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There's been an explosion in new work in the older housing stock in my area. I'm a structural engineer, not a contractor. But when I meet with clients about their open floor plan dreams, and see sagging stairs, I'm compelled to tell them stair case restoration should be part of their project. Why modernize the floorplan when six feet away there's a staircase with an outer stringer that's sagging 2 inches, and the treads are pulling out.

So I'm here asking, is there a definitive resource out there on how to proceed with the restoration of older stairs that have pulled away from the wall stringer? I assume you have to pull everything apart to do a thorough job. But where do you start. I want to advise the clients on how that type of project unfolds, and what they should expect.

My questions:

1) Do you start from the lower step, and disassemble all of the treads and risers, then level out the out stringer and carriage, then reassemble?

2) For floating newel stairs, is it normal to replace the framing or headers, and if you do, do you go with engineered lumber, or just commodity lumber.

3) I've read about turnbuckles and tie rods to hold the stringers together once you have it leveled out. Is this normal practice? Shouldn't modern fastener hardware be sufficient?

Thanks in advance
 

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Yes, on a large remodel the stairs should be brought up to snuff.

#1: yes, generaly start at the bottom and work your way up.

#2: framing and headers are replaced if they are damaged, show signs of stress or are undersized. On stairs i prefer engineered lumber due to its stability over sawn lumber.

#3: Never seen turnbuckles/rods on stairs structurally. Proper materials, means&methods, and proper use of fasteners and hardware should be sufficient, but site scenarios or design could change this.
 

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Design Build
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The framing is not hard but the finishes get expensive.

I'm starting to like LVL stringers indoor. I still dislike the 1” OSB treads.

Maybe sketch some scenarios and we can round table this thread.
 

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Definitely LVL's for stringers.

I have used them for treads also, but usually 1-1/8" plywood.

5/8 or 3/4 ply for risers.

All glued and screwed.
 

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I think the answer deornfs on what you're doing. A historic restoration may require minimum disturbance of plaster, wood finishes, etc. All original elements are kept unless it can't be repaired. Those are uncommon.

I always start with a close examination of what has moved, how much in what direction. I also figure out how it was originally built, even if it means making some small holes for an inspection scope.

On just a regular gut and remodel, you just start taking it apart. Threaded rods may be used if you have a distorted outside stringer. You have to pull that back in place before reattaching the treads and stringers. It will always try to go back to the old position.
 

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Kowboy
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Historic preservation starts with a respect for original fabric and taking advantage of grandfathered codes. You don't just start disassembling willy-nilly.
 

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No such thing as grandfathering under Life Safety. You can get acceptance of the non-conformance in every AHJ I've worked in, but insurance may still require conformance to all codes.
 

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All my projects start with an understanding of what the customer requirements are and what I'm committing to do.
 

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Historic preservation is a completely different animal usually saved for those with the reputation for pulling it off.

NOT EVERYONE CAN DO IT...
 

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The framing is not hard but the finishes get expensive.

I'm starting to like LVL stringers indoor. I still dislike the 1” OSB treads.

Maybe sketch some scenarios and we can round table this thread.
Damn! It never occurred to me to use LVL for stringers. Do you have any idea how many hours I've wasted digging through stacks of 2x12s? Why the hell did you wait so long to suggest this?
 
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