Stair Building, Taming the Rain and Our Dirty Little Secret

Making the bridge from downstairs to upstairs, installing the gutter system and the back side of our house.

Step by Step

Building stairs can be overwhelming. You can’t exactly go out and find, much less pay for, the huge pieces of wood that are needed for the stringers (the large side supports). You must measure everything 800 times and cut once. For this reason, Barry had been putting off the project for some time. We watched Youtube video’s (most were crap), called his Dad multiple times and set up small stations of concrete blocks that were pseudo steps to test for height, ease of use, etc.

Then one day while we were contemplating the project the craziest thing happened, a German angel appeared. A scruffy, bearded, 6 foot 5 inch German on a huge KTM motorcycle appeared at our house. I’m being a bit dramatic here but it did feel like he appeared at the perfect time and he instantly seemed like an old friend. He wasn’t supposed to be here on a work for food program but that is what ended up happening.

Barry and Tobbe worked non-stop for 3 days, measuring, cutting and sanding. We don’t own a router so Barry had to cut out the grooves for the steps with a circular saw and Tobbe cleared the wood slices with a chisel.

building wood stairs

They tacked in the steps temporarily to make sure that the steps fit into the grooves of the stringers. One of the stringers had a slight bow so they had to un-attach the steps and insert each step individually from top to bottom. In addition to the steps fitting tightly into the grooves, they used thick bolts on the board that would be against the wall and two screws from underneath, at an angle on the presentation side. They wanted to use bolts on both sides but I couldn’t live with the showpiece of our living area pock marked like a teenagers face.

Wood Stair Project

They put the stairs in place, made a few adjustments and …………..

wood stairs

TA-DA!  No more ladders! One nugget Tobbe left us with was saying “I like your house. In Germany everything must be perfect and straight”. No comment. 

stair building complete


This year is the first year that I have seen manufactured putty in our hardware stores. We have previously used wood dust with glue to fill in the cracks. Using wood glue makes your sanding disks gummy and you must change them out more frequently but you always get an exact match for the wood you are using. Packaged putty is hit or miss and $5.00 for a small jar. We found that

Cedro = Cedar, Pilon = Mahogany, Laurel (light) = Oak, Laurel (Dark) = Walnut, Manu = Walnut & Gavilan = Mahogany

Make sure that you test this for yourself.


To ensure the integrity of the foundation and to keep heavy rains off of the house we installed a gutter system. We chose the Colonial style, PVC gutters. We had the choice between PVC, two styles, and galvanized steel. The PVC’s are kind of bulky, ugly and white but we could install them ourselves. The galvanized are handmade to meet the specs of the house but they require expensive soldering and painting by a welder. The total cost for our gutter project was $600 in material.

Our Dirty Little Secret aka The Backside of our House

Comments and e-mails from people following our progress led me to post this unsightly truth. Many people leave kind comments such as “Looks like hard work, keep it up” or “We are rooting for you”. Even people that are just twitter connects cheer us on. Then there are the people who feel the need to leave a 3 paragraph comment describing how they have done this, that and the other for 40 years in such and such a state and they would never have done xxx the way we are doing it. They never offer any help and only criticisms. I often tell them that they are free to come and help anytime they want.

One comment that did strike a chord with me though was “If that is what your electric looks like I can’t wait to see your plumbing”.

So here is a picture of the back outside wall of our house, our service wall. We have a lot of visible pipes that run from the water tower, from the bathrooms and from the gutters. The entire second level is made up of single paneled wood walls so we didn’t have a lot of places to hide pipes. Plus, we had never done acrylic stucco before and neither had our builder so we told him to start with the back wall first. It was a good thing too because he didn’t mix it properly, he added water to it and then applied it with what appears to be his hands. We ended up hiring someone else to do the interior walls but what’s done is done outside.

I don’t like that there is an ugly side to our house but I’m not concerned with what Better Homes and Gardens would think anyway.

water pipes wood house

Thank you to everyone that communicates with us during this project.


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *