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refinishing stair treads

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mikejurasw

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Hi everyone, I'm hoping for some input on how long to expect a staircase to out of commission for refinishing. 1920's home, probably chestnut treads, badly in need of sanding and refinishing (probably just urethane...no stain). How do you do this right when the home is occupied and people need to go up and down to at least sleep?
Thanks!
MM
 

joecaption

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You would be far better off if you could come up with a plan B and stay off the stairs for a few days.
The longest lasting finish will be an oil finish, will need several coats, and takes time to cure.
A water based finish will dry faster, but not last as long, do you really want to have to go all through this again anytime soon?
 

bud16415

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When I had that issue many years ago and I was young and spry. I did every other step and then climbed them two at a time for a week while the varnish dried. then did the other ones and repeated the process.

I saw my dad paint some steps when i was a kid and he split the job right down the middle.
 

slownsteady

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If it's just bedrooms upstairs, you could "camp out" in the living room for a few days. If kids are involved, turn it into an adventure. If old folks are involved....not so much.
If it's basement steps, you might be able to access the basement by walking outside and using another door.
 

Jeff Handy

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Refinish the treads right before you leave for a family vacation.
Sand everything first while the gang is still at home.
Put the family up in a motel, water park, etc, for one night, apply two coats of finish, before you all leave together for a few days.
 

mikejurasw

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Thanks! I think (due to everyone being housebound with Covid) I may try the half and half method, or the camp-out.
Appreciate the input!
MM
 

dsteinhorn

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joecaption, you say that water-base won't last as long. In your experience, how long do two coats of water-based finish last for? We have pets that go up and down, so every other step won't work so well.
-> How long does regular poly need to dry enough for stocking feet and pets to walk on it?

Thanks everyone.
 

slownsteady

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There are a lot of variables in figuring that out, so there is no definite number. From how many trips do you & others make up & down the stairs to how often do you trim the pets claws. Just generally speaking, you will get more wear out of an oil based poly.
 

wood712

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Did our stairs a few years ago. Got tired of the carpet always looking dirty. We would clean the carpet, but then between kids and dogs, would look filthy again within just a few days. Removed the carpet, sanded everything, applied medium-oak stain, and finished with five or six light coats of oil-based polyurethane.

The poly was put on over several nights (one coat at a time). Once kids were put to bed, dogs put away, and wife was done downstairs, I would get to work. Light sanding with 220 grit, quick wipe down to remove dust, then apply the poly. Working from the step above, would start at the bottom of the stairs and proceed to the top. Dried overnight and was fine to walk on the following morning.

Seemed to be holding up just fine, even with kids and dogs. (At least it was until a house fire last summer.)
 

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