New Steps for Dad

Side view of steps

Side view of steps

Three weeks ago I was at my parents house while my niece was visiting. We were out on the deck swinging on the swing, and then later my niece got up to go down the deck stairs. I followed her and as I looked down at each step I noticed the second one looked like it was going to split. Then the next one was popping up, and other problems. I started to fear that one day one of these steps would fail and my niece, one of my parents or myself would be hurt. I decided at once they needed to be replace. I spoke later with my Dad about the steps and he said he was aware of the problems, but for now it was not an immediate concern. I thought otherwise and asked if it was alright with him if for Father’s Day I would install new steps. Dad liked the idea. My Mom agreed to pay for the materials and Dad lent me the tools.

I didn’t mind telling my Dad in advance what his gift was going to be since I would have to do the work at my parent’s house. There was just no way to hide it. I started after work trying to get the steps up. It was very difficult because each step had nine nails. I ended up taking two hours on one step to chip away wood with a hammer and a flathead screw driver just to get a grip on the nails with a small crow bar. I didn’t see how I could get the project done this way by Father’s Day if it was going to take this much effort to get the nails out. So I asked someone I knew for help, and using a borrowed long crow bar and stouter hammer, he removed the steps I needed to replace. I then used bungee cords to block off the deck stairs at the top and bottom.

The following Wednesday my niece was over again so I asked her and my Mom to come with me to Lowe’s to get the wood cut and some long screws. I brought one with us since I am not the best at measuring. I can handle whole numbers and quarters, but 1/8 of an inch and I bungle it. The associate at Lowe’s cut three long boards of untreated wood into 36 and 39 inch steps. (Three steps were 36 and nine steps were 39 inches. I needed eight and got twelve steps just in case. I would need those extras because of ill placed knots.) The store has a policy that only untreated wood can be cut in the store. I already knew I would be staining and sealing the steps so I didn’t mind the policy.

The next two days I stained each step with a gray sealing stain to match the rest of the steps. Then I measured each support for the steps and figured out where I would have to pre-drill on each new step in a place other than the original holes. (To prevent new splitting in the supports) I also figured out which tools, drill bits and countersink bits I would need.

By Saturday, June 14th I was ready to roll after 10am. I was off to a good start drilling in the holes first in the supports but then the drill would lose its bit. I would replace it, tighten its end by hand and then use the key. The drill worked fine again then I’d lose the bit. I happened several times. Then the drill overheated and I had to switch to a backup drill. Unfortunately at one point the drill bit broke and got stuck while I was trying to get it out. I did some things manually like using a loose nail and hitting it with a hammer to make the pre-hole in the new boards. Unfortunately at one point the electric screw driver didn’t want to screw in the long screws through the new steps and into the supports so I did it all by hand. It took seven hours to complete the project.

By the end and after cleaning up, my arms and hands burned from soreness, but boy was I pleased the project was done. The new steps looked good in their place and despite the problems and a few others I faced, I did alright for a mere amateur.

The following day my arms and hands felt no better and my right hand and wrist were swollen. By the evening on Sunday I had to wrap my right hand down past the wrist in a bandage and put it in a sling. My Dad pointed out when I saw him next that I could have asked for help. Yes I could have but I was very determined to make certain I didn’t have the new step project extend beyond a week. I was drained from work and working on the stair project and by Saturday I just wanted the project done.

Unfortunately I paid a price but I am confident my right hand and wrist will heal. In the meantime I am doing most things one handed for a majority of the day. (My left hand and arm felt better after 40 hours since the completion of the project on Saturday.)

If I ever decide to do a project like this again or another one this labor intensive I hope it is with someone from HGTV, because that is the only way I would tackle such a project again. Otherwise I will save the money and hire a professional carpenter or contractor to do the work for me.