A DIY: The Stair Project. Part Three, Risers.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

creating risers with hardboard, skewers, and screen mold trim
So, yeah, it's been a stitch since I mentioned the ol' DIY Stair Project I see.  Time to update with part three, the risers!

It's not quite done, this DIY Stair Project.

Of course.  

Maybe someday I'll start and complete a project in a timely fashion.  But, *shrug* seems to be how things roll around these parts:  in parts.  World's longest reno here.

But!  Most parts are done with the landing yet to be installed, (mmm, started) along with touching up the damage I wreaked, plus one last riser to finish.

So frustratingly, things a'-linger along still.

Last we left off, I was hard at work working on the spiffy, gorgeous, old-growth 1890's pine from a church in Bridgeport that I bought at Great Lakes Yard.

Here and there on the internets I've been given a small raft of sh*t for planing the surface to reveal the wood, in that I've erased history.

I get it, but, giving this wood a new life, resurrecting it, where otherwise it could have been destroyed thereby completely lost to history, is not only worth the effort but worth scraping off a smidge of timeworn, and in some cases burnt, outer shell.

Please don't give me any more sh*t for it.  Thank you.

Soooo, ok.  

Part of the hold-up with installation for this stair project was the risers.

A good while back, Mike and I dreamt of an open stair so I re-floated the idea to him.  Having yanked up a couple a' treads, it was revealed that there was no middle stringer which meant an open stair was whooo, totally a viable option.

stair before
*gag,* the stair before I started ripping it apart.  How did we live like this?!
In the end, while an open stair so tugs at me, we decided eh, let's not.  And in the end, further into demo, I discovered there would have been some minor odd spots and bits and such to hide, complicating a streamlined look.

Not to mention the patching, fixing, the sanding patching sanding and overall (albeit temporary) mess.

Having settled that, which I know is gigantically disappointing, risers were back on the table.

And I cannot tell you how many images of risers, DIY risers, riser inspo, riser options, modern risers, riser this riser that, that I scrutinized online.  Days, months, years worth.  

Because, I'm me, annoyingly, and slathering on a lick of paint, brush-mic drop, was not an option.  

Especially white paint...I can't understand that infatuation -- risers get kicked and dinged and beat up.  They'd be destroyed, dirty, and beaten up in an hour between Mike and Finn.  Holy cleaning nightmare to keep it looking sharp and pristine yet I see it everywhere online.  Do not get it.


After too many images, magically a plan formed.  Really truly, magically.  But, finally.

What did I do?  

Took some eighth inch thick Masonite, cut strips, glued on some bits, painted them black, sealed them up, and bam, done.

What were the bits?  Screen mould and skewers.

I'll give you a second.


Yes.  Screen mould trim (screen mold, whatever) and skewers.  Yes, skewers.

Hear me out.

I was looking for texture, a hint of pattern, and a third.  A third meaning that oft-trotted-out design theory that things harmonize best in threes.  Along with the color, pattern, texture, and shine theory.

One is of course the pine itself and I obviously did not want to detract from or compete with it.  Two is the gloriously rich paint color in the stair.  So three was the risers.  

The screen mould and skewers add an itty hint of texture and pattern, a tiny lil' nod to mid-century modern, all without competing with anything else.

Why the F skewers though Becky I mean c'mon that's just absurd, you're thinking still.

The thin line, the round shape, and the pointed end, I say to you, for that mid-century nod.

Ok.  Just truuust me, you're gonna love it.  

Or hey, if you don't and you still think I'm a total nut job, so be it but hopefully you're inspired.

hardboard strips, skewers and screen moulding trim
I didn't go with the round dowels.
Real easy to pull these risers together for this here DIY Stair Project.

What I used:
Now, I used that PC Universal Glue* which I had attempted to use on the foyer light fixture as I desired its supposed extra grippy-ness but regular wood glue* could work.  Gorilla glue,* while it obviously would work, I suspect you'd find cleaning up the foaming outbursts to be a royal pain in the a**.

First I did several tests including testing the Classic Teal* stair color before settling on black.

testing colors for risers
It's always darkest before the dawn -- what a mess.
Next was measuring the existing risers.  Here I opted to cut the strips of Masonite taller than the exposed area, thinking ahead to installation.  Somehow magically they were pretty much all the same width.  Very bizarre.

Once the strips were cut to size, about seven plus inches tall by about forty two-ish wide, it was time to lay out the screen mould and skewers which I did so randomly.  Randomly cut lengths, randomly trimmed the skewers, just random random random.
laying out screen molding trim randomly
Oh, right....why Masonite?  Because if you scroll back up and look, the existing risers were pretty rough with staple holes, dings, what-have-you, and Masonite was a swift, easy route to a smooth surface, to avoid patching, sanding, eh all that junk.

Ok, so when everything was laid out, which I did before gluing anything despite not marking riser pieces for designated spots, I then began gluing everything down.  

gluing down pieces of trim and skewers
Just a tiny bead of glue, cleaning up squish-outs and blobs as I went to ensure a tidy finish.

gluing everything down
A day or two later, back down to the basement I zipped and primed everything with two coats.

See how easy this is?

Next was the black paint.  Given that paint is paint and I opted to brush the paint on, I was concerned about brush strokes, hence giving Floetrol a whirl, see if it stood up to the rabidly rave reviews.

bottle of Floetrol and can of black paint
Oddly, in my zillions of years of painting things, I have never tried it once.  I went with a tablespoon of Floetrol to eight ounces of latex paint which may not have been enough.

Did it help?  I think so?  Sorta?  Not really?  Would I go out of my way to use it again especially as I have essentially a whole bottle left?  Eh, not sure?  I might try it again but can't say I'm a Floe-head. 

So, I did three coats of black paint, let that dry up and then two coats of water based polyurethane.

finished riser installed with skewers and screen mold
Can't show ya too much, ya know.
Then voila, tada, The Stair Project Risers!  A DIY!  Woot!

another view of the finished riser

Am I still nutso?  Maybe.  But hey, Mike and I love love love it.

Now onto the landing -- check it out here!

*The wood skewers and PC Universal Glue are Amazon affiliate links.  The tempered hardboard, screen moulding, primer paint, Floetrol, and Gorilla glue are a Home Depot affiliate links.  The black paint, water based polyurethane, wood glue, and Classic Teal from Valspar are a Lowes affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.


  1. I love "out of the box" thinking! They look great and I especially like the skewers. A creative mind is always a win-win!

    1. Aw Tina! Thank you so very much! Thrilled you think it looks great, thank you!

  2. Love it! It's one of those DIY projects where I didn't know where it was going at first and had some reservations along the lines...this could be too much, too fussy, too, too. But I read along carefully without cutting to the end and was reward but a really good looking and sophisticated end result. Well done!

    1. I know it sounds completely sketch and it definitely could have gone wrong in so many ways, as you thought! Thanks for patiently hanging in there! Thanks too, I’m excited you liked it! Thank you!

  3. Looks fantastic! Just curious, as I want to revamp our stairs as well, do you find the stairs slippery? I am sacred of slipping and crashing down them!

    1. Thank you very much! I have an upcoming post on how I worked out the slippery wood issue so please stay tuned!

  4. Looks great. Where's Finn?

    1. Thank you! I wasn't able to catch him sniffing around the stair as I was taking pictures but I'll try harder next time!

  5. Enjoyed your step blog and what I could see in the pics. Unless I've overlooked it, it would have been nice to see the whole stairs after completed. I read 3 articles.

    1. Thank you very much! I haven’t finished everything yet which is why I haven’t shown the whole thing. I most definitely will when I get it done so I hope you’ll come back! Thanks!


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