Projects for my Parents: Part 1

Last month, the Mister and I made a trip up to my parents’ house for a weekend to give them their Mother’s and Father’s Day gift.  It wasn’t something tangible, though; we went up for a visit and to complete some projects around the house that they’ve wanted to be done for some time now.

Refinishing the step was the most straightforward of the 3 projects we completed.  In the 29 years since my parents bought this house, this step has been trod upon thousands of times.  I wouldn’t be surprised if when my brothers and I still lived at home (and when we and our spouses – and all the dogs! – are there now for holidays), it was stepped on over 100 times per day on a regular basis.  Random story: I remember being about 10, sitting on that step drinking a Squeezit.  Do those even exist anymore?  They were so cool.
Back to business, though:  the step, which is situated between the garage/bathroom/laundry room and the rest of the house, has been showing signs almost 30 years of heavy use for several years now.  My mom sanded it down a bit a couple years ago before the family came over for Thanksgiving dinner, with the intention of staining it, but she never got around to it. 
That’s the result of years and years of heavy use right there.

So as part of our Mother’s Day/Father’s Day gift weekend, I took care of it.  It didn’t start out too well, though.  Even though my mom had started the job, the step needed to be sanded down more in order for the stain to stick.  but, when I thought I had grabbed our drill and power sander, I had actually grabbed two electric drills – all the little black cases they come in look alike, and I was in a hurry… 

Fortunately, my in-laws live less than 10 minutes from my parents, and my father-in-law is a very talented woodworker with a fully equipped workshop, and I was able to borrow several different power sanders from him.  Things got back on track after that, and I enjoyed trying out a few more heavy-duty power tools than I have access to at home.
I tried hand-sanding before making the trip over to my in-laws’ for better tools.
My arms were pretty sore, but you can barely even tell I did anything!
It’s kind of hard to tell in the photo, but years of wear have made little divots and chips on the edge of the tread.
It took several coats of stain to match the rest of the trim, and it was a bit tricky.  My mom already had the closest color she could find (Minwax Special Walnut), but I found that when I used it alone, it was too light and, well, walnut-y.  The trim in this part of the house has a reddish tint to it.   I had seen Nicole Curtis mix paints and stains on Rehab Addict to either match existing stains in one of her houses or to just use up what she has.  It gave me the idea that it might be necessary to mix multiple colors to match the trim in my parents’ house, and I had a feeling that my Red Mahogany would be the missing puzzle piece.  Fortunately, when I was busy packing two power drills, I also grabbed a partial can of Red Mahogany.  Layering a coat or two of it in with the Special Walnut got me pretty darn close to the right color.
You can see pretty well in this photo that the stain on the tread is way too brown, compared with the more reddish color of the riser.
It’s all one color now!
I finished off by putting a few coats of polyurethane down.  The first coat took ages to dry; I usually use water-based Polycrylic, but I used the oil-based poly the folks at Lowe’s had recommended to my mom when she bought her supplies a couple years ago, and I guess I misjudged how much to use.   I grabbed their giant floor fan to help with ventilation in the room while the polyurethane dried, hopeful that it would also speed the process up.  The next two coats were MUCH thinner.
The giant fan helped with the drying process.
The piece of wood to the left is part of one of the other projects we completed that weekend.
The step’s still not perfect; I could have spent some time filling in the little dips and chips that have found their way into the lip of the tread, but I chose not to.  They give it character. 🙂
When it finally finished drying and was therefore safe for me to sit down on it, my mom of course insisted of getting a picture.  I keep meaning to look through old photos to find some of my back-to-school pictures, most of which were taken on or near that step, so I can compare its wear over the years (Nerdy?  Yes.).  When I get around to it, I’ll share one here.
It didn’t occur to me until too late that
1) My legs are blocking a third of the step, and
2) The tape is still on the floor in this photo.
Up next, I’ll share the outdoor lamp post we converted into a solar light.
Until then,