Hate. Lots & Lots of Hate.

I want to punch our risers in the face; if risers on staircases had faces (or would it be singular “a face”?) but they don’t, so I can’t. GAH!

Yesterday I was chipper and optimistic. Today, not so much.

oscar the grouch

We naively began sanding the risers last Wednesday. We started using a palm sander with 40 grit sandpaper. It.took.forever. But slowly we were seeing a difference. That is until the pad you stick/clamp the sandpaper to wore out.

Now the sandpaper doesn’t make great contact with said riser. Also, it clamps kinda funny so the super thick 40 grit sheet does get pulled taut and therefore just snaps at the clamp. This would be the same pad that Home Depot does NOT stock. Some internet search found that Sears may, but I have to call. Otherwise we have to have it shipped from DeWalt.

So Wednesday evening, when we realize that the palm sander just isn’t cutting it, we move on to plan B. Bring in the bigger guns!


Enter the Black & Decker 3″x21″ Dragster Belt Sander.

B&D Dragster Belt Sander

According to the description, uses include:

  • Reaches to sands under kitchen cabinets
  • Sand decks to the edge – under railings.
  • Between spindles and banisters
  • Sanding large surface areas – Floors, Counter Top
  • Fast and aggressive material removal on rough surfaces like decks or table tops
  • Smoothing uneven edges or lips like uneven hardwood floors
  • Hard to reach areas

Sounds PERFECT!!

And this baby has power! Awesome.


We didn’t purchase said “Big Gun” until late last Wednesday evening. At 10pm, 4 steps into the last staircase, we decided our neighbors would probably appreciate it if we turned the power tools off.


We left for the shore knowing there was more sanding to do but confident we could finish it up this week.

Last night, we went back over to finish. Plugged everything in and picked back up with the 4th step down (we’d left off in the middle of it).

We were finding that the “Big Gun” was leaving ridges in the risers. It’s a large sander for such a small space. There’s not a lot of room to keep it moving, which is essential for all sanders but especially belt sanders.

Rob worked his way down the stairs.


And I followed with the palm sander to even things out.

About 5 minutes into sanding, I made an awful realization.

We can’t have nice things.

Immediately I told Rob to stop but damage was already done.


If you look closely at the belt sander, you may notice a small black knob on the right side.


If that knob is on the top, you can get the belt pretty close to the tread, moving toward the banister. However, when you hold the sander in the OTHER direction, moving toward the wall, that knob is now on the bottom of the belt. It’s also now on the side that’s already farther away from tread because of the placement of the belt.

You can see where I’m going with this.

Unknowingly, we were dragging said knob across our treads.


Our brand-spanking-newly-refinished treads.


Yup. It’s official. We can’t have nice things.

Ever the eternal optimist (even when I’m grouchy), I guess it could be worse. We could have kept going and noticed only when vacuuming up all the sawdust after we were all done.

Luckily we stopped as soon as we realized. It seems only 2 of them (the 2 in these pics) are badly scratched up. And it’s all right close to the riser, not far out into the middle. With a little touch up stain & sealer we should be able to fix it. It’ll add “character.”

But it’s just one more thing added to the ever-growing, never-shrinking TO DO list.

I think we will be purchasing a few new pads for the palm sander and taking the slower, yet less destructive, path to sanded risers.

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9 Responses to Hate. Lots & Lots of Hate.

  1. Lily says:

    Oh, geeze, isn’t that the freaking WORST?!?! I think you and I are simulatneously learning that much about homeownership SUCKS JUEVOS!!!

    Don’t let it get you down. I’m sure the damage is mostly reversable, and in the grand scheme of things, who cares if you have a few scratches in your staircase

    Yeah..I’m not buying it either 😉

  2. mrslimestone says:

    If it makes you feel any better, my stair treads are covered in scratches. I don’t know why (i dont have that problem on the other floors). It wasn’t like that when I moved it…i guess the stairs just get a lot more wear? Its only been a year and they look 25 years old!

  3. Sara says:

    I think your risers would be lovely painted cream along with your balusters. Just an idea to get you out of all that sanding!

  4. Sara says:

    By the way, your house is amazing and this is my new FAVORITE blog because I see myself and my fiance in every post you are doing!

    We went through so many of the same situations and thankfully we love everything that we’ve done – with the exception of a paint color I chose for a spare bedroom (the color name may or may not rhyme with ‘dink’….ha)

  5. Georgia says:

    Aww. I’m sorry. Risers are a pita and the two of you are such troopers. I’ve refinished my staircase twice. LOL. Glutton for punishment. Something to try, hot paint scraper. It seems I tried that on my risers the first time around and it worked ok but you will need to sand with a palm afterwards. ultimately, I found the wood wasn’t as nice as the treads so I went ahead and painted the risers.

  6. Kim says:

    I’m so happy you figured it out right away. It definitely coulda been worse.

  7. Mom Liv says:

    You may be having a horrible time – but your post is just hilarious! Such great articulation about being greatly aggravated! This, too, shall pass….

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  9. I have been doing this kind of work my whole life as well as decorative art and I would think that if you would just use a stripper on the stair case it would be a lot faster and less aggrevating and would probably do a much better job without having the expense of all that sandpaper your are going to use.
    Go get a gallon of Dad’s made by stripease at the local hardware store , some chemical resistant rubber gloves, eye protection, a couple of “throw away” brushes ( not the plastic ones the stripper will eat them up lol).
    It will come with a small spray bottle but dont use it! just brush the stripper on , let it set for a few minutes then brush a second coat on right over top of it, The trick is , is not to let the first application to get to dry before applying the second coat. Let it set and you will see the finish literally start to fall off. Take the little scrub brush that comes with the stripper and scrub away the paint and depnding on what you using as a finish wash down the wood with either water or mineral spirits according to the directions on the can.
    Trust me! you’ll thank me for it! just go buy a couple of my DVD’s is thanks enough lol at http://www.ArtFauxWorld.com

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