Repair Antique 1903 Staircase in Pittsburgh (sags and coming out of wall)

Discussion in 'General Home Improvement Discussion' started by Ham and Egger, Aug 11, 2018.

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  1. Aug 11, 2018 #1

    Ham and Egger

    Ham and Egger

    Ham and Egger

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    So we have had multiple carpenters/staircase experts/contractors come in and give their opinion... The most recent staircase expert (only does stairs) came in and recommended tearing it down and building a new staircase... 2 hours later I had a flooring expert come in and pretty much skip the flooring but marvel at the staircase for 20 minutes and saying over and over again, "you have to save this." I think it's nice, but not that nice =D...

    Anyway, right now we are planning on going with a carpenter who thinks he can jack up themiddling/floating/sagging part, put up a new stringer and use some big old lag bolts to secure it. He said it may cause some cracks in the ceiling/walls eventually but that is only cosmetic.

    Anyway, I welcome any and all opinions/advice/thoughts/anything! Thank you so much.



    The Good:

    IMG_3841.jpg

    IMG_3842.jpg

    IMG_3529.jpg

    IMG_3870.jpg



    The bad:


    (picture does not do the sag justice but you can see the window frame is close to level)
    IMG_3853.jpg

    IMG_3851.jpg

    IMG_3517.jpg IMG_3868.jpg

    "Look, Ma, no stringer!"

    IMG_3847.jpg


    IMG_3848.jpg


    Thank you so much for any and all advice/ideas/opinion/anything!
     
  2. Aug 11, 2018 #2

    bud16415

    bud16415

    bud16415

    Fixer Upper Staff Member Admin Moderator

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    Hi and welcome to the forum. :welcome:


    We live just up the road closer to Erie and have an 1880’s home that had a similar but smaller stair case that was in pretty bad shape before I redid it.


    For sure I would be saving and restoring the one you have.


    I’m no expert and back in the day when they built these homes the construction was left up to the carpenter to a large degree. They put in and used fasteners and lumber they thought would be good enough. There is nothing saying they always got it right.


    I would start by removing all the base trim as it will come off pretty easy if you are careful and will go back up the same. It looks like some of the plaster is off and some makeshift repairs have been tried, 2x4 blocking. Hard to tell how much more plaster should come off but I would remove enough to be able to shift everything back without cracking above and also everything will move better if it is not there.


    It was all nailed together most likely square cut nails and over the years they have loosened, bent and stuff has moved apart.


    I would think a combination of careful jacking and pulling along with some new stringers and such and use screws as the new fasteners it can be straightened up pretty good. Clean, light sanding and finish it will look great.


    Please keep us posted with pictures as you go and as new problems come up go slow think them thru and talk them over here and with your builder. It took well over 100 years to get that way so no rush to fix it in one day. Going slowly with jacking over several weeks sometimes lets the wood reshape with less damage.
     
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  3. Aug 11, 2018 #3

    shan2themax

    shan2themax

    shan2themax

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    Zero advice.... but wow, that's beautiful!
     
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  4. Aug 11, 2018 #4

    Ham and Egger

    Ham and Egger

    Ham and Egger

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    Thank you so much for your incredibly thorough reply and welcome. Your optimism certainly is reassuring! I will post updates on the project...

    Also, is there a limit to the amount of posts? Because I am not a handy person and just purchased a house from 1903, ooooops =D.

    Cheers!
     
  5. Aug 11, 2018 #5

    bud16415

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    No Limits around here.

    When you buy a 115 year old house you might not be a handy person, but you will be one a year from now.:D
     
  6. Aug 12, 2018 #6

    Ham and Egger

    Ham and Egger

    Ham and Egger

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    Hilarious!
     
  7. Aug 12, 2018 #7

    mabloodhound

    mabloodhound

    mabloodhound

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    Definitely save the stairs. But it will require some work which can be spread out over time by doing one section at a time. Many old staircases were assembled from underneath with the treads mortised into the stringer and wedges glued to hold it tight. That is NOT the case here. I don't think by adding a stringer it will solve the problems. The cause for the sagging is the lumber has shrunk over the years and allowed portions to come apart. The original stringers need to be modified or replaced so they are tight between the upper and lower landings in each section which is what forms the load carrying strength.
     
  8. Aug 12, 2018 #8

    bud16415

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    Chances are if the stairs would have been designed with the newel post as a structural member and made continuous all the way up none of this would have happened.


    For artistic reasons they were going for the spiral look with all the stairs and landings being cantilevered off the walls. Decades of expansions and contraction of the wood and gravity working on all the weight slowly pulled it away from how it was connected.


    At least that’s my guess.
     
  9. Aug 12, 2018 #9

    Ham and Egger

    Ham and Egger

    Ham and Egger

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    Please clarify. You initially said adding a stringer will not solve the problem. Tehn you said the stringer needs to be modified or replaced. Just trying to find out what you mean. Thank you.
     
  10. Aug 13, 2018 #10

    nealtw

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    I love them and it think they are fixable but there is nothing holding up the landings. It almost looks little the post from each landing should all have continued down one on top of other.
    There is nothing holding the landings up. Maybe some big brackets made that could tie the landing to a stud in the wall. Something like this but longer and heavy.
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Aug 13, 2018 #11

    mabloodhound

    mabloodhound

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    I had said the original (side) stringers might need to be replaced so that their length was tight between the upper and lower landings. All that kept those landings in place was the compression between the landings and the end of each stringer.
    However, after thinking some more, Neal's idea of adding brackets might work along with wedges between the landing and stringer ends to make them tight again. You would need to jack the outside stringer and landing back up to where it is close to level and then wedge in place where the ends meet the landing.
    The inside stringer is most likely nailed into wall studs and should be OK. Start from the bottom and work up, one set of stairs at a time. This may result in a space between the landing floor and the first riser but that can be fixed with a narrow piece of flooring.
     
  12. Aug 14, 2018 #12

    nealtw

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    I was thinking the stairs may have to blocked up so the ladings can be re and re so that brackets can be up it both directions but I suspect that both rim joists are tied to studs so maybe some open heart surgery can be done from below. really need to see that framing.
     

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