Another Mishap

Yesterday’s plan was to install the finished stairs leading to the second floor. Nick spent hours disassembling the construction stairs and preparing for the move.  With an offset front door, there were no obvious way to bring the oak staircase into the house. It would have to be carried in on edge and there was no space large enough to lay the fourteen-foot run of stairs flat before pulling them into position. I suggested the basement, and this was what was decided. We would lift the stairs through the stairwell.

Here is the crew — Nick, his partner Amy, his father Mike, and his uncle Jerry — carrying the staircase down the bumpy slope to the basement. Knowing the oak was extremely heavy, Nick had thought ahead and designed resting spots along the way, where the stairs could be safely put down on 2x12s padded with cardboard.

And here is Nick about to climb the ladder he had fastened to the basement doorway, to gain the heights of the second floor and pull the staircase up into place through the stairwell, while the rest of us pushed from below.

It was at this point, looking down, that Nick realized the stairs would not fit through the stairwell. The bottom four feet had a four-inch return that was wider than the opening, to wrap around the wall at the foot.

The house company had apparently made a mistake. There was no way to bring the staircase into the house. Both Nick and I began calling the company, trying to reach either the owner or the architect. Our calls went straight to voicemail.

I sent emails marked URGENT! STAIRS WON’T FIT IN HOUSE! There was no response.

We broke for lunch. I was in a numb state.

At last I had a text from the owner. He was out of the office but would have the architect call Nick. Twenty minutes later Nick was talking to the architect.

Indeed, the architect was very sorry, but the stairs would not fit in the house. They would have to send materials and have Nick and Mike build a new staircase. The materials would arrive in two weeks.

Two weeks? My mortgage application would definitely be gone. Moreover DH was on his way home and for the next fortnight we would be climbing a ladder to the second floor. I continued to feel numb.

But Nick and Mike had a different idea. Nick asked my permission to try it. Of course I agreed. What was there to lose?

Using a hand-held plunge cutter, Nick carefully cut apart the stairs.

Then, with straps and a homemade brace, the top 2/3 of the staircase was lifted into position.

Even 2/3 of an oak staircase is very heavy, and now it would not sit on the first floor but must be suspended in mid-air. Luckily young Nick had arrived after summer school to help.

While all of this was going on, the lumber yard manager and kitchen designer arrived to inspect my strange cabinet and talk about a replacement. Nick’s partner Amy, a kitchen designer herself, was painting on the second floor. With no stairs, Amy climbed out a window and down the scaffolding to come help me envision alternatives.

The activity on the stairs felt very dangerous. We were all aware Nick’s strength might fail and the staircase drop to seriously injure the men and boy below. Amy — young Nick’s mother — could not watch, but between glances at cabinet drawings I would nip back and take quick shots with my phone. (My camera was mislaid in the move.)

As everyone pulled and pushed the upper stairs into position, Mike secured them with lags.

Then the same was done with the lower section. Here is Mike, bracing the two sections of the staircase together while standing on a bendy 2×8 above the basement stairs.

At last it was done.

Nick stayed at the house making adjustments to the stairs until 8 PM. He will make final tweaks tomorrow. He says that with fill and trim, I will not see the cuts (he sawed them apart just below the lip of a stair).

It was a long, upsetting day but thanks to the ingenuity and skill of Nick and Mike, we have stairs.

Maybe we won’t lose our mortgage application.

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2 Responses to Another Mishap

  1. Elaine Murphy says:

    Thank God you have carpenters who are skilled and can think out of the box!

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