ShopTalk Sunday: Stair Repair Saturday

A month or two back, Elaine mentioned that a couple of the stair treads on the short stairs (from the BBQ deck down to the shop walkway) were cracked and looking sketchy.

This whole BBQ deck was a one-day build 10+ years ago.  And those stairs were built with two risers, not three.  So, maybe it was time, I got thinking.

Sure enough, here’s what a quick visual inspection revealed as needing fixing at a minimum:

As long as we were going to tear into the stairs, then we might as well do it close to right and write up the repair process.  We reckon this will be a 5-10-year fix.

The first step is lining up all the materials that could possibly be used.  Nothing puts a whole in a project like stopping (sometimes more than once) and driving to the Big Box store. Especially out here in the dingleberries.  Where it’s an hour and five-minutes of driving time; more is you’ve got a load in the bed you’re being gentle to…

Begin before lumbering-up what you’ve got in the way of materials on hand.  We keep all kinds of materials around for just this “driving avoidance” strategy.

We have a dozen sheets of various thicknesses.  Including plywood siding material (we detest the stuff, but it’s a mobile home in the woods…). We can always lay our hands on half a dozen 2-by-4’s, too.  A resaw on the band saw and a pass through the planer and passable stock can be made for framing cabinets, as so forth.  A few sheets of quarter-inch birch ply for facings…you get the idea.

Over in the hardware department, there are hinges and pull handles, too. All to spend time-on -task and stay off the roads.

Every time we do a project, anything reusable is set aside.  Now, I’m sure there are some uppity city types who say this makes a place look “junkie” but a lot of it is stored out of the weather in a former goat shed which works for us.

Where we found some leftovers from the large front deck that the Southern climate had killed off a couple of years back. Even treated wood is only good for 10-12-years here.  Less, if painted.   Fortunately, I saved the still useable stair risers.

These were perfect for recycling into this project.

What we didn’t have on hand was a lot of 5-quarter decking.  Grudgingly it was off to Lowes to snag a load of 4X4’s (*starting to stock up for another deck build) and an armload, or three of 5-quarter decking.

We assume you’ve done the homework for this week?  Reviewing how lumber is graded which is useful data every home handy bastard should have top of mind when going to Lowes or the Home Despots

Most of the lumber you’ll find in #2 or better but take your time and rule out decking that has any visible knots on the weather surface.

Something people don’t take into account is that even though a “standard 2-by-4” should be 96-inches, more often than not they’ll run from 95.25 up to 96.5 inches.  Patiently remember to measure everything.  Sloppy measurement means half-assed work.

Also, when you get things cut (for the stair treads in this little adventure) the weather surface would be where the grain curves down at the ends.  If you put the curve in a board’s middle in low, the board will “cup” over time and look like crap. It will also trip people.

Lumber is Cheap!  Stock Up!

I was shocked at how cheap my load of wood was.  Just over $100 bucks for all this: (and it’s stacked here 2 and 3 deep).  10-sticks of 5-quarter, treated 4×4’s and some reasonably useful 2-by’s

You’ll see there is one board with a knot, but that was all “in the plan” because one stick of the decking would be cut down with the knot going to scrap.

Funny story:  Second from left 4X4 felt really damn heavy when I was loading the truck out. Was I turning into a nearly 74-year-old wimp???

When I got home, out came the digital scales.  I weighed it:  Just over 46 pounds!  The one next to it was a bit under 27 pounds (both were treated, but apparently one really took a liking to the bath salts!).  It was somewhat reassuring to know that yes, the wood was super heavy.

Let’s Get to Work

The term in commercial real estate Tenant Improvements (T.I.) is demising the space.  We don’t think about this in home construction projects much, but it’s a real cost in commercial.  For Home H.B.’s its usually just time, but depending on where you live (and if you can run a burn barrel of burn pile) don’t forget a trailer and dump fees – and always do a time estimate –then double it.

I was hoping I’d built the old deck out of weatherproof deck screws – but I couldn’t remember.  Well, no such luck.  It was time to haul out the pry bars.

Remember to constantly adjust the pry bar by keeping the fulcrum point as close to the nail groove as possible.  The idea on a pry bar is to make a lot of small, highly-levered actions.  Because if you don’t, you’ll tire quickly from having to apply too much “arm-strong.”  Let your tools do the work for you instead of making you work harder.

Instead of 20-minutes demising, it was 45.  The “double the time” always works out on a project, one way or the other.

The first real problem run into, once the treads and risers were pulled, was the rotten ledger board:

This all cleaned up nicely.  And fiberglass insulation was pressed back into place.  Being a “trailer”, the actual structural weight of the home rests on four steel beams that run the length of the building.  The faux foundation rockwork is just there for appearances.

When the rot was cleared out (and treated – read more at 8 Easy Ways to Treat Dry Rot – wikiHow) the whole void area between the rock and the structure was filled with Loctite high expansion foam.

It expanded…and expanded…and turned into a God-awful mess, but in Disney fashion, a quick spritz of gray primer to color blend with the rocks and everything would come out fine in the end.

The process of covering involved cutting down a 5-3/4 inch strip of pre-finished plywood and mudding in with the foam and then on the top and sides, adding some Alex paintable caulking to top it off.

Rather than wait for the foam to cure (time is money, right?) I used a 4-inch putty knife. A slicing motion works well if you have the patience to wait for the foam to cure.  I have no use for waiting, though.  There were sticky spots (most of it, infact) which will really dirty your favorite mud knife.

In this case, you run into the shop, fire up the belt sander and gently sanded off all the goo that has dried on, being careful not to breath the dust coming off the sander.

Next step was to put in a slightly offset from center third stair support.  I also shortened the treads on the house side by an inch to reduce water splash and flow onto the house.

This is total overkill, since this deck will be replaced in 5-19 years (if we’re still around, I will lean on G2 to do that project, lol.  with him off on an adventure, this was an “all George” project.).

Two new risers were set since the one next to the house didn’t pass the knife test during demising.  Soggy and doggy is not what we build with.

Cutting down the treads and installing was a piece of cake.

Elaine came out to watch.  Like back in the old days when new construction in the 1950’s downtown had benches for the “sidewalk superintendent’s, she couldn’t just sit and watch me have “all the fun.”

“Here, dear.  Put two screws into the bottom of the lower railing….”

Elaine loves to work with tools, too, so here is part of her 15-minute tussle with two 1-inch Philips head screws reattaching the deck railing.  This had been removed previously, more or less intact.

The screws were giving her fits.  “Here, you do it!” she finally admitted. A full 15-minutes had ticked by while I went to the office to look in on the websites.

“If you insist…”  Zing, zing, 10-seconds tops.

“You sure have a way with power tools…”

Uh-huh. Yup.

Thing about tools is you have to use force. They need to know who is in charge.  Like an auditor (or salesman), tools can sense fear, weakness, and indecision.  Firm hands; never use less than a Death Grip, and keep your tools running and always know what the steps in your workflow will be.  Send out angry, kick-you-ass vibes to your tools before touching them, lest they fail to respect you.  BE THE WORKSITE BULLY!

Another useful hint:  Park your work pickup truck and work out of the bed of that.  Faster than dicking around with sawhorses for a lot of things – like cutting down the long, recycled risers. And it’s a place to lay a sheet of plywood for a rough cut which can then be precision cut (5-5/8 X 49.5″) on the table saw inside.

That’s why we can do things like tear apart a deck, put in new risers, clear out dry rot and button everything up (including paint) in 4-hours.

With The Boss looking on approvingly, the stairs are set once again and ready to move heavy appliances up and down.  The cats have been advised to go easy on the paw licking until a few rains have come through,  Overall, I was a bit sore but it was a very rewarding repair especially to “get done” in short order:

This is is weekend fun.

I skipped lunch (working through with only a bottle of Soylent) but honestly, it was perfect working weather. 65-degrees.

This morning, being Sunday, I’ll take a pass through the 3806 KHz ham crowd with my Sunday radio coffee, and then do a short picture series for next weekend on fixing up the shop’s carport area which doesn’t look at all strack.

Tool list there is gas leaf blower, pressure washer, impact driver, level, circ saw and whatever else.  Time budget is 3-hours.

I know just the man for that job, but he’s usually sitting on his ass day trading and writing.  Or like now, thinking about racking out for a couple of extra hours of shuteye.

As Chicago sang “Does anybody really know what time it is, now?

Write when you get rich,

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George Ure
Amazon Author Page: UrbanSurvival Bio:

33 thoughts on “ShopTalk Sunday: Stair Repair Saturday”

  1. ONE BIG QUESTION… What the heck is wrong with this guy?

    Now I am all for Solar and Wind.. have ya heard my rant on putting up solar towers and promoting solar to home owners even to the point of investing in solar for home owners if they can’t afford it.. then freeze the rates for a ten year period to give the home owners a chance to pay it off.. as long as they allow the utility companies to sell that excess power..
    BUT… close the coal fired plants and close down the coal mines.. is he NUTS.. except for nuclear I support all forms of energy.. I believe in micro systems rather than some monstrocity hundreds and thousands of miles from the furthest points.. but you need coal.. if you want clean coal.. then change the fire pit just a smidgen.. put in three air drafts so that it would promote a vortex flame in the burn chamber…. ( this burns up the dirty part that everyone is afraid of by burning the exhaust fumes as a fuel.. it isn’t rocket science.. well maybe a little LOL rocket stove science LOL.. ) and you can put a white cloth over the exhaust if you want.. and get more heat use less fuel.. the change isn’t that extensive..or expensive..( well lets be real any changes at that level is a big expense well to big for my pocket book LOL) ..

    • It’s odd that “we the people” are suppose to convert to wind and solar power, but I can’t name one politician who has. Their homes, gov buildings and vehicles still run on fossil fuels. I wonder why none of them are leading by example. Hmmm.

      Shutting down coal plants across the country reduces the possibility of manufacturing any of those green energy products and components to zero. It takes energy to make energy.

      Kind of putting the cart before the horse, without a reasonable transition from fossil to green.

      Buy from China and (maybe) we’ll catch up later? Not practical at all.

      The UN is screaming about climate change and blame humans, yet they done concern themselves or even notice, the fact that the Tonga Volcano is spewing tons and tons of Co2 into the atmosphere, NS1&2 are spewing methane into the atmosphere and Fukushima is still … radioactive. – THOSE THINGS ARE IRRELEVANT!!!

      It’s all bullshit.

      Meanwhile, they/them are confused about he/she to confound we/us.

      When the White House installs solar and wind and disconnects the fossil fuels, let me know.

      • I use coal… great burn.. mix it 3/1 three parts sawdust one part coal dust make pellets and you have a very nice hot flame for any pellet or multi fuel stove..all garbage..
        I changed the burn box.. not much but in changing the burn box I get an afterburner of the exhaust..if I can talk the boss into letting me make a few alterations.. I’d have a super efficient turbo flame..
        to demonize such a great energy resource just because they don’t want to make the changes needed to make it an efficient energy resource is just stupid IMHO..
        solar is awesome and it should be promoted and supported..the big issue is the business model..and profit levels

      • When Kilauea volcano here erupted in 20018, it was putting out 18 kilotons of Sulfur dioxide… daily! And it went on for months and months.
        Climate will continue to change… as it ever has…. without human intervention.

    • Occam’s razor. If you want to eliminate Western Civilization it starts with with destroying energy. The factories that manufacture new and replacement parts shut down. Followed by a return to what Kunstler calls the World made by hand. Orange Man Bad said it best, energy is what runs a country, and it’s a National Security issue. Let that sink one sink in, in its full context.


        yes an now we see that it’s the Republicans teaching the people that … inflation word not that there is inflationary it doesn’t exist with out the word.. and that it wasn’t BLM destroying billions of dollars worth of infrastructure..raping pillaging and destruction violence..but the Republicans fault for complaining about it..
        then to discover the alphabets may have had an active roll in the January 6 capital violence. it just keeps getting better..

    • Frankly, I’m okay with all the coal and NG plants being shut down, and the nuclear, as well.

      If’fn we go a year or two without energy, perhaps people will appreciate what “energy” means? I would just ask that the damn’ pols be forced to live without dino-power, too…

      BTW, the CCP is the world’s largest coal purchaser. China is also building a coal-fired electric power plant at the rate of one per week…

  2. I still had two, small, outdoor projects to complete.., but it looks as though they will get put aside – first snow of the year started about an hour ago., supposed to drop 8 to 10 inches today.
    – So.., where’s my list of indoor projects……..?

    • Dam.. snow.. if your west of the wastelands.. then it is headed here.. I still have a cube project.. I should ask how its going drop off a bottle of wine LOL…

      • Good size snow storm., and then a deep cold front that will drop us into the teens for a couple of days. All of this is rather early for around here.

    • when they repaired the steeple on the local church.. the guy working on it.. had construction material that was made out of sawdust.. and reclaimed plastic.. all of it stainable .. it was really nice.. he had some from hemp and plastic to.. told me it was cheaper than construction material and he had to get it from canada because they can’t sell it in the USA because of their marijuana laws.. the insulation batting was also hemp.. nice stuff.. got a small sample of it here that I think it awesome.. great stuff.. cheap.. all growable by any farmer..

  3. Well, I sure don’t know what time it is! My stupid double cell phone alarms went off at 8 and 8:30 am instead of an hour earlier due to their autosyncing with their server. Same problem with my main computer. I refuse to go on Standard Time ever, other than to deal with necessary events with others. It’s insane to give up an hour of daylight just to sleep. I can do that at night. The days are too damn short anyway. At least my watch still tells the correct time(same as Texas for now).

    • I live on HST… Hawaiian Standard Time… year ’round. Daylight is no excuse around here, where sundown times only vary about a half hour throughout the year. Biggest hassle is to figure out what time it is on the mainland when I need to make a phone call back there. The rest of the country should follow.

  4. Off topic, but relevant to the coming selections:

    in short, using SQLMAP(pen testing software) and a touch of database knowledge, and using a website for military members, ballots can be created and filed in most states! It can run as a simple script, adding hundreds of thousands of “voters” who know nothing and may never have been in the military. I doubt that one in 1000 election officials understands this simple hack.

  5. Thanks for relating your home repair and maintenance stories, George. The before and after photos accompanying your dialog are very good. I enjoy reading your around the ranch episodes. You are an accomplished handy man. I also like it that Elaine and you often work these as a team.

    I want to stress how dangerous being on a ladder is, especially being alone. A friend was addressing a house repair issue while on a ladder and fell. He was alone and was found later that day. Sadly, he died two days later in the hospital. He never regained consciousness. And, he was recently married.

  6. “Even treated wood is only good for 10-12-years here.”

    Ya won’t see pressure-treated lumber on the rack that’s rated above CCA-40/ACQ-40, however, you should be able to order CCA-60 and CCA-80 lumber.* I’ve not seen CCA-60 on a rack, south of Interstate 94, but the lumberyards up in the Nort’ advertise its availability.

    *Chromated arsenic-treated lumber is still around, and as a “farmer” you should be able to buy it. CCA lumber will outlast “modern” ACQ/MCA “treated” lumber, many times over…

    • Last year I had to do a repair job that was very similar to George’s repair right down to observing a couple of cracks in pressure treated boards. I thought I would replace them and discovered that the ledger board was a piece of dry rot that crumbled away in my hands. The only thing holding the risers up was the paint. The entire staircase was held in place by a single piece of stair rail about 1×1 that was not rotten

      Anyway I went to the local retail lumber chain and saw about 3/4 skid of kiln dried pressure treated arrow straight green 2x6x12 lumber. So I asked the associate why they had that high quality lumber? He said “spec order” and this was the excess. I had to buy some other stuff and when I returned to the lumber section 1/4 hour later there was one piece left, which I bought. Six feet of it is the new ledger board. The rest went into the steps.

  7. “Lumber is Cheap! Stock Up!”

    My ass…

    3/4 CDX is still $54, #2 indoor 2x4s are $5.28 @ Menards, which is ~10% cheaper than either Lowes or H-D — as of yesterday.

    ‘Makes me wonder if your local stores stocked-up for hurricane season and when doom did not befall you, they ended up with stock they have to dump…

  8. “Funny story: Second from left 4X4 felt really damn heavy…

    When I got home, out came the digital scales. I weighed it: Just over 46 pounds!”

    You wimp…

    When it rolls out of the tank, pressure-treated lumber has a really high moisture content. Give it a couple years of sun and rain and it’ll dry out. My fence posts weigh about 28-60 pounds (depending on length and diameter), but they’ll be over 100# when they arrive (took two guys to load 10-footers onto my trailer last year…)

    You got a new 4×4, ‘s all. Be careful, it may well twist or warp as it dries (some of mine did, which is why I use round posts, now.)

  9. I am a solder jockey. I solder things — especially electronic things.
    I have a small, simple old Weller soldering “station” thingy. A little shallow tray for a very damp — but not wet — sponge to wipe the tip clean. Clean tips work better — faster — than cruddy ones. When not in use, the temp controlled iron goes into a funnel made of heavy wire in a spiral. The base is a transformer and a bit of simple electronics to control the iron’s heat.

    The very damp but not really wet sponge does a good job of cleaning the tip when wiped. But some jockeys like a steel or copper wool wiper. Eh. Not a fan.

    But I will share this: Next time you have a big ole sappy knot in a 2 x 4, save it. A few good bangs with a ball peen, or a 1/4″ deep flat-bottom “pit,” dug with a wood “spade bit” makes a FINE cleaning tool and resting spot.

    Make the pit or deep dent in the knot, and feed an inch or three of 60/40 lead rosin core solder, and melt a blob the size of a Really Big lima bean into the blob-dent-pit using your iron. It’s like making a tiny “solder pot” — which is ideal for thermo-stripping enamel magnet wire ends. Dip in the melted blob, and the wire is instantly stripped clean and tinned in a half second.

    Returning the tip to the blob frequently cleans it better than a sponge-wipe, AND if you make a coat-hanger wire funnel-spiral holder thing, the tip is ALWAYS submerged in hot, clean, melted solder. It’ll last a thousand years. .

  10. If it’s the wrong line we will do a stopper . Then all you yanks can pray !!!!! Love a koky guru !!!

    • Cmon Lenny – 10 yr Treasury – is Ure friend. Yield rises and the price of bond falls, thereby jacking the USD higher.
      Naturally wit a higher USD, the paper price of Gold bee going down..and will continue to do so as long as 10yr is falling price/USD is rising –

      *therefore recomend you stay in the “position” (bent over, grabbing ankles) and just keep asking ..”please Sir, can I have another.”

      Why was Errol Flynn buried with ass sticking out of the ground ?
      So his friends could stop by for a cold one .

      • “Cmon Lenny – 10 yr Treasury – is Ure friend. Yield rises and the price of bond falls, thereby jacking the USD higher.”

        peanuts averaged 25.3 cents per pound for the week ending
        July 23, up 0.8 cent from the previous week.
        NUT BUCKS…. price of peanuts up eight percent.. compared to ten year treasury..
        U.S. 10 Year TreasuryYield | 8:05 AM EST
        double your money in peanuts..
        I got your back JIMMY.,…LOL LOL LOL
        see Jimmy carter made the white house solar.. but Ronald took them all down..
        a man of integrity.. his only problem what he trusted Congress.. he didn’t get the word split.. CON gress… make mistakes absolutely.. when congress tossed that man under the buss.. he took it .. and accepted the blame.. the buck stopped there.. even though he wasn’t the one to blame for the double digit.. and in my honest opinion.. if we had followed his plan.. we wouldn’t be where we are today..
        back the dollar with peanuts.. put a mr. planter on the dollar bill..

  11. Gurus stroking the USD . The great greenback backed by lies , nukes and the great great joe biden !!!! Da man

    • there must be a news blackout… for what 4 days now.. theres been realitively nothing but lala and old news..
      my guess is with all the dark dealings that was hitting the information waves.. that it’s being blacked out until after the election..or …to much information was being passed along dipping the usa deeper into the quagmire of involvement…increasing the probability that Delaware would become the new glass state..

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