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South Exterior Staircase Preservation

Jul 15, 2019   //   by wvanbusk   //   Redwood Victorian  //  Comments Off on South Exterior Staircase Preservation

The exterior stairs on the garage are built out of old growth redwood and include decorative post tops, railings and balusters. The stairs have a south exposure, are over a concrete slab and next to an unpaved alley. The goal is to save the decorative elements and replace the water damaged support lumber. The stairs were likely built or rebuilt over forty years ago when redwood was still plentiful and old growth was still being cut. All of the decorative elements were saved as were most of the steps. Most of the damage was due to encapsulation, poor tread drainage, overgrown landscaping, and accumulation of dirt and leaf litter.


The structure supporting the public entrance stairway to the apartment over the garage had rotted support lumber which has been covered with redwood trim. The stairway was sound, except for the tails that had contact with the outboard trim. The stringer supported by the garage building is sound while the outer stringer was damaged. The joists and posts supporting the landings on the two flights of steps also had water damage.  The steps had no gaps between the risers and treads, which overlap and are nailed together. Tread tails were covered with trim. This makes the stairway very strong, but also allows retention of water.

The stringer attached to the building was offset with blocks, which allowed water and litter to be shed down the siding onto the concrete slab. The replacement staircase stringers are pressure treated and will not be covered with trim, unless offset with blocks to allow air flow. Damaged tails of the stairway risers and treads were cut off and the cut ends left exposed. This revision will allow water the drain, litter to drop off, and moisture to wick out of the redwood.  The deck boards of two of the three landings were removed and replaced with salvage lumber and reinstalled with spacing between the boards. Ledger boards and metal straps were added to the stringer end so that they are supported independently of the landing decks. A new wood landing deck was added at the bottom of the steps to reduce height from the sidewalk to the first stair step.

The trees and vines in the area were trimmed back to reduce the production of leaf litter, improve night security and increase sunlight. Soil was removed from around the walkway between the sidewalk and slab to improve drainage away from the slab. The walkway was lowered and leveled where it joins the sidewalk to improve surface runoff and provide for a new inward opening gate.  The tread tops were cleaned and painted with a tinted exterior primer to match the redwood colored front doors, window sashes and roof color. The riser faces and posts were cleaned and painted with white exterior primer to match. Some of the previous trim was omitted to reduce framework encapsulation of the support structure to promote air drying after rains. The lattice was repositioned above the slab to allow better airflow under the staircase and reduce leaf litter accumulation. Some of the decorative post trim will need to be specially reproduced from the saved broken pieces.

repaired staircase

English Ivy
The Simpson Period 1901-1974