Home renovation: Should you throw out that old staircase?

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First-time buyers can often underestimate the value of expensive fixtures. In their attempt to modernize the home, they can often devalue it. Read this before throwing out that old staircase.

Marble that loses its shine, outdated wooden panels attached to staircases made of original wood and high-quality cast iron seem odd – and many other items in the home may seem redundant to a zealous first-time buyer who wants to put some love into an old home. But do they sometimes make mistakes?

Before and after pictures can reveal amazing upgrades, but they sometimes also show how people have covered expensive marble floors with cheap tiles – and replaced very precious wooden staircases with funky but cheaper glass and steel staircases. There is actually a lot that can be done to restore an old staircase either to its former glory – or provide it with a much-needed facelift in a way that will not remove valuable materials, as we discuss below.

What the experts say:

According to Stairnation, many of their clients are highly experienced at home renovations, some dealing with rather upmarket homes. Off course it also serves newer inexperienced clients, but the point is this: It says that they stock all the necessary accessories to revamp certain staircases, including classic ones, in a way that preserves precious materials. The store manager said: “Off course there are many cases, including new builds, where clients opt for a completely new staircase. Sometimes people want to change the direction and position of the stairs: they do this either with new parts, or a combination of additional parts and valuable old stairs that are re-used. Over the years, we’ve seen some amazing projects being done for much less than you can imagine”. (Store Manager, Stairnation.com)

So what parts are needed to save an old staircase?

It all starts with planning, so you know which parts will be required. Sometimes, a beautiful facelift can occur when changing either the wooden or steel balusters and adding a beautiful handrail on top. It can even be used to change a staircase from contemporary to classic and vice-versa if applied correctly. The flavor of a home can be changed to Venetian, Gothic, Mediterranean and pretty much any other regional charm depending on the available accessories. Finishing it off with beautiful Rosettes and stair treads – or wooden box type newels can also turn out surprisingly good.

It may be that you decide to remove an old carpet and bring back a natural wood look – in which case some sanding will be required. It all depends on the existing material and how much of it ought to be saved. It may be that spindles and glass panels are used, or you may stick to wood alone. Some stair cases are more capable of handling a swap in materials: for example, a straight staircase can easily get glass panels, yet a staircase with a swirl and turns in it, requires that glass installations are made by someone rather experienced with special equipment.

Other things to watch for:

It is of course true that other changes to the home may actually devalue it, for example excessive wallpaper, adding undesired textures on the wall or ceiling, overdoing it with carpets, choosing the wrong colors for walls, or an office conversion that renders the home useless for people who actually want to enjoy living it it.

Final scoop: To replace or to modernize a staircase?

So when faced with the final question: do a little bit of research. Find some before/after pictures of staircases that match yours – and ask yourself: would I like an upgrade like this, or do I really need a completely new installation? Off course in many cases the budget will dictate what happens, but it does not mean that if the budget is available, that valuable materials should be disposed of. Today, there are so many resources available to research and identify a suitable option. A final word of wisdom: do not always rely on your architect to propose a good facelift, especially not if they earn a commission on the total spend – as they are only human and may be biased to propose a complete replacement. Hourly home improvement consultants may be the best way to go if you consider keeping old, valuable materials for restoration.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.