Removing Staircase from Abandoned Victorian House

Discussion in 'Carpentry and Woodworking' started by 1victorianfarmhouse, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. Nov 10, 2010 #1

    1victorianfarmhouse

    1victorianfarmhouse

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    Not too far from me is a Victorian farmhouse on a plot that was bought by a developer and development never happened. The house has been abandoned for many years and is beyond repair, but still has many good sections and parts in it. I've talked to some people from the developer and they say help yourself to whatever I want. I think they would be really happy if the place sort of leveled itself and disappeared so they don't have to consider demolition costs.

    I am interested in taking out an entire interior staircase; one side is against the interior of an outer wall, the other is part of an interior wall. Trying to disassemble it piece by piece doesn't seem like it would be a viable option.

    The stairway would be used to go to my attic. It is exactly the right size, and almost an exact match to my existing back staircase (about the same age).

    I would think I'm nuts, but two other people, when I mentioned finishing my attic, both suggested I look for a staircase out of an existing house.

    Comments on how to best do this are appreciated.

    Thanks as always,

    vince
     
  2. Nov 12, 2010 #2

    DrHicks

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    Without looking at it, I wouldn't have a clue. But I do congratulate you, and feel just a bit envious of your find! :)

    Are you going to strip woodwork, trim, etc?


    I'm thinking that a good cordless Sawzall will be your friend, as well as some pry-bars, etc. Beyond that, I really have no idea.

    Good luck! :)
     
  3. Nov 12, 2010 #3

    GBR

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    You will probably need a permit for your replacement stairs to the attic. Make sure it fits exactly, total rise/run, etc. The risers and treads need to meet today's Codes for egress. It will be part of the package permit you get for the attic finishing to protect yourself with a paper trail when you sell and any H.O.Insurance claims filed while you live there, meeting minimum safety Code. Powered by Google Docs

    Gary
     
  4. Nov 12, 2010 #4

    1victorianfarmhouse

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    When I didn't see any replies, I realized that this might be kind of a tough thing for even the pros to do. The only way I could think of doing it (and I haven't been able to look at the underside yet) would be to literally cut the darn stairway out, and that might not be as easy as it sounds. If the weather holds this weekend, I'm going to try to take a look at it from the underside and see how it is put together (I have a very good idea after doing some googling and looking at my staircases). I think pretty much the only way to take it out is really piece by piece.

    I have already taken some of the leftover trim out, but it splits very easily and is held in with 2" long nails, requiring more effort to get them out. And it's covered with several layers of paint. I already took all the undamaged doors, but really have no use for them. But at least they won't get bulldozed away.

    I am also planning to take out the wooden floorboards to use in my attic. They are pretty much the same as what my house has, even painted the same mustard yellow long ago, though most of my floors have been given a more decorative oak/birch wood flooring on top of the original floorboards.

    Regarding code....my house is 115 years old, and there has been work done originally and previously years ago that doesn't meet TODAY'S code, so this may open a can of worms. And I don't know what permits may have been applied for in the past. Let me make it clear that I am all for codes especially for electric, plumbing, etc, but also like to stay true to a house's historic character. I don't plan on selling for many, many years.

    Thanks!

    vince
     
  5. Nov 12, 2010 #5

    Allison1888

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    I also applaud your efforts. Do take some video and pictures, as this will be one great story to show when it's all done. In terms of the permits, I'm sure the code is different today in terms of the staircase run, so you may be better off not opening that door!
     
  6. Nov 14, 2010 #6

    1victorianfarmhouse

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    I took a closer look at the stairways in the house today, and it's pretty obvious that it will not be easy to access the staircases from below. There are load bearing walls under some areas, and the only areas that might have clear access once I remove the plaster and lath would require a ladder to reach, and even then, I might have to remove some wooden shelving to get clear access.

    Over the next couple of weeks as time allows, I'm going to remove some flooring and see how/if I might be able to disassemble the stairs and remove them piece by piece.

    I've tried to post some pictures as well.

    3-21-10 Pics 003.jpg

    10-2-10 Pics 007.jpg

    10-2-10 Pics 011.jpg
     
  7. Nov 14, 2010 #7

    oldognewtrick

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    Vince, from looking at the pics I would recommend taking them out piece by piece, the same way it was installed. If you try to take it out as a unit you are going to have several hundred pounds that are wanting to fall on your head. The stringers are probably nailed in places you never thought a nail would be and the logistics of moving it safely will be a task in and of itself. I applaud your efforts but want you to be safe, first and foremost.

    I'm sure it can be removed intack but you are going to need a lot of help and equipement to do it.
     
  8. Nov 14, 2010 #8

    DrHicks

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    After seeing the picture, I'd have to second what OldDog said. It was undoubtedly installed piece-by-piece, and will have to come out that way too.

    Good luck & play safe!
     
  9. Nov 15, 2010 #9

    gmicken

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    Are your steps just one floor? I have removed old stairs in the past and the two story and three story are not something one person can do easily. The best thig to do is build a temporary wall under the stairs to support the weight. One floor with a 90 degree turn at the top will be heavy enough for 5 men. Go into the attic and put a 6x6 across the celing joists and use a chain fall to lower the stairs to the floor. Take a battery Reciprocating saw and cut the existing studs after you put supports to hold the walls that are cut. If you are getting the steps to save money. Go to your local lumber yard and order steps that are made to fit your floor to floor measurement. This will be alot cheaper. The floor that you pull out will pay for the stairs. I just bought old floor at $1.75 per sq ft. Good luck.
     
  10. Nov 15, 2010 #10

    1victorianfarmhouse

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    Thanks for all the replies. I'll admit that I had a lot of ideas rolling around in my head, including using hydraulic jacks, chainsaws, come alongs and snatch blocks, but the tough part is also access to the stairway and house due to trees on the sides. The roof and ceiling very close by is shot and much of the wood up there is rotten and wet, making it tough to anchor anything overhead. Getting it out once taken down isn't hard, but accessing it would be tough and time consuming.

    While saving money is part of the reason, I also like to reuse materials where I can, especially where they are the right size and are historically correct.

    I'll have more time on Thanksgiving weekend, and will take another look at it in detail just to see how it's built. Then I'll check with my local lumberyard.

    vince
     
  11. Nov 16, 2010 #11

    gmicken

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    Good luck and please have someone help you with a phone. I also like to reuse old house parts and if I can't get them for free, I will buy what i need frome a place in Lancaster PA, They save alot of good things from the burn pile. I am building a dining room table from 200 year old roof boards. It has been a challenge, but its worth it. Good luck.
     
  12. Nov 23, 2010 #12

    nealtw

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    If the stringers are cut into wall studs, walk away. If they are more like modern stairs removal will be easy enough. They will be well built and take a lot of abuse. You will have to remove paster above and below in order to get you sawsall in there. Remove the bottom riser or kick. Nail a block in front of each stringer so it can't slide when you cut it loose. It will have nails into each stud on both sides and will be attached to the rim joist at the top step. Once you have it loose add 2x4 to the studs under stringers.
    Remove the blocks that are holding it in place and let it slide. Or more likely you will have to pull like mad. I would bet 150 to 200 lbs total.
     
  13. Mar 17, 2011 #13

    1victorianfarmhouse

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    Not sure what happened to the post I made a while ago on this, but I've been known to fall asleep at the 'puter and not send something out. When I wake up, the computer is off and all is forgotten.

    Basically, what happened with this issue was that when I started to work on trying to disassemble the staircase, there were two main problem areas. First, access to the underside of the staircase was extremely limited, as the basement stairs were below, and there were cabinets built in on the upper landing, making it extremely difficult to access the underside.

    Above, the stair treads were full of hidden nails going in several directions, probably due to efforts to quiet creaks and squeaks. To get the treads off, I would have had to really rip them up.

    So, after spending the better part of a day going nowhere, I decided it would be better to just bite the bullet and buy new treads and risers when the time comes.

    I greatly appreciate all the insight and thoughts!

    vince
     

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