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Hardwood Stair installation and why does it cost extra?

One of the many questions I get from my customers as we offer our quotes is why does it cost so much to install stairs? Here is my simplified explanation.

A standard set of stair case usually consists of 15 to 17 steps with or without the landing.  Each step and riser will be built with the chosen flooring from the bottom step up.  Before installation, the sub-floor plywood need to be inspected for leveling.  The structural integrity of the plywood is crucial when installing hard surfaces, such as wood.  If the plywood sags too much it will need to be reconstructed.  The planks used to construct the steps will need to be carefully selected to ensure correct color blend with the stair noses .  Once that’s done, the actual cutting begins.  Due to the fact that each step is shaped differently, the installer will have to make precision cuts on steps and risers accordingly.  The stair noses are also shaped differently, therefore small adjustments will need be made.  This process will be repeated 15 to 17 times until the stairs are completed.

So why do we charge more for stairs? Well to simply put it, it takes longer to complete.  Frankly, not every installer can do it “correctly”.  I have seen installers taking short cut by jamming the stair nose into the drywall to avoid cutting. Installing over sagging plywood and the steps “bounce” when you walk on it.  Or finished the stairs with mis-matched flooring and trim molding.  It’s all in the details but unfortunately it’s hard for untrained eyes to see the differences sometimes.   So next time you see a quote on your stairs, try to gather more information beyond just the numbers.  Ask for photos of previous projects from the contractor or just simply as him/her to explain how the process is done.  Value is not always measured by dollar amount, especially when it comes to craftsmanship.

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