Spot repairing stain & poly on stair tread - Router Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2015, 09:15 AM Thread Starter
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Default Spot repairing stain & poly on stair tread

I have a question on “merging” finishes. This is probably one of those questions where I shouldn’t ask the question if I won’t like the answer. And I wish I could take Stick’s position on finishing – just don’t do it … but I can’t.

I’m finally getting around to finishing my stairway job … motivation partially from all the threads on RainMan’s never ending projects and partially from my need to clear some space in the garage if I ever want to own a bandsaw. The treads have been fabricated (the fun part) for a year now, I just got around to fitting them this past weekend.

I plan on finishing the red oak treads (gunstock color stain/semi-gloss poly) and risers (paint) before installing them for simplicity and ease of access. In addition to adhesive, I plan on screwing the treads in place – the skirts will cover the screws in the edges but I really need to get something on the center stringer. In those locations it would be easier to screw down through the tread and just plug that location. I would do that with no question if I were finishing the treads in place after the plug was installed.

Assuming the plug holes were cut in the tread before the finish is applied and the tread installed, is there any technique I can use to “match” the finish of the plug after installation (spot application of stain/poly)? I would assume that I will not be using any abrasive technique on finishing the plug, just shaving it flush with a chisel. Worst case, I’ll take a couple days for trial and error on some scrap but I had to ask.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2015, 10:21 AM
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The simple answer is don't prefinish them, Mark. Masking tape and masking paper. I did mine in place with no problems at all
I can see that if it's the only way up and down, that might be awkward(?).
The poly will get into the plug holes and you'll have a nightmare getting the plugs in and paring them down without damaging the surrounding finish.
Why do you want to prefinish them?
(I did mine 13 years ago and haven't even had to do a touchup...I used a solvent based poly floor finish from Mohawk.)
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2015, 11:14 AM
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Would you consider an alternative to screwing down...? Can you get to center stringer from underneath...?

place 1x1 blocks on either side of the center stringer flush with where the step will lay...glue and screw onto center stringer.

lay step down and screw up through 1x1's into the step...

If no access from underneath, use a "french cleat" for the center stringer and screws for the ends...the orientation of the cleat will be determined by whether you can install step while riser is in place or not...slide step into cleat, tight against riser, etc... then screw down the ends...

...just a couple of options I've used...this will let you prefinish without plugging screw holes...
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2015, 11:36 AM
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You could always do like the Old Days and nail them with finish nails and putty the holes. If the ends are against the wall, the skirt board will cover the screw heads too.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2015, 12:02 PM
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Another option is blind nailing. That's where you take a narrow sharp chisel (around 1/4" or less) and start lifting up a small sliver. Nail the step down and then glue the sliver back down with a water soluble glue like Lee Valley's Fish Glue. Wipe with a damp cloth when dry and the job is invisible.

However, I also like the cleats underneath, the square ones and the french cleats. Save the blind nailing for a repair job. Plugs will leave a dark circle around them that can't be missed if you are looking at them. I've tried all sort of methods to hide them, including using water soluble glue to make sure the glue line doesn't show, but they are always still there.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2015, 12:23 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the quick responses. Guess I'll scrap the plug idea based on Chuck's unambiguous description of the (non) success factor ... but doing the finishing before installation is mostly non-negotiable. Access from below and behind is too constrained / limited for a consistent fastening approach. I have 2 flights of 7 stairs to do. I did consider the cleat approach (although the French cleat idea is new to me) - I may have to move it to the top of the list. I like simple and straightforward but I'm not going anywhere near this job with nails - sorry. Part of the reason I'm dealing with this project was the squeaking - the finish nails on the original barn wood didn't work so well the first time (I know, the adhesive should take care of most of this). I did also consider coming up from behind the riser below with a 3 inch screw (at 45deg) from the center stringer into the tread ... the math works but it would be fixtured pre-drilling on the stringer, all accessible from the front.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2015, 12:43 PM
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If you're considering installing treads top down, you could priedrill the center stringer with "pocket holes" and then screw up into the tread...is that what you meant...?

I like the cleat idea as you can do a dab of caulking to cut out the squeaks...

If you go for the French cleat, you will need to notch out the stringer to accommodate about twice the width of the cleats to accomodate sliding into the cleat...

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2015, 04:20 PM
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You could also use dowel ends for plugs and make it look like it was doweled down. in other words accent the plugs, and if you layout the screw holes consistantly, they would look like dowels. If you use poly floor finish,you can sand and touch up with no problem.

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-08-2015, 04:58 PM
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Make the plugs out of a contrasting colour and they become a design feature instead of an attempt to hide something.

PL 400 glue (in the caulking tubes) is used to prevent squeaks between a subfloor and the floor joists. It's also a good idea on stair treads.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-09-2015, 07:25 AM
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PL adhesive works great. Use trim head screws. Fill hole with color matched putty/filler. If you haven't chosen your poly check out Last N Last. Really good product.
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