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August 27, 2011
Stairs: upper landing

Gail begins installing the second-story hardwood floor that will join the upper stair landing

We have two friends, Dirk and Steve, who have devoted untold hours of volunteer time to help us build our mountain home. Dirk wired the entire house and enabled us to pass our electrical inspection. Steve continues to tame our 50 acres of wilderness by thanklessly cutting, clearing and burning brush.

Over the years we have found various creative ways to compensate them for their unpaid time, specifically geared to their interests. We have treated Dirk to concerts by Mannheim Steamroller and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We have taken Steve to see “Star Wars in Concert.”

On Wednesday, August 24, Steve came down to the Bay Area, where we took him out to dinner and a concert. Brian Wilson, the genius behind the Beach Boys and one of Steve’s favorite artists, was performing at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. Brian and his band sang and played for almost two hours, performing classics from our youth and getting everyone up and dancing. We had a splendid time. We also looked with envy at the winery’s nicely groomed acreage, and hoped that someday our property will look a fraction this nice.

Gail, Russell and Steve at the Mountain Winery (taken with Steve's phone)

Steve’s presence enabled us to make another trip up to the mountain, Thursday through Saturday. (Being empty-nesters definitely has its advantages.)

Our task this weekend was the last of the three stair landings, the upper landing. There were three tricky factors. First, once again Russell had framed the rough landing with a lip. This meant that once again he had to splice an extra bullnose onto the side of the landing tread in order to fill a gap. Luckily we remembered the Dremel tool this time, so the splice piece was very easy to cut.

Russell uses a Dremel tool to cut a splice piece for the side bullnose


The upper landing, before and after the landing tread is put in place

The second tricky factor was that the upper landing tread had to blend in with the second-story trim. Our original plan was to use 1/2” half-round trim to match the 1/2” half-round of the tread’s bullnose. Gail, however, had ended up buying a fancier trim at the lumber store. We had to figure out how to blend it with the tread bullnose. Then we had to cut the trim so everything would fit together. We got the splice made, but it took five different tools to accomplish it!

The five tools used to cut the upper landing trim: drill with paddle bit, Dremel with saw blade, rotozip, Dremel with sander, round file


The upper landing trim, spliced into the landing tread, now stained cherry. (The trim will ultimately also be stained to match the tread.)

The third tricky factor was that the upper landing tread also had to blend in with the second-story floor. This meant that we would actually have to start building the second-story floor. Russell had started putting down an OSB sub-floor last weekend, and Gail had spent the week gathering up more hardwood floor slats down in the Bay Area.

Gail spent most of the weekend manually installing these floor slats. She figures that she spent a good nine hours putting down nine rows of slats. She believes that in the future, she can increase her speed to half an hour per row.

The upper landing, before and after the weekend’s work

Gail has arranged the slats in a herringbone pattern that will be absolutely beautiful once the floor in complete. (Gail plans to put hardwood flooring on the entire 2,000-foot upstairs floor.) In the past, she has remarked that Russell’s stairs will be the showcase of the finished house. Perhaps so, but Russell believes that the only thing people will see will be Gail’s finished wood work.

The result of our hard work: from below, the upper landing tread looks like all of the other treads…

… while from above, it looks like part of the hardwood floor!

While Gail toiled on her hands and knees, Russell once again did work remotely on his PC. On the first day, Steve drove his truck down the northwest road and promptly got it stuck at the bottom. Stuck as in it slid sideways down a hill. After walking back up and down with a winch, he spent the half of the second day slowly coaxing his truck back up the hill. The good news is that he got it back up without us having to call our neighbor yet one more time.

It was another productive weekend, and Gail was the most productive of all. We will take a break next weekend when we go camping over Labor Day. But everyone – including Steve – is already wondering when we can make it back up here again.

Amid the gorgeous weather, we were also treated to a dozen turkey vultures circling very closely overhead. Russell ended up with a lot of pictures of blank sky, but he also managed to get a few good photos!


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