Monday, March 17, 2014

Raisin' the Rail

This weekend was a big one.  I had my second baby shower on Saturday, which was a blast and I'll share another time.  Also, we installed our railing on our stairwell.  As I started writing about in this post, we purchased our home with a giant hole in the floor with 2x4s keeping people from falling over.  We were finally able to finish the railing this weekend and it feels so great! 
Optimistic "before" picture

When we left off, Dillon was staining staining staining away.  He stained and poly-ed two newel posts, two chunks of landing tread, two chunks of guardrail, a rosette, apron pieces, and handrail.  He was working hard! 

Again, a portion of the wood things Dillon stained and poly-ed

My sister and brother-in-law came over this weekend, and my father-in-law, Tom, came by quite a bit to help out also.  Those boys worked so much!  Early on Saturday morning, (pre-changing into jeans, even), the fellas removed our 2x4 guardrail.  The drills were so loud and the floor was rumbling, and the baby was going crazy kicking!

My sister and I had to leave to attend the baby shower, so the next few steps don't have much detail.  In fact, I didn't ask for much detail because it seemed like whatever happened while we were gone is going to be a secret for life.  There were lots of nervous laughter and shifting eyes when we talked about it.  "Don't ask, don't tell" it is!
The area of wood floor that had to be cut to fit the landing tread

They had to cut a portion of our wood floors because the ends of each board were uneven.  Something about a skil saw (cue the shifty eyes).  But they got a nice straight line, so I'm happy!  They had to be careful because if they cut too much off, they landing tread would not fit properly.  After the wood floor was cut, they used the finish nailer to install an apron piece along the top of the drywall in the stairwell.  

Beautiful mitered corner

Last week, Tom had come over to screw some wood to our floor joists in the basement so that our newel installation would be nice and smooth over the weekend.  Our newel post locations fell between joists downstairs, so the added wood gave the newel post bolt something solid to hold to, so that our newels are nice and steady now.  The fellas installed the newel post using this kit.  

You can barely see the gap underneath the landing tread bullnose and the apron piece. Soon it will be covered by cove molding.

The landing tread had to be cut to length and then mitered in the corner.  Oh what a beautiful job they did with this miter!  Thank you, Joe, and your fancy chop saw!  Then, they set the landing tread on top of the subfloor & apron and it fit pretty well.  It turns out the wall wasn't built very straight.  So there is a tiny gap underneath the landing tread and the apron that will get covered up with cove molding eventually.  No one will be the wiser.  Except all of you, who are wiser now that I let out our secret.

This is about the time that my sister and I returned from the shower, and it was time for the math!  Each baluster has to be installed so that there are no gaps 4" or greater anywhere.  So, we did some math...looked around at each other...did some more math...fiddled...looked around....and settled on installing each baluster 3 7/8" apart along the long side of the railing, and 3 3/4" apart along the short side of the railing.  That would create nice equal distances between each baluster and newel posts (so the two end gaps wouldn't be significantly different than the rest of the gaps), and would keep the distances similar on each side of the railing.  So even though the distances are slightly different, no one will ever notice because a person cannot physically look straight at both sides simultaneously.  Hope that makes sense!

The boys cut the guardrail,  drilled the holes and test fit the whole shebang (using this kit)  so that we were ready to install the balusters.   So we marked the centers of our newel posts along the floor with a string, and then measured 3 3/4" (or 3 7/8 on the other side) marks all along the floor and handrail.  After a bit of confusion about how deep to drill the holes (each hole should be the same depth so that the balusters all fit the same), the holes were all drilled. 

Joe cut each baluster to length using a fancy metal chop saw (thanks, Tim! It worked great!).  Technically, I cut one of them.  Sparks were flying and I felt pretty nifty with my 8 month pregnant self. 
All taped, lined up, and ready for installation!

Shoving the balusters down into each hole
We taped a shoe to the middle of each baluster, making sure to orient the shoes so that the allen wrench hole was in the correct direction, and lined them up.  Suddenly, all hands were on deck as we added a glob of PL400 to each hole in the landing tread(we discovered that the best way is to squeeze a glob onto a paper plate and then smear it inside the hole with a tool, in our case, a pen cap.  Otherwise, adhesive gets everywhere and you end up taking off the polyurethane trying to wipe it off with mineral spirits and you will have to go back and touch it up.  Just sayin).  Dillon then shoved the baluster into the hole (it was a tight fit) and we tried to make sure they were square to the stairwell.  They stood up on their own pretty well.  Then, we used the same pen cap method to add a small glob of PL400 to each guardrail hole and flipped it over onto the balusters.  There was no dripping of PL400, which was a major concern.  I'm sure that we were working pretty slowly with the stuff, which went in our favor for this job as it dried a bit and became less gloppy.  We started at one end and worked our way to the other, getting each baluster into it's designated hole.  We double checked each baluster so that it was nice and straight, rotating it slightly if necessary.

The rail bolt kit for installing the guardrail to the newel posts had us use a 1/2" wrench to tighten a bolt from the underside of the rail.  This was tricky on one, because the wrench was just a tiny bit too snug to actually fit in the deep hole.  So it wasn't able to catch the next angle on the bolt because we couldn't turn the wrench far enough.  Joe was a genius, and used 2 different brands of wrenches, which had the corners at slightly different angles to the handle and it worked perfectly!!!

Then, Joe (and me! with my awesome 8 month pregnant self!) used the nail gun to nail our rosette to the wall. 
Watch out! it's me with a nail gun!

Finally, we lowered each shoe to the floor and tightened them with a tiny allen wrench. 

Installation of the handrail

They then cut our handrail to length and installed it using these brackets.  The screws that come with the brackets were horrible.  Several broke apart.  So we got out some random screws and finished it off with those. 

We still have a bit of tiny finishing work to do: stain and install the "plugs" to go in the holes from the newel post installation kit, the rail bolt kits (on the underside of the guardrail), putty a couple of areas, touch up some stain, putty a few spots, and install a piece of tiny trim around the newel posts to cover up the edges of the bottom (you can see the small gap in the picture of the beautiful miter above).

But I'd call this project a success, wouldn't you???  I'm so incredibly happy with how this turned out.  It finally feels like our house is ready for a baby. Oh, and that $1000 budget?  We won.  We spent $821 so far, have a few thing to return (an extra handrail bracket and 3 types of adhesive since I wasn't sure what would be used) and a few things to buy (a small piece of trim, putty, cove molding) so I think it'll stay around the $800 mark.  BOOM. 



And if you see any of these people, feel free to drop what you're doing and applaud them.  I couldn't be happier!

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