Sunday 15 September 2013

You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step...

...this famous quote is perfect, most of the time.  And yes I can totally see the logical, encouraging, motivational message for sure. But there are some situations when words of wisdom such as these just don't wash, this being one of them...

Back steps
After putting off the inevitable for the last few months way too long, we finally got round to demolishing and re-building our stairways.  When we bought this house, we knew the stairs were not in the best of nick and sooner or later they would need replacing.  We, and previous owners, have repaired the stairs over the years to the point where they really couldn't take any more Botox and were now crying out for a full blown face lift!  In fact on the day of our removal arriving from storage, knowing the poorly steps would have 3 or 4 hefty men carrying our hefty furniture up them for.hours.and.hours, Col was outside at the crack of dawn doing a little repair job on one of the front treds in fear of a lawsuit befalling us if one 'said' hefty man were to fall through.  Thankfully that little repair did its job on that day and has continued until now.  But three weeks ago we noticed that every time we stood on that particular step at the front we were kind of crossing our fingers as we did so. Yep, the time had well and truly come to start getting some quotes in!
Front repair job that had just about given up the ghost after 6 months of loyal service

As always we decided to get a few companies to come in and quote, for both the front and rear steps and go from there.  Knowing we were reaching the edge of our reno budget limits, we thought we'd do the front ones first as we could see and feel how bad they were.  Even though we don't use the front as much, it really wasn't feeling safe and with two small children around we couldn't risk it any longer.  Once the quotes came in we were totally shocked, of course we'd had an idea of how much they would be but when it was written down on paper we were devastated that we were going to have to shell out that much, on such a boring, expensive, but completely necessary evil! 
The total we were looking at for both sets of steps came in between 14k and 17k!!!  OH MY GOSH!!  Really?!  So here we need to back track a few days, (and borrow info from a future post) whilst all this was going on, we had been getting ideas from a local tradie and neighbour called John for help in the demo and re-build of our carport.  He was over one day and mentioned that he knew of a fella who he'd lost a quote to recently as his client had wanted steel steps not timber (his specialty).  So we called this guy, Phil, and had him quote the job.  He was AWESOME!  He not only came round swiftly and went through all our wants and needs, but he also has an eye for design and ideas that really helped us.  He gave us ball park figures of each part of the job there and then, so we knew straight away what sort of rough figure we'd be looking at.  He is a no- bulls*it, hands on, genuine guy whom we hit it off with immediately and trusted instantly.  He was our man!  His quote came in more than 5k less than the lowest original quote and included way more than just replacing the treds. We got onto it straight away and decided to do both sets, starting with the back.  The reason we started with the back is that when Phil came to quote, he noticed that the underneath of the small landing and all the timber stumps had been slowly rotted from the inside by the tropical weather that these steps have been exposed to over the last 60 years, and so in fact these steps were more in need of replacing than the front.  Something none of the other companies had noticed or quoted for.
The following week the work started...
The old louvres were removed and Masonite boards taken off, revealing the extent of the wood rot.
The old stumps were dug up
And the rotten wooden posts and balustrades taken down, to be replaced by hard wearing steel

Steel stringers replace the old wooden ones and new timber steps start to go down
The stairs were unfinished but in working order within 3 days

Phil suggested making the steps longer to reach the house, which then negates the need for the second handrail, something we hadn't thought of but made perfect sense
To accommodate the larger gap where the concrete pillar ends and the louvres start we just ordered a few longer treds, it works perfectly and opens up the stairs so much
Steel handrails going up
Again at Phil's suggestion we left the louvres out and added this perforated corrugated iron as both a filler and feature 
It's great, with the space again being made to feel more open, we can see through the perforations when the door is open to the pool area
And by not having the louvres it gives us open views of the pool
We are yet to paint the handrails and seal/stain the steps, but the finished product is already perfect!

Within 5 days he had finished both the back and front steps, which were a much simpler and quicker process, we shall show you those in the next post.  Friends have already gotten onto Phil for work on their place, and he and John (who had never actually met before meeting at our place) are now going to work together on certain projects as their skills compliment each other perfectly and as a team they work really well.  So all round it was a win for everyone...don't ya love it when a plan comes together!
PS - For those folk in the Townsville area, looking for a carpenter extraordinaire, who specialises in everything from timber fencing, extensions and decking to carports, steel frames and roofing here are Phil's details:
Manolis Carpentry
0417 719992


  1. Well done - and it definitely is worth shopping around. As your stairs are exposed to the elements, steel is a much better option that will last for years. Our old wooden stairs were extremely dangerous and were removed and thrown out when the house was raised. We are also replacing our front stairs with steel stringers and balustrades. xx

  2. I expect the stairs were worse than you realised as well Caroline - I know I was quite surprised at how bad the wood had become structurally. Look forward to seeing your next update.

    Cheers, Col