removing the brackets I did two rounds of sanding, first with 120 grit and then with 220 grit. This, I believe, is where the root of all my mediocrity began. Two passes of sanding with only the power of my own arm behind it was just not enough. I had been foolishly assuming that there was little or no existing finish on the handrail. The sanding I did just did not remove what was already there, so I essentially layered my own stain on top of existing stain. You don’t need to be a pro to guess that that’s not how you’re supposed to do it. I realized this pretty immediately. Frankly, I played the lazy card on this one and just moved ahead with staining anyways.

Staining was not as straight forward as I was hoping it would be. According to the can you only need one coat, but that is not how it went down. First of all my poor prep made things patchy. And second, I was balancing the handrail on two chairs in order to reach all the way around it (which wouldn’t be possible if it was resting on the floor), but then this in turn meant I couldn’t work on the spots that were touching the chairs. When I went back to stain the spots I missed, I must have laid some stain over areas I’d already reached, because I ended up with a few dark spots. This required me to stare in disapproval for a moment and then promptly get over it and move on.

Next was polyurethane which was way easier and much more forgiving and actually, dare I say, pleasant to work with. I applied three coats, waiting 2 hours in between as the can instructed. Recently I read somewhere that to prevent materials from drying onto your brush you can dip it in water (for water-based products) or mineral spirits (for oil-based products) before application. I didn’t do that, but working with that principle I realized that it wouldn’t do any harm to store my brush in a little tub of water during those two hour periods while I waited to do the next coat. This meant that the poly wouldn’t dry on the brush and I wouldn’t have to clean it only to use it again so soon. I hate cleaning brushes, so this made me very happy.

I think the can said to wait at least 72 hours before moderate use, but I put that sucker up on the wall the very next day. I’m a rebel.

Despite some uncertainty, I think it looks great. The stairwell definitely feels much more complete now. Putting it up was a breeze since there were existing holes where it had hung before. I had to do a little bit of drilling due to the new brackets being slightly different, but that was easy.

Here’s a crazy close-up. How’s that for some perspective? The brackets I used have an oil-rubbed bronze finish which I think is perfect.

So that’s my stairwell project! I hope I didn’t bore you to tears with all these details but I figure if you ever tackle tasks like this yourself it might be interesting to hear how it went for someone else. Even though my project didn’t turn out perfectly, the handrail is still visibly darker (which is what I was going for) and at the very least I sanded off years of gunk and gave it a nice and smooth new life. Plus, I’ve lived and learned a bit about the wood staining process. Have you ever stained something? Did it go well? Do tell. 🙂

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7 Comments

  • Reply Brian November 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    So thats a Palette Knife I never knew.
    Very complete and helpfull description of the repairs and supplied used.

    • Reply Christina Ebbers November 21, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      At least I call them palette knives, haha. Wikipedia describes a palette knife a little differently (more like an art tool) but I don’t know what else you’d call my knife so that’s what we’re calling it. 🙂 Perhaps it would be more accurately described as a Paint Scraper?

  • Reply Amanda November 21, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Great job handy woman!

  • Reply karlitapurplebow November 22, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    wow! great job! and thanks for the detailed explanation!

    • Reply Christina Ebbers November 23, 2011 at 9:45 am

      You’re very welcome and thank you so much for stopping by!

  • Reply Mama December 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I am SO happy that those repairs are done, and I am SO impressed with you and proud of you for doing them YOURSELF!! <3

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