Role of the stair builder
By Andrew Young
“Nothing spoils a nice suit more than a lousy pair of shoes…”
Was one of the sage bits of advice my great grandfather imparted to me. Outside the odd wedding, funeral or fancy date night, I have little occasion to follow it. Suits – nice or otherwise – just aren’t practical in our business.
Nonetheless, the sentiment extends beyond the literal meaning. This is especially true when it comes to a set of stairs. Stairs are a litmus test to the overall fit, finish and quality of a home.
Nothing spoils a nice home more than a lousy set of stairs.
Stairs are quite possibly the most overlooked and under utilized architectural feature of many homes. They are too often treated as mere utility, a necessary conveyance from one elevation to another. As a stair builder it’s frustrating to see such missed opportunity, to see a home that is focused only on the destinations and placed no value in the journey.
The current hierarchy of home improvement decrees that kitchens and bathrooms are the golden goose of greatest return and to that I argue that your stairs, in which they are the first things you see when you walk through the front door and something you use everyday, multiple times a day, hold equal opportunity to add (and detract!) value from your home.
In our modern building climate, it’s easy to understand how they have lost their prominence. A classically built set of stairs requires a lot of forethought, planning and resources. They require multiple trades (the framer, the stair builder, the hardwood floor guys and the finisher) all working in concert. It’s an unwieldy process that doesn’t adapt well to today’s fast & easy approach to construction.
So in an effort to raise the bar, I implore anyone building or remodeling a home that involves a flight of stairs to strongly consider bringing a stair builder onto your team of sub-contractors and to involve them early in the process. An accomplished stair builder will see both opportunity and obstacles by reviewing a set of plans and walking the site. There are simple details that when addressed during the design and framing phases make for less headaches and less expense down the road.
The beauty, safety and durability considerations of stair work warrant a specialist — warrant a stair builder. When in the throes of building or remodeling the focus is all on “the look”, and while aesthetics are essential, the role of the stair builder is to take those material and design choices and not only make them beautiful, but safe. Stairs are responsible for thousands of injuries a year and by their very nature create many hazards. A qualified stair builder understands and follows the strict building codes governing stairs that are intended to keep them as safe as possible.
In addition to creating a set of stairs that are visually stunning and safe, a stair builder’s role is to construct to withstand the test of time. Stairs get used, abused and need to be built to endure the pounding of feet, pulling of rails and the occasional slide down the banister. A stair builders choice of joinery, fasteners, glues and materials all play a roll in producing a set of stairs that will withstand the rigors of daily use.
The inclusion of a qualified stair builder will add value, beauty, safety and longevity to your home. An investment that you will come to appreciate year after year, step after step after step.
Andrew Young owns and operates Young and Son with his father in Portland, OR.