My hubby's half of it is to cut off the front top edges of all the treads (so we can fit the retreads over them), and measure and cut all of the treads and risers. Also very time-consuming. This isn't the easiest DIY project. Definitely not for the inexperienced. But I'm sure, when it's done, I will feel a sense of accomplishment, and I will forget all the hard work. It would be a lot easier to do it over a period of time. We just like to get ambitious and try to get it done ASAP. That's how we are.
So I feel like a factory worker just knocking out all this staining and painting. Here is my factory floor:
I read on someone's blog (sorry, I forgot who, or I would give him credit here) that he used soda cans to put his stair treads and risers on. That seemed brilliant! So I went out and got the cheapest soda I could find ($5 for a 24-pack).
I am not even kidding you. If I didn't include a picture of the box, you would never have believed that this is what this soda is called!!! (Interesting pun, um, not really.)
More production on the assembly line:
For my risers, I used these products:
Since I am painting birch plywood for the risers (I believe it's 1/4" thick), I decided to use a primer. After everything I've painted in my life, I can't believe this is the first time I've used a primer. I bought Kilz since I always have heard good things about it. It did not disappoint. It dries quickly and can be painted after 30 minutes. I also picked up what was convenient in a white semi-gloss at ACE Hardware, ACE Royal Paint in the color High Hiding White (sounded good to me) and in the semi-gloss formula.
For my stain, I applied with a cotton sock over a latex glove (thanks for this idea, Centsational Girl!). http://www.centsationalgirl.com/2010/10/finished-staircase/. This is so the oil-based stain doesn't get all over your hands. My goal was to not have to use any mineral spirits for cleanup and to just use cheap things that were disposable so I could just throw them out afterwards. The latex glove I just threw away after every coat of stain, and the cotton sock stayed moist so I could continue the two coats of stain.
Before I proceeded to stain the unfinished tread, I used a tackcloth to remove any tiny bits of wood still on the surface. This is kind of sticky, but it gets up all the little wood bits so they don't stay on the surface of your wood and mix with your stain.
I used the Minwax oil-based stain in the color Jacobean, a very dark brown color. I like the two coats of the Minwax Jacobean stain. I don't mind staining the red oak treads. The stain does kind of look splotchy at times, which is a characteristic of red oak. But I don't mind it since it gives it a rustic look. I am not going to be picky with how the stain takes since I decided on red oak over pine due to it being a harder wood.
Here is the polyurethane I used. I know you can use water-based polyurethane with the above stain, but I opted for oil-based. All of my tools were things I would later throw away because I didn't want to deal with the pain of clean-up. I used natural-bristle brushes, which I read you're supposed to use with oil-based stain (why? I have no idea). The brushes were like $2 at ACE Hardware. I ran my hands through the brushes before I used them to eliminate any loose hairs, so they wouldn't get stuck in my stain. The brushes ended up working really well. I put them in a ziploc bag in between coats of polyurethane so the poly wouldn't dry out so I could come back and use the same brush (didn't want to clean it in between).
Due to the long drying time of the oil-based products, we couldn't start stair installation until today. We completed six steps!! Here is the construction adhesive we used to glue the treads and risers on. We used Liquid Nails with a caulking gun.
My hubby did the gluing of the Liquid Nails, and I did the brad nailing on everything after he glued it. First he attached the bottom riser after putting Liquid Nails on it.
Then I nailed it in (for extra security). Then he installed the first tread after spreading Liquid Nails on the top of the step (the raw wood stairs). Then I nailed it in.
You can see here that, even though I used the Minwax oil-based polyurethane in a clear satin finish, it is still glossy. I wouldn't really want the stairs any glossier than this, so I'm glad we got the satin finish. First step installed!!! Yay!
Then we just went up the stairs, first installing the next riser, then the next tread.
Look! We really are making progress! Six steps down, 11 more to go!! I think this pic most accurately represents what color the stain actually is in real life.