Jon took one look and said, "Jeez Pops, this is like the staircase from Hell! Just about everything you don't want on stairs; floating, pie-shaped, spiral staircase, complete wrap with spindles, and steel to boot! Well, I guess it could be worse; the carpet could be a stiff Berber. It's not is it?" No, the carpet was a black cut pile about 50 ounces in weight.
We caught a break because the bottom was covered with plywood, so we didn't have to deal with that. Not that it's such a big deal, just more time. These things take enough time as it is.
First we needed to get tackless on the stairs. We had construction adhesive in the truck so we decided to use it because we had time for it to dry over night. Given a different time frame we would have used contact cement.
Strip was attached to the back of the tread, between the spindles, around the post, and to the backside of the stair. Construction adhesive was used on all of the strip. Duct tape was used to hold the strip on the backside of the stair in place until the adhesive cured. (Photo 1)
The next morning the strip on the tread and the backside of the stair were reinforced with Pop Rivets. We used 1/8-inch steel Pop Rivets 1/2-inch long. I have found it is a good idea to use a washer to stop the rivet from sinking to deep in the strip. Number 6 zinc washers work great and are inexpensive. (Photo 2)
The Pop Rivet directions say to use an 1/8 inch drill bit, but I have found a 9/64 works better. Sometimes a 1/8-inch hole is a bit of a struggle to get the rivet into; the extra 1/64 makes it a breeze without reducing the grip of the rivet. (Photos 3, 4 and 5)
The strip at the pole and the spindles were not reinforced because they were mostly for a tuck and not much tension put on them.
Some people may have enough confidence that adhesive would hold and not use the Pop Rivets. Not me; these stairs are enough of a pain in the...well you know. I don't want to be installing and have my strip come off. Ooohh, makes me shiver just to think of it!
OK, pad next. We spread multi-purpose adhesive on all the treads from the top to the bottom. Starting at the top is important; think about it. Then used a fan to tack up the glue fast. (Photo 6) Apply the pad, cutting it flush with the front edge. (Photo 7)
We then apply duct tape to the front edge and the face (Photos 8 and 9) this serves two purposes first it reinforces the pad and prevents wear and also by taping the edge down stops any pad curling up at the edge when the carpet is stretched.
Now we hang the carpet on the back tackless even with the top of the tread and, being careful to part the naps to prevent trapped naps, staple to the strip. (Photo 10)
The carpet is fed under the stair and roughed in. Before it is stretched onto the strip we apply covebase adhesive tom the underside of the carpet. This will adhere the carpet to the bottom of the stair preventing the carpet from sagging. We use cove base cartridges because it's easy. (Photo 11)
Now for the edges, as Grandpa used to say, "There is more than one way to skin a cat, cats don't like any of them, but sometimes it's just a matter of getting the fur off." Here's how Jon and I got the fur off this one. Using the edge of the stair as a guide for your new sharp blade cut the carpet even with the back edge of the stair. (Photo 12)
Make life easy on yourself; don't skimp on blades; we used over half a box on this staircase. Now run a bead of hot glue at the base of the yards, pinch the yarns over the gap from about 1/4-inch from the edge on each side. (Photos 13, 14 and 15)
These pictures are from "Upholstering a Concrete Stair" published 11-02 in FCI. Do the same on the sides.
The finished product is shown in Photos 16, 17 and 18. This is not something to be afraid of it just takes time. I have used this cutting technique on all types of carpet even a 24 oz. level loop. (Photos 19, 20 and 21).
"An honest day's wage for an honest day's labor."
Installers have not been receiving an honest day's wage for their honest day's labor for a long time.
These staircases take a lot of time, this one took us two days, a whole weekend. Don't be afraid to charge for your time! If they don't want to pay for you and another man for two days time, let someone else do it.
Remember you are doing this to make money. Profit is a six-letter word, not a four-letter word!
Michael Hetts is a CFI Certified Master Installer who has worked in the carpet installation field since 1970. He is currently an independent manufacturers representative for Sinclair Equipment, Contec North America, Seam Master Industries and the Carpet Badger.
In the October 2019 issue of FCI, INSTALL’s executive director John T. McGrath, Jr. and instructor David Gross share key lessons to ensure concrete polishing jobs are done right the first time, every time.