Moving the Stairs (Part One)

Living in a building site has its fun moments (few are far between!) and it’s not so fun moments. One of the not so fun moments was when we realised that because of the way we were re configuring the middle of the house, we’d need to install a beam right through the middle of the old staircase.

Because of the way we had to phase the work, this beam needed installing before we could move the stairs to their new location.

So essentially we resigned ourselves to the fact we’d have to climb the stairs, and clamber over a beam in the process. This was the case until we saw the actual beam, and realised quite how difficult ‘clambering’ over it would be:

Essentially it was waist height, which pretty much ruled out wearing anything other than jeans for a well over a fortnight! It also meant that getting upstairs with the kids was impossible. Ewan was mobile enough to climb under with supervision, but with Harris it was a two man job to pass him up and down.

A nightmare at the best of times (like trying to carry him upstairs to bed when he’d fallen asleep) but almost impossible on the days when one of us was in the house with the kids alone.  It’s fairly obvious why moving the stairs quickly ended up at the top of the ‘urgent’ list!

We’d spent a lot of time working on the best configuration for the stairs. Our requirements were that:

  • Ideally the top of the stairs wouldn’t be directly outside a door
  • The area in the hall right behind the front door would be as open as possible
  • The stairs would take up as small an amount of space as possible, but without feeling too steep.

We realised that if we added a turn at the bottom of the stairs, we could push them right up against the living room door which meant we ended up with a really spacious hallway still at the opposite end (which was already fairly busy with doors for the kitchen, snug and the front door filling the space).

We stumbled across Stairbox in our search for the correct stairs and were blown away by their website and stair designer tool. Essentially you put in your dimensions and use their filter options to engineer yourself a made-to-measure staircase that’s perfect for your own requirements.

You can then add on various extras, select different banisters, spindles etc until you have a custom designed solution. We couldn’t have been more impressed with it, and what’s more – the prices were really reasonable. Officially, it’s kerbside delivery, but the lovely delivery driver helped me carry it all in.

The following Saturday  I took the boys out and sought refuge with the boys at my long-suffering mother’s house and Lee and his dad got to work installing the new stairs.

The stairs waiting to be fitted

You’ll see in the picture above that the original upstairs wall to the left of the stairs overlapped the opening (if you compare it to the bit you can see of the one downstairs you’ll see they’re staggered). The plan was to pull this wall down and move it backwards once the stairs were fitted (again the priority was getting the stairs in) but we soon realised that this wasn’t going to be able to happen: the wall would need to come out. So that’s what happened.

The wall without plasterboard on – from the bedroom side.

The gap left without the wall once the stairs were in.

With Stairbox, we’d ordered the bare minimum we needed – the actual stairs and one newel post to connect the winder (the turning bit at the bottom) to. We’d ordered it all in a pine finish and the plan was to order the banister, spindles and newel post in oak when all the renovation work was finished.

Early on Lee realised that once we fitted the newel post and winder, we weren’t going to be able to separate them again. So instead he fitted the main run of the staircase to the newel post, and created a short term solution for the bottom three steps using the old staircase (which then finally rendered the old one redundant!).

The old stairs with the bottom few steps removed.

We contacted Stairbox again and ask if they could find our order and machine us a newel post from oak to fit. They were amazingly helpful once again and did that for us. We took advantage and ordered all the other bits (spindles etc) whilst we were at it, although we have no plans to fit them yet.

There was around a two week lead time for this, so it meant we didn’t have a completely finished staircase, but it was certainly easier to work with than the previous version!

At that point it was a case of trying to make the landing safe to live in with the kids (easier said than done given that the stairs were now open on both sides – not just one).

The area we had to make safe

Lee cobbled together a makeshift banister for the ‘landing’ side of the stairs…

And then we set about filling in any small gaps on the other side of the stairs and adding a small banister before locking the door to that room so there was no way the boys could get into it. We then added stair gates to the top and bottom of the stairs so that they couldn’t use them unsupervised.

The (makeshift!) finish product:

So it was a fairly productive day in the end. We didn’t completely get the new stairs fitted, but we did get another wall down in the process (another thing of the to-do list) and make life a little easier in the process!