One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

November 21, 2011


Well the new sewer main has been laid and buried and new concrete has been poured. That all happened last Monday. Ian even had the kids come down into the basement and put their handprints in the concrete. Which delighted them, mostly because the basement looks like a horrific, unlivable wreck right now, and that delights any child’s imagination.

Sadly, Rachel was a little too enthusiastic, and didn’t wait to be directed about where her handprint should go and it will probably end up under the wall to the closet. Given her current personal narrative of middle-child-disenfranchisement, this will be held against us for years to come. Which is sad, because I was devastated for her when I looked down into the basement and realized it the next day. Even seriously considered that we did have extra concrete – but no, I can’t make Ian jackhammer up and pour more basement concrete to prevent a nine-year-old’s disenfranchisement.

Also, a person should be clear with themselves that even if it weren’t this, it would be something else. We are enduring histrionic-self-pitying-baby-talk-tantrums with some consistency, right now.

Anyhow, we have been debating and planning the new stairs since this basement project began. The basement stairs have always been very steep and narrow and there is a risk of banging your head as you enter the basement. There isn’t really a lot we can do about all this. The basement is super-low, and the floor-cutout that can form the stairwell isn’t very large. You can’t save anyone’s head unless you can deposit them on the floor before the end of the stairwell – which wasn’t happening, the stairwell ended with one step left.

We really wanted the stairs to be less steep, but there isn’t much option to accomplish this without cutting out more of our floor – which just isn’t feasible.

To backtrack a little bit, I have this little fetish for old-timey kite-winder staircases. Especially as seen through a door. Especially with slightly random angles. I had just such a staircase at my first house and I couldn’t tell you whether I love the stairs because of the house or bought the house because of loving the stairs. But some months ago, I realized I had been collecting images of stairs like these in my home inspiration folder.

This is kind of what the stairwell at my old house looked like:

I will admit I fell down them a couple of times. It didn’t stop me from loving them.

And here is an example of the classically charming stairs of my dreams. I imagine them as back stairs from a side entryway in a lovely little house. At the top of them must be a back sunroom, full of plants and with big windows overlooking a stone terrace.

So anyhow, you can see how naturally, as soon as I realized we’d need to rebuild the basement stairs and when Ian said he would like to make them better, I began to think of my dream stairs. The last step of the old stairs (the one that deposited you still a few inches too high for the beams of the ceiling) was actually a square landing, at which point you had to turn right into the basement to step off the last step. So we began to discuss putting winders there instead of that landing. Obviously winders aren’t the ideal in safety – but I’m of the opinion that if putting three stairs in place of that landing can allow us to space out the rest of the stairs significantly, then the safety gains are worth it. Indeed, I’d rather someone slipped on the winders – maximum three steps off the ground, than off the higher stairs. Also – Amazingly Charming Winder Stairs for me!!!

Of course they’re much more difficult to build. So, although we had planned to begin the stairs this weekend, most of Saturday went to planning and designing.

Saturday afternoon, Ian went to pick up the lumber, and had a super-crappy time of it. He had to get his truck from his dad’s place. And then the truck wouldn’t start. And so they plugged it in and went for coffee. And then came back and got it started. But then I guess it puked out all its antifreeze in the Home Depot parking lot and wouldn’t start. So Ian had to call a friend with a truck to come get him and get the lumber home. Then he had to get his dad to take him back to Home Depot to rescue his truck.

So today he began constructing. And that, apparently, has just been taking way longer than he thought it would. But he began with the winders.

On the advice of the internet, he’s doing it by just building three solid platforms and stacking them on top of each other. But then that caused problems because it meant that in the case of these three stairs, we needed a different height of risers (because those three risers will be sitting on top of tread).

So we’ve been playing with our dimensions for a couple of weeks, and working out that, indeed, the addition of these extra stairs will allow us to go from a rise/run of about 8.75/8 to 7.25/9. Adding our overhang should mean we have stairs that are actually to code. Well – except for the head room. And also except that the stairway isn’t wide enough to be code and can’t ever be unless we remove a wall and reroute all our ducting (which, fine, we want to do eventually, but not this week).

Now the weekend’s over, I suppose we won’t get much done on it until the next weekend again. So we’re probably looking at another two weeks before the stairs are done and another weekend after that of hauling rubble and cleaning up. At least I think it could be done by Christmas.

Remember when I said how I loved these stairs especially with slightly random angles?

Okay if I had this staircase in real life, that might be too much even for me. In my fantasy life, I am pretty convinced that this stairway also leads to a lovely, sun-filled sitting room.

I can’t wait to post pictures of our staircase – but right now it’s still pretty much all in my imagination. Ian has built some platforms and they are sitting, treadless, on an ugly concrete floor. Once he gets the stringers cut and starts routering some nose-edges on the treads then everything should just fall into place.

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