Arthur strives to balance aesthetics, functionality, and quality with costs when planning DIY projects in the home and garden.
How to Redo the Stairs and Landing
This article functions as a guide for a stairs and landing makeover. It includes steps and tips for replacing the skirting boards, varnishing, wallpapering, painting, decorating, and other minor DIY tasks.
In This Step-by-Step Guide
- Replacing Carpeting: A few years back, after removing the carpets on our stairs and upper landing, I replaced the pine floorboards on the upper landing with oak flooring.
- Concealing the Bell Wire: Earlier last year, our old single-glazed porch door, leading onto our downstairs landing, was replaced with a modern high-security, double-glazed door. The process of fitting the new door didn’t cause any damage to the surrounding doorway, but in order to fit the new door, the doorbell had to be discounted and dismantled. When I refitted and rewired the doorbell, I took the opportunity of hiding all the bell wire, with some of it being hidden beneath the plaster by chiselling a channel in the brick wall.
- Adding a New Consumer Unit and Meter Cupboard: Then late last year, we had our consumer unit (fuse box) modernised to the latest regulations. Then afterwards I replaced the old meter cupboard with a new, smaller and less obtrusive one.
Once all these following modifications were made, the stairs and landings needed redecorating to make good the damage (hence the makeover):
- Replacing the Downstairs Skirting Boards
- Modifying the Wooden Boxing for the Mains Power Supply
- Removing Fixtures and Fittings
- Tidying the Telephone Cable
- Sanding and Varnishing the Banister Rail
- Plastering Repairs and Prepping the Walls for Paint
- Wallpapering, Painting, and Decorating
- Re-Varnishing the Stairs
- Replacing Fixtures and Fittings
Below, I give a more detailed description of the modifications and the subsequent makeover.
Replacing Carpets With Wood Flooring
The first steps I undertook were to remove the stairs' carpet to reveal the wooden stairs, and to replace the upstairs’ landing carpet with oak floorboards.
After removing the stairs carpet I sanded the stairs back to the bare wood before applying three coats of quick drying oak coloured floor varnish.
Concealing the Bell Wire
When earlier last year we had our double glazing upgraded to the latest standards, as well as having all the windows replaced, we took the opportunity to also have our porch doors upgraded. The old inner and outer porch doors were ill fitting single glazed wooden doors that weren’t that secure and let in a lot of draught. The replacement doors are modern high security, well insulated double glazed units.
The fitters did an excellent job in replacing the doorframe, so there was no damage to the surroundings, but afterwards they had gone I needed to rewire the doorbell e.g. it wasn’t part of their remit. Previously all the wiring for the doorbell and door chimes was surface mounted, being held in place with cable clips. Therefore, to make a neater job of it I took the opportunity to conceal the bell wire from the consumer unit to the chimes and then to bury it under the plaster in the wall from the chimes through to the porch.
Using D-Line Mini Trunking
To conceal the bell wire running along the top of the wall, between the consumer unit and the bell chime, I opted to use D-Line mini trunking (8mm x 16mm). I could have buried it in the wall, under the plaster, as I did for the bell wire from the chimes through to the porch. However I’d found using mini-trunking a superb option for concealing small cables on previous DIY jobs e.g. audio cables, and therefore felt it would be ideal to conceal the bell wire along the top edges of wall above the door.
The reason for not using the mini-trunking to conceal all of the bell wire is because although trunking around the edge of walls can be unobtrusive, trunking down the middle of a wall is more noticeable.
The mini-trunking I used is white, and at just under 1/3 of an inch high and almost 3/4 of an inch wide is quite small (although you can get bigger sizes). So against the edge of a white ceiling, or down a white painted door frame, it’s unobtrusive. It’s also easy and quick to fix in place because of the self-adhesive backing that sticks to just about anything, and the glue is so good that once stuck in place its permanent.
Read More From Dengarden
D-Line Mini Trunking
Adding a New Consumer Unit and Meter Cupboard
Here's a breakdown of this process:
Reason for Downsizing the Meter Cupboard
The meter cupboard was originally built to house the electric and gas meters, and with the gas meter being so large the meter cupboard needed to be quite big. So much so that the bottom of the cupboard was six inches lower than the top of the living room door.
However, about ten years ago the gas company relocated the meter to the outside house wall; which then left a lot of empty space in the cupboard. Therefore, with the gas meter out of the way it left plenty of space to downsize the cupboard so that its base would be higher than the top of the living room door.
Reasons for Replacing the Consumer Unit
We’ve added a lot of additional wiring to existing circuits over the years by extending them to provide power to the outside for mains supply, lighting and power to the garden sheds, plus additional mains power and lighting for the recently built conservatory. Therefore, in replacing the consumer unit I could buy a larger one with more fuses so that I could create separate circuits for all the additional wiring and allocate a fuse to each new circuit.
Also, our consumer unit was so old that it wasn’t protected by any RCD (Residual Current Device) circuit breakers. Therefore in our old consumer unit fuses would only trip if you overload the circuit. Whereas RCDs (which are standard in the modern consumer units) detect a variety of electrical faults in the circuits and shut-off the power supply automatically, making it all much safer.
Therefore, for added safety, and because I wanted to the separate the existing additional wiring from the ring main e.g. outside power and conservatory and to give them their own circuits (protected by their own fuse), I decided to replace our old consumer unit with a modern unit that meets current UK Regulations.
For additional resilience, I also decided to add a separate (smaller) consumer unit, with its own RCD circuit breaker, for the outside lighting and power and sheds e.g. in the event of any electrical fault outside it’ll not affect the power supply in the house.
Overview of RCDs
In an ideal world there would be one RCD per fuse, but RCDs are still very expensive. Therefore under current UK Regulations it’s standard to have just two RCD circuit breakers in the consumer unit; with each one protecting half the fuses.
The disadvantage of having just two RCDs is that in the event of one tripping, due to an electrical fault on one of the circuits, then all the circuits covered by that RCD trip; losing half the power to the house. To mitigate against this, it’s traditional for the circuits to be split between the RCDs so that in the event of one of the RCDs tripping only half the power on each floor is lost.
For example, one RCD circuit breaker will be wired into the fuses for upstairs ring main and downstairs lighting circuit, while the other RCD circuit breaker will be wired into the fuses for the downstairs ring main and upstairs lighting circuit.
UK Electrical Power Supply and Circuits
The power supply (in simple terms):
- The power entering the property is 415V, protected by a 100Amp Fuse.
- This feeds into an electric meter, and then onto
- The consumer unit (fuse box) at 230 volts (50 Hertz) AC (Alternating Current). In contrast, the domestic power supply in the USA is 120v (60 Hertz).
Typical circuits in the consumer unit includes, but not exclusive to:
- Downstairs Ring Main: 32 Amp fuse, 7.3kw maximum load
- Downstairs Lighting circuit: 6 Amp fuse, 1.2kw maximum load
- Upstairs Ring Main: 32 Amp fuse, 7.3kw maximum load
- Upstairs Lighting circuit: 6 Amp fuse, 1.2kw maximum load
- Cooker circuit: 32 Amp fuse, 7.3kw maximum load
- Electric Shower circuit: 40 Amp fuse, 9.2kw maximum load
- Outside Electrics: 16 Amp fuse, 3.6kw maximum load
For further protection, each household appliance plugged into the ring main has its own separate fuse fitted at the plug, for example:-
- Items with a heating element, such as washing machines, dishwasher and electric kettles will have a 13Amp fuse fitted in the plug, giving a 3kw maximum load.
- Other items like a computer or TV etc. will have a 5Amp fuse fitted in the plug, giving a 1.1kw maximum load, and
- A lamp, or other small consumption items, will have a 3Amp fuse fitted in the plug, giving just under 700 watts maximum load.
For Americans, who may not be familiar with British circuits, the ring main is a loop of cable where the live wire goes from the fuse to around the entire ground or upper floor of the house and then joins back up at the fuse. With the circuit being a continuous loop it takes advantage of AC current alternating direction 50 times a second (50 Hertz); which means the cable can take twice the load without overheating. With a ring main, sockets are added to the loop at any convenient point, and there is no limit to the number of sockets that can be added; the only limitation is the maximum load of 7.3kw being used at any one time.
Remodelling the Meter Cupboard
Because of the size of old gas meter the base of original meter cupboard was six inches below the top of the living room door. This wasn’t a problem for us because we’re not particular tall, but it was a hazard for anyone taller than 6 feet.
Therefore, as the old gas meter had previously been removed (and relocated outside), once the new consumer unit was fitted, I decided it was time to dismantle the old meter cupboard and build a new smaller one that doesn't encroach on the living room door.
In designing and building the new meter cupboard, rather than buying new wood, I decided to:
- Recycle wood from the louvre doors originally fitted to the toilet at the top of the stairs; which we replaced with a concertina door when we bought the house, and
- Use oak floorboards, leftover from when I added oak flooring to the upstairs landing, to make the base of the cupboard.
After fitting the new cupboard I then smartened up the doors with three coats of Ronseal Rosewood coloured wood stain.
Remodelling: Final Phase
After rewiring the doorbell, and modifying the electric meter cupboard, the downstairs landing walls badly needed redecorating.
Therefore, it was time to make a detailed list of everything that needed doing, and the order in which to do it. Below is an outline plan of the tasks I identified as part of this final phase of the makeover:
Project Planning for the Makeover
- Replace the downstairs skirting boards
- Modify the wooden boxing for the mains power supply and main fuse
- Removal of fixtures and fittings
- Tidy the telephone cable tacked to the living room door frame with D-Link mini trunking
- Sanding and varnishing the banister rail
- Plaster repairs and prepping the walls around the meter cupboard and porch door
- Hanging the lining paper and wallpapering downstairs
- Painting and decorating e.g. emulsion and gloss paints, wood stain and wood polish
- Re-varnish the stairs
- Replace the downstairs two way light switch
- Replace fixtures and fittings