Friday, February 28, 2020

The Finished Wood Stairs

The stairs are finished.
If you are new here, welcome. I'll try to quickly recap the story for those of you who may be new. To those who have been with me for a while, thank you for your patience. 

In June, we put a bid on a one story house with original hard wood floors. We were the back up contract but ultimately lost the bid. 

Since we had looked a gillions of houses, we decided to put the search on hold and get the wood floors we had always wanted. 
We had the tile floors removed on July 8th. 
We were going to do the floors ourselves but decided that was a crazy idea. It would take months and we would always see our imperfections. 
I got recommendations for and looked at reviews of flooring companies. 
We picked out our floors and signed the contract at the end of July. 
It would take a few weeks for the flooring to come in and for us to be put on the schedule for install.

We'd already lived with concrete floors and flooring dust for about three weeks at this point. 

The flooring came in but the stair nose was on back order because it came from a different vendor. This is key to the story and this is where it started to go wrong. 
We were impatient to get the floors so they began installing the flooring everywhere but on the stairs. 
It took three days but we loved our new floors. We were so excited to see the stairs. 

Bill and I powered through and started installing the baseboards. 
On August 31st, I kept bursting into tears while we trying to hang crown molding. 
At two o'clock that afternoon, I got a call that my step mother was dying. Rather than cut off a hand, we packed the saw and the crown molding stuff away. 
She died at around 9:00 that evening. 

I got the call that the stair nose was in on the way back to my mom's house after the funeral. 
Alleluia. I felt like we had had a break through. 
It took them two days to floor the stairs. On the morning of the second day, they acted confused. They started counting the stairs and the pieces of stair nose. 
I asked them if everything was okay. They told me it was. 
One of the guys left. When he came back he had a piece of stair nose.
Mistake number two. They didn't order enough product. 
It was a week and a half after my mother died, I was ready to get these people out of my house. 
They cleaned up and left. Bill and I had a look at the stairs. I didn't think that they looked good. 
I felt sick to my stomach but in the grand scheme of all I was going though, I tried to tell myself that it didn't matter. 
It did. 
I got up the next morning and looked at the stairs. The very top piece of stair nose was very red/orange. 

I shot a picture and emailed my salesman. 
He emailed me right back and said that he would come look at it. 
 He did. He said they would order a new piece.  

A few weeks went by. As I started coming out of a fog of grief, I started looking at the rest of the treads. 

It didn't look that great. Most of the pieces were lighter. 
At some point in this saga, I called my designer friend and sent her pictures. 
She said that she was on site for stair installs. She would pick out the stair nose and match it to the flooring planks for each step. Our problem was that we barely had enough product left. They didn't have planks left to match the nose. I should not have let them begin flooring the house. 

I needed to fight this. It was a lot of money and it wasn't good enough. 
I emailed my sale's guy. It took about a month but he and the sale's manager came out to look. 
The manager agreed and said that they could do better.
 They would order custom stairs nose, more flooring and completely redo the stairs. 
I was so relieved. I knew that it wouldn't get done before the new year but that was okay. 
Shortly after the new year, the custom made stair nose was ready and we were on the calendar for install. 
The crew showed up and immediately tore off a piece of stair nose and flooring board. The flooring board splintered everywhere. 
They looked at the custom made stair nose and realized that it wouldn't work. 

Top is what I have. Bottom is the custom made. 

Mistake number 3. They didn't send a piece of the old S.N. to the carpenter. 
They made it too wide and it wouldn't fit with the way my stairs are constructed. 
The color, however, was perfect! 
I cried, we talked, they strategized, they talked to the salesman, we strategized some more. 
We had two options - refinish the stair nose on site or order new of the same stair nose and replace boards blending each stair one by one with my approval. 

Since they already tore apart one stair, I picked out a new board to coordinate with the S.N. and they put that stair back together. It looked better than it had. 
They left. I was depressed the rest of the day. It reminded me of my step mother's death all over again. 
Bill got involved. I was done. 
The project boss and the salesman came out. They decided to go with the second option. They ordered more stair nose. 

I know God has more on His plate than my stairs but I really prayed that when the new product came that it would be as dark as possible. 
The darker wood blended better and we would only have to pull off the stair nose not any flooring boards since that was a nightmare. 

Another three weeks went by. 
Last Thursday, they came with the new product. There were 5 pieces which cut in half could fix about 8 or 9 stairs. 
Three of the pieces were darker. Two were too light - maybe even lighter than what we have. 
I was very thankful. 

We looked at the stairs. We were going to take it stair by stair starting with the ones that bothered me the most. 
I said I would be happy if we could fix the one that was orange and the two at the front part of the stairs before the first landing.
They cut one piece. We put it into place, it didn't match well enough so we tried another. It matched. 
We got another matched and fixed in about an hour. There was more dark stair nose so we began working on three other stairs. 

We planned those out and they started the demo. Then they took an hour and a half lunch break. 

By this point, we had used up the darkest of the wood. 
Any further demo would not improve the stairs. We might have a situation of light treads and dark treads which wouldn't look good. 
They were so much better and most of the glaring problems were resolved. 

I agreed to let them pack it up and go. 
It isn't perfect but it is done. 

This is my advice:

Talk to your sales rep about what is entailed when flooring your stairs. 
Go with something they have used in conjunction with the stair nose vendor. 
They kept telling me that they promised coordination, not an exact match. My conjecture was that it wasn't a very good coordination. These two products should not have been used together. 

Do not let them begin flooring anything without all the product arriving. 
Check it completely for color. 
Pick out flooring boards to coordinate with the stair nose and set those aside. 

Be present and available while they are doing the stairs to ensure coordination. 

Build or buy a house with wood stairs from the get go. 

Finally, let me say that I've learned a few things about myself. 
I am a perfectionist when it involves a lot of money. Otherwise, I am happy to live with imperfection. 
I'm not usually very assertive. I'm learning to be more assertive. 
I'm glad I pursued this. They goofed up quite a few times. 
Through it all, I was patient and always respectful. 
I could have been angry about it but I chose to wait it out. 
If they didn't make it right, I had my Citristrip at the ready. 
I would have refinished them myself. 

Bill and I didn't floor this ourselves because it would take months. It took months anyway.  
Bill still doesn't love the stairs. He doesn't care about the colors matching. He cares that the stair nose isn't beefier or thicker looking on the front of the riser. 

I thanked my salesman via email. I'd like to leave an honest review but I really don't know what to say. 
They made it right but it's taken 5 months to do it. Most of this could have been avoided. 
What would you do?
That is it for now. I'm off to an estate sale today. 
Thanks for being here. 


  1. Katie, I think they look wonderful. You see the detail, we just see beautiful dark rich flooring. The closest I had to come was matching the existing dark stained bamboo flooring. Out of the three samples we brought back, the Hickory we chose matches perfectly. Your whole house looks so gorgeous with the wood update. If and when you guys do decide to sell, you've made it much easier with wood flooring. I'm like you, I can "make do" but when it's a major expensive deal, it needs to be right.

  2. I am so sorry for the loss of your stepmom in the middle of all this, that is tough. Your new floors do look beautiful, and good for you standing your ground and making them redo the stairs! I sympathize with your situation, because I have a similar one- in Jun 2018 I came home from a month away to find that a massive water leak had flooded my house with about 4" of water and a LOT of mold (spoiler alert - we have fantastic insurance and lost nothing sentimental). Unfortunately our project management company hired a completely incompetent contractor to do the work. Literally everything they did had to be redone (and it's not done yet). I thank God for giving me the strength to stand up to them and insist that they do the work properly (over and over again ugh). It is so stressful because I have had to get very angry (20 months and counting!) to get them to fix things. I WILL be leaving a very honest review when all is said and done. In your case, I think a review including your recommendations to check colors, have all product, etc would be very helpful to future customers. It should help the contractor, so they can avoid having to redo things.

    1. You are right. I'm so sorry you have had to endure that. Terrible.

  3. To me, your floors look beautiful but I know what you mean!I think your review should say just what you said in today's post. We will be doing wood floors at some point (but no stairs) and I will remember what you said.

    1. Thanks. I will give this some thought. I keep thinking about how many stars to give not what to say in the review.

  4. Oh Katie to have all of this nightmare with the stairs along with losing your stepmom. You were really being tested. I am so sorry. The stairs look so pretty now. You would think with all the money you spent on these they would have had a little better grip on doing these custom and would have had all of that matched up right. Just glad that the stairs are done and you like them now. They look pretty in your pictures. I like the dark wood with the white risers. Such a pretty combo.

  5. Finally, Katie. Fabulous. They look great and your tips are so valuable -- I'm just sorry you had to come by them the hard way.

  6. Katie,I think they look great! I remember you posting the issues a few months ago!

    xo laura