Questions about stair risers

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Old 04-16-09, 06:17 PM
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Questions about stair risers

Hey guys, I just pulled up the carpet from my stairs. I am going to have a pro come in and sand/fill/finish the treads, but I will do the risers myself siince I have to do some trim work too.

I am going to paint the risers white, but I have a few questions first:

1) What type of paint should I use? I assume the same semi gloss that I use for the trim? Is there anything else I should use since the front of shoes/boots/sneakers will rub against this surface daily?

2) How should I transition from the stained wood tread to the painted riser? There is trim where the underneath of the tread meets the top of the riser so that is all taken care of for me. Where the bottom of the riser meets the surface of the tread there seems to be painted over caulk that has cracked (it's been covered with carpet for 15 years). Should I caulk this? This seems to be a crucial area, what are my options?

3) What should I fill the thousands of staple holes with? I picked up some Minwax Wood Putty, but now I see that it's for use on painted surfaces. It doesn't harden and it's not sandable. Could I still use this, or is there something else I should get?

Thanks for any help!
 
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Old 04-17-09, 04:34 AM
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#1 - The finish paint should be an enamel - it's your choice of latex, oil base or waterborne. Painted risers do tend to get scuffed up. Waterborne and oil base enamel will clean up better than latex althugh paint touch up is often the best rememdy. White oil base enamel will yellow some as it ages. Waterborne enamel would be my first choice.

#2 - not sure I understand.. could you supply a pic? Generally small cracks/joints are caulked. If the caulking has failed, cut out and recaulk.

#3 - painter's putty is normally used to fill nail/staple holes. I assume you bought minwax's white putty? While it's best to putty after primer, you can putty raw wood and then prime. When using colored putty over stained wood, the putty is used after the stain and 1st coat of sealer/poly. Sometimes it's easier to to spackle over the staple holes and and sand smooth when dry.

It would help to have more info about your stairs. Have they been finished previously? or are they raw wood? Are the treads oak? what type of wood is on the risers and skirt board?
 
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Old 04-17-09, 02:11 PM
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Thanks for the reply! What is a skirt board?

I bought my condo about 2 years ago. There has been carpet on the stairs for about 15 years, I pulled up the carpet last week to find finished wood (I assume oak) treads (in dire need of refinishing) and white painted risers (I assume a cheaper wood since the risers in all the condos are painted white).

I would like to redo the 2 sets of stairs and landing between them along with the molding (I have to add shoe molding on the landing since it was taken off when they had carpet installed). I will have a profession do the hardwood landing and oak stair treads, but I want to do the molding and risers myself.

The seam where the bottom of the riser touches the tread is just a switch from paint to stain, there is no molding or anything there. It looks like there was a little bit of caulk there at one time but on some of the stairs there is a gap so I assume the caulk cracked. My concern is getting a nice seem there, I don't want to pay good money to have the wood refinished just to screw it up with a bad caulk job. How much should the bead of caulk go onto the finished tread? Should the entire bead be painted? Or is there some type of small molding that could be installed here to make a smooth transition?

As for the paint itself, I will be buying it from Home Depot. So I should look for something that says "Waterborne enamel" in white? It shouldn't say "paint" or "semi-gloss", correct? I could also use this for the stringers and the molding on the landing?
 

Last edited by marksr; 04-18-09 at 03:02 PM. Reason: remove unneeded quote
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Old 04-17-09, 05:22 PM
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A skirt board is usually a 1x with either a routed top or base cap at the top edge. This is the board that takes the place of a base board on each side of the stairwell.

I wondered about the type of wood because when a new house is built and carpet is specified for the stairs, the treads are normally pine, sometimes plywood. Apparently you had finished treads whenthe house was new.

The caulking will have to wait until the treads are finished. A little care and skill with a caulking gun and a damp rag or sponge to help smooth it out and/or remove ny excess should get you a decent caulk job.

Most paints sold at the big box stores are stocked because of low price, not quality. I doubt HD has any waterborne enamels for sale. It would be better to go to your local paint store. You also need to find out what type of enamel is currently on the risers. Latex enamel doesn't bond well to oil base enamel. there is a sticky at the top of this forum with directions on how to tell if it's latex or oil.
 
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Old 04-17-09, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by marksr View Post
A skirt board is usually a 1x with either a routed top or base cap at the top edge. This is the board that takes the place of a base board on each side of the stairwell.
I see. I believe I only have the stinger on the side of the stairs, those are currently white and I will be giving them another coat of paint when I paint the risers and molding on the landing.
I wondered about the type of wood because when a new house is built and carpet is specified for the stairs, the treads are normally pine, sometimes plywood. Apparently you had finished treads whenthe house was new.
I see. My condo was built in 1962 with hardwood thru out, so I have nice looking oak stairs that were once finished before someone ruined it with carpet.
The caulking will have to wait until the treads are finished. A little care and skill with a caulking gun and a damp rag or sponge to help smooth it out and/or remove ny excess should get you a decent caulk job.

Most paints sold at the big box stores are stocked because of low price, not quality. I doubt HD has any waterborne enamels for sale. It would be better to go to your local paint store. You also need to find out what type of enamel is currently on the risers. Latex enamel doesn't bond well to oil base enamel. there is a sticky at the top of this forum with directions on how to tell if it's latex or oil.
I have a Sherwin Williams near me, will they have good waterborne enamel? I've been there a few times and everything seems very expensive. Even just the supplies cost 2-3 times more than HD. However, if you think their products are better, I will definitely spend the extra so it gets done right the first time.

I tried the Goof-Off trick and the paint came off on the rag, a quick rub took the paint right off to the coat underneath it (which seems harder, might be oil).

An another question, should I use the same waterbourne enamel on the stringers (what I believe you refered to as the skirts) and the molding on the landing? If so, will it look ugly at the top of the stairs where the stringers flow into the base molding of the foyer (that molding is just white semi-gloss)?

Thanks again for all your help, I appreciate the time you're taking to share your knowledge.
 
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Old 04-18-09, 05:38 AM
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Unless I'm mistaken, a stringer is the 2xs under the stairs that support the stairs. What you are referring to as a stringer is the skirt board. It's generally a 1x and is inserted between the treads/risers and the wall. It goes in first and then the treads and risers are cut to fit and installed.

I've used a lot of SWP and IMO their proclassic waterborne enamel is the best enamel I've ever used [also the most expensive]
Waterborne dries faster and doesn't like to be overbrushed. Some diyers have reported that they have a hard time applying it. I've not experienced any problems but I've painted proffesionally since the early 70's.

The cheapest enamel that SWP has that will still do a good job is their promar 200 latex enamel. It would be as good, probably better than the best the big box stores have to offer. Be sure to buy a good brush too! A 2" purdy sash [angle] brush would probably be a good choice for you. A quality brush cleaned well and stored in it's wrapper will last a long time.

If the top coat of paint currently on the risers is latex, it will be fine to stay with latex or switch to waterborne. Waterborne comes in the same sheens as latex or oil base enamels do. Not all whites are the exact same color although it's doubtfull there would be any noticable difference between the enamel on the base and what you apply. If anything, the new paint may look fresher but the only cure for that would be to repaint all the woodwork
 
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Old 04-18-09, 11:07 AM
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Thanks again for the response!

Stairs are sometimes built as you mentioned, but for the most part (at least what I've always seen in my area) the board on the side (the skirt) is the same board as the stringer underneath. The treads and risers are mortised into the full 2X stringer.

I'm going to stop at SWP today to see their prices, I'll get either the proclassic waterborne enamel or if it's too much I'll get the promar 200 latex enamel as you mentioned.

One more question just to settle my curiosity. If the waterboune enamels are hard to put on (for a beginner like me) and cost a lot more, and if the best option for cleaning is to just give it another coat of paint... why not just go with a cheap semi-gloss? Something that could be put on easily and often if needed for a relatively low price? What benefit does the enamels you recommended give me?

Thanks again! I'm slowly but surely learning!
 

Last edited by marksr; 04-18-09 at 03:03 PM. Reason: remove unneeded quote
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Old 04-18-09, 03:13 PM
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The cheap latex enamels don't dry very hard. It's easy to skin them up and some brands will wrinkle up and peel if/where they recieve much abuse. Some latex enamels can "roll up" if they are sanded much. Also the better paints are usually easier to apply. Promar 200 is the cheapest line of SWP that I would use [and it does decent] They have other lines of paint that are better but as the quality improves, the price rises.

Qaulity latex enamels will dry to a harder film than the cheap latex enamel. Oil base enamels dry to a hard film and wear well but whites are bad to yellow with time. Waterborne enamel dries almost as hard as oil base, doesn't yellow and cleans up with water. It also dries faster than latex which is probably why some diyers have trouble with it.
 
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Old 04-18-09, 06:19 PM
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Gotcha. One last question, how would Benjamin Moore - Premium 100% Acrylic Paint - Semi-Gloss Finish work in this situation. I only ask because my Parents came by today and saw my little project and said they have a full gallon left over from their new house build.
 
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Old 04-19-09, 05:48 AM
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I'm not everly familiar with BM's product line but it should be ok. Their mid to top of the line coatings are every bit as good as SWP. Most paint manufactures [including SWP,BM] have a bargain basement line which isn't worth using.
 
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Old 04-19-09, 06:41 AM
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Thanks marksr!!!!!!!!!!(I need to add characters!!!)
 
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