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PreFab Staircase
How to Save With A Prefab Staircase
Pictures of Prefab Staircase
Prefab Oak Railing
Prefab Wall Cap
Prefab Balcony
Prefab Treads

Artisan Specialties definition of a prefab staircase.  All treads, risers, and skirt boards have been built as one unit in a staircase manufacturing plant Like Southern Staircase.  You require only the installation of hand railing and trimming out of the top and ends of the staircase skirt boards.  The only place we will ever recommend for a prefab staircase is Southern Staircase.  They have the very best in new construction staircases, and just about everything is set up by computer.

Why do I push Southern Staircase when I can do the work?  Thanks easy.  Any staircase man worth his salt will not nail any railing or posts.  They are glued and bolted! With the balusters most of them are screwed into the stairway treads.  Only in a few areas will you not be able to do this.  With Southern Staircase they make their stairs in the factory where all treads and risers are mortise into the skirt boards!  That was the way they built staircases a hundred years ago, and the best way to do it to prevent squeaks.  With a cut-in staircase you do not have the option of mortising the treads and risers into the skirt boards.  That is why I recommend all new home construction having their staircases in the building of their homes.  I will only tell you of the best people and services on this Web Site.  They do not compromise their quality of craftsmanship and nor do I.

Some contractors call this prefab railing, idiot rail.  The reason being it is so much more easier to screw prefaf staircases that have completed sections of prefab staircase railing to the floor or half wall, rather than have to build them from scratch.  The problem is having framers who do not get those walls or floors just right for the prefab sections that are to be installed.  The extra drywall mud on the outside corner of a wall where a rosette is going to have to be attached holding the railing securely.  But the biggest problem is finding someone who is good enough to cut the ends of rail right the first time, with all the framing variables you will run into using this type of staircase system.

Depending on your location, Artisan Specialties charges $85.00 per section of staircase handrail or a minimum of $500.00 whichever is the greater.  With special angled wall transactions on the top and bottom ends of the skirt board, like what is shown on this page, the price may go up.  For an example, there will be an additional charge of $225.00 for all of the staircase transitions showed on this featured design of staircase.  With an additional charge of $55.00 for the angled back cut railing and matching rail cap where the architect did not allow enough room for a rail rosette.

This is priced at new construction cost. If you are remodeling, other charges may apply.

Gramps always said you get what you pay for...............




Shown below is the process of a not so typical prefab staircase. What makes this staircase
so different is the none typical angle on the staircase landing and the inside wall of the
first tread.  I will start on top showing how I installed the remaining sections of skirt
board, and the process I used to accomplish what it needed.

CLICK ON ANY OF THE PICTURES BELOW TO ENLARGE
ITEM A1
Here you are looking up the prefab staircase. The balcony of this prefab staircase runs into the second floor wall on the left. On the right there is a short section of prefab balcony that goes back about four feet at the top of the staircase. There are a total of three prefab balcony sections that need to be assembled in this area. Doing the prefab sections of staircase on the balcony is relatively simple. Drill half inch holes about 3/8 of an inch into the balcony rail cap, (this is the section of the prefab railing that has the 1 x 6 on the bottom) space the holes equally and about every 4th baluster; (look at ITEM A25 for an example). Then drill a 1/8 inch pilot hole in the middle of the ½ inch hole you just drilled all the way through. Apply an adhesive like liquid nails to the sub floor where you will set the prefab railing. Use 4 inch deck screws to fasten to the sub floor. The sections that you need to know what your doing are on the rake sets of prefab staircase railing that are located on the sides of the staircase going up to the landing. I will share how to fasten the actual railing together on a different page.
ITEM A2
This is one section of the prefab staircase balcony that will be installed. This is a must with any balcony so read closely. When your balcony railing ends at a wall, you use what is called a rosette at the end of your rail to finish it off and have a way to attach your attractive oak railing to the wall. You need to have screws fastening the rosette into the framing of the wall, and most of the time there is no framing to attach your prefab railing to. This is what you do. Cut out the sheetrock on the other side of the wall and install one 2 x 10 to hold the screws that will be holding your rosette to the wall. You can use a 2 x 8, but a 2 x 10 will give you more leeway if you need it. Always start by cutting the top railing long and to the angle of the wall. You will be surprised how much sheetrock mud changes the angle you will cut! Set the whole prefab railing section where it lines up to what you want on the floor. I let it overhang about 1 ½ inches, so when I run my basecap moulding under the rail cap against the wall, I have a ½ inch reveal to the outside of the rail cap. Look to see how you’re cut lines up with the wall. If it looks good, use the angle you cut the rail with on your final cut. The rosette is ¾ of an inch thick so remember to subtract that amount with your final cut.
ITEM A3
Pictured here is the short prefab staircase balcony section. This section with go to the top left of the prefab staircase and be attached to the prefab oak railing pictured above. If you click on the picture to enlarge you will see that when you receive your sections of prefab railing from Southern Staircase they build the sections of prefab railing longer than what you need. This gives you plenty of room to cut the angle for the wall. Even when there is no sheetrock mud around the area you will fasten this prefab railing to, the wall can be out of plumb making a 3/16 inch gap under or over the top of the prefab railing!! You must trial cut all sections going into the walls of a home. If you do not, well so much for being inexpensive when you have to buy another section of railing right? Another warning. If you think you have a gap around the prefab railing before you put the rosette on the end to attach it to the wall, you haven’t see anything yet. The rosette will make that gap much bigger because of the rosette’s size!! Take your time; do not get in a hurry. What you are doing will stop your family and friends from falling through the prefab staircase you are installing, when installed right!
ITEM A4
Zooming into this picture you can just make out the small section of prefab balcony railing on the right, (ITEM A3). All of the prefab staircase balcony sections have been installed and partially finished. Looking under the prefab balcony rail cap you can see the 1 3/8 inch basecap moulding that I installed to finish this prefab staircase out. On a cut in, or stick built staircase I use what is called landing tread, or nosing. Southern Staircase has a type of landing tread that I love. It is 5 ¼ to 5 ½ inches wide, giving you a very nice profile. The landing tread replaces what the prefab staircase section used, called rail cap, (the 1 x 6 bottom of the prefab railing). I have another section of my website that has a page dedicated to winder and straight, cut in, or stick built staircases. You can see that section by clicking HERE.
ITEM A5
Looking down from the very top of the prefab staircase you can see the angle of the landing on the outside wall, and how the skirt board ends abruptly on the end of the wall. Another thing you need to know. A prefab staircase does not mean everything is done. It means you receive prefab sections of oak railing made to what ever length you may need. It’s up to you to fill in all those little places that make a staircase something special to look at. Not something that was slapped together. The hard part is finished. Southern Staircase made this prefab staircase with the inside skirt board, (next to the wall), and prefab staircase treads and risers. All you have to do is install the loose oak railing. Sounds easy right? I have seen professional engineers’ break down and call me for help. Not having a level floor or a plumb wall can through off most people who think there are no options. Just remember this. If you start to install your prefab staircase and then call me, additional charges may accrue. Installing a prefab staircase is a whole lot let expensive that building a cut in staircase! But may cost you the same amount if you ruin the prefab sections and have to re-order.
ITEM A6
This is the unfinished outside of the prefab staircase. Zooming into the bottom left, you can see I'm a firm believer of using liquid nails. Looking at the first tread of the staircase you can see how the inside wall has an angle right next to the skirt board. The only way you will know what to do with an angle like this is when you are installing a prefab staircase, to have been exposed to this situation before. That is another reason I carefully choose what pictures to make available on my WebSite. I try to show people how to overcome situations just like this! ITEMS A13 through ITEMS A15 goes into the details.
ITEM A7
This is a picture of the first piece of prefab rake railing for the prefab staircase. Notice how the left end does not have that small section you see visible in ITEM A5 on the right. That small section I had to make infield to custom fit the oak wall cap and oak hand railing. When you have what I call a cut up landing, there is very little hope to have prefab staircase railing manufactured and be precise enough to fit that compound angle. Now you understand how much experience is needed to install a section of that lovely idiot rail huh? No staircase is the same; they have the floor framing in different places. When the builder uses a truss system on the floor framing it can get rather interesting as to where to fasten the 4 inch decking screws to hit anything solid under the sub-flooring. All in all a prefab staircase with prefab railing is the quickest way to install a staircase and save money!
ITEM A8
With this picture you will see how I drew on the bare sheetrock walls to help me envision how I wanted to finish off the custom staircase landing. Look closely at the right left side to see how I use a transition form one set of stairs to another. It takes time to know how to finish off a staircase, even when you are using a prefab staircase. By zooming in on the picture you can see how prefab staircases have the skirtboards already installed into the staircase. These prefab staircases have the treads and risers mortised into the skirtboards just like they did over a hundred years ago. The exception is that the skirtboards are laid out and mortised by computer for a very, very tight fit. Then they are glued and installed to help prevent any squeaks in the staircase. The 2 x 4 framing on the left side is the half wall that was built by the framer, not the installer, or Southern Staircase. It is very important not to have the top of the wall go past the top edge of the skirtboards. If you do there will be a gap on the top of the skirtboards that will show. The outside of the half wall will have basecap installed under the 1 x 6 prefab railing cap to hide any gaps there. Keep looking down this column of thumbnail pictures to see how it turned out. There will always be areas that your prefab stairs can not be installed on. The top, bottom, and landings of the stairs are the most common places where your prefab stairs do not work out.
ITEM A9
Now you can really get a look at how a compound landing can slow you up with a prefab staircase installation. The old “idiot rail” does not look so idiot proof now does it? With anything in life, the more you do it, the better you're at it. I have had many a staircase make me scratch my bald head. Only if you have installed prefab and cut-in staircases for a period of time will you know what to do, and I know I’m not done yet, as long as the blue printers have not run out of ink. When you have a compound staircase landing and do not know how to finish it off the only thing you can do is ask a professional. Advice is always FREE for the initial consultation. And if after you talk with me you still do not feel comfortable in undertaking your own project, I will be more that happy to do it for you.
ITEM A10
The inside corner of the compound landing finished. No landing tread or “nosing” is run until the skirt boards are finished. Then after the nosing you can install the oak flooring or something different all together. Personal, if I have oak staircase treads I will have an oak landing to match it. You can say that the landing is really a cut in stair. No prefab staircase is able to finish a compound landing off accurately. There are far too many variables involved to know what to do. Not only do you need a talented staircase man to install the prefab stuff. You need a talented trim man too! I hope with your interest in this prefab staircase section you will also look at the many different options available to you with designing the interior of your home. Please take a few more minutes and brows around my custom interior trim, cabinets, and of course my cut in staircases for all kind of different pictures and FREE advice.
ITEM A11
Kidding, no I did not use this one. I try to envision what Ii want before I make it. I knew that the length was what I wanted because the landing tread would be 5 ¼ to 5 ½ inches wide, but was unsure of the height, so I just laid this plinth block where I wanted it to see how it would look. Then marked the top and cut it for height. If you are doing this type of work you will find out that there is seldom any framing behind the sheetrock to fasten your extended landing tread to. With this in mind do the following; Put a large amount of adhesive next to the wall, and especially where the two boards come together. Using 2 inch air nails slant your nails in opposite directions to pull the wood into the wall and hold it there while the adhesive dries. If you are doing a stain grade wood, be careful about the adhesive because it will not stain. If you are doing a paint grade wood you are in luck. Here is a great trick for any small gaps in a paint grade application. Put a small amount of yellow wood glue where the crack is, (you should already have some if you did what I told you above) then using sawdust rub some into the crack. After you do this use an orbital sander and it will leave no visible cracks!
ITEM A12
To have a transitions point for the 5 ¼ inch speed base into the 1 3/8 inch basecap on top of the prefab staircase’s skirt board you need to have this plinth block to separate both of them. The 5 /14 inch speed base has the top of the basecap cut back on a 45 degree angle so the basecap will run right into it. This gives an even flow to all of the trim on the staircase making it look at one piece instead of two. I have seen people run this speed base on top of the skirt boards, but to me this is too gauntly and makes the top of the staircase look like someone did not want to spend the time to make a plinth block for the much needed transition of moulding. Installing a plinth block also serves the purpose of professionally terminating the landing tread, (nosing) into the skirt board.
ITEM A13
Now at the bottom of the staircase. Once again you can see by zooming into this picture how I drew on the raw sheetrock walls to better give me an idea of what I envisioned finishing this section. This prefab staircase just had enough room to fit before hitting the cased opening on the right side of this wall. The only thing that will take time to install is a compound extension of the skirt board so everything still flows together when you are looking up the staircase. One of the most important things that Southern Staircase does is install ¼ thick temporary protective sheets on the top of their oak treads to take all of the abuse that occurs when going up and down the staircase. During the framing of a house Southern Staircase can also install temporary stairs so you will not have any accidents going up and down ladders hauling heavy materials and equipment. Truly a full service new home staircase company!
ITEM A14
A close up view of the prefab staircase skirt board on the right. Is there anyone who does not know what I'm going to do after seeing my sketch on the sheetrock? I mostly keep my tricks of the trade to myself, but with what I’m getting ready to show you how to do you will have to know what products to use for the base results. It does not have to be a prefab staircase, a fitting on the handrail, a return on crown moulding, or anything but a small piece of trim that if you nail it can easily be blown apart by the nail. What you use is called Miter Bond. This is commercial super wood glue and is made in England. The only place I can find it in Columbia is at Web-Don off of Shop Road, (803) 695-1456. I do not care what type of adheasive you have used in the past. There is nothing out there like it to date!! All of the pictures from A14 through A20 have been installed using this amazing product. It can be a very dangerous product if you get any on your fingers. It will not come off. And you will be stuck to anything you are holding. So please take precautions.
ITEM A15
Here is a semi finished view after I installed the skirt board transition and wall base cap moulding.  All painting will be touched up after everyone has finished in the home.  These pictures are to show you how my company, Artisan Specialties  installs interior trim.  At one time in my life a Trim Man did everything.  Now it seams the Trim Man does the trim in the home.  Then you have a different person who builds the cabinets, and another who installs the staircases.  Go figure huh?  Well there is one good thing.  My company still does every bit of all of the above!  Give me a call today, or simply drop me an email to get started.
ITEM A16
Remember that small section of railing on the outside of the landing? Well here it is with my sketching on the wall. Do you see how the 2 x 4 top plate of the half wall is higher that the prefab skirt board of this staircase? What would you do? Cover it up and don't worry about it? Take your time and chisel the extra wood down flush to the skirt board? I hope you know which option I elected for. I can not express enough the need for prepping the surrounding areas of a prefab and cut-in staircase, not to mention all of the different areas in your dream home you will be installing the door, window, and other miscellaneous trim moulding. What is even more important have a framer you trust who is capable of building the walls around your prefab staircase. And if you are lucky enough to find that exceptional framer who can cut the stringers of a cut-in staircase and keep the rise of the staircase within the 3/8 inch variance for building code, well let me just tell you that you have gotten real lucky! I can not tell you how many times I have seen a new home with major differences in the rise of each step. It is really sad to see what the building industry has come down to… the lowest bidder, with most being from a third world country. It is a norm to see speed base, crown, and casing with a 5/16 inch gap in the corners. The contractor’s philosophy? The painter can fill the crack with caulk and you will never know. That is until a year later when that one year caulk shrinks, and your warrantee is gone!
ITEM A17
A close up of the same section. You can see here that the person who did the takeoff on this prefab staircase did not order a tread for this part. It was too much of a variable to chance destroying an expensive oak tread for a prefab unit. On my package deal page you will see under staircases that I reserve the right to specify what material goes on your staircase. This is a great view why I say that. If you zoom in and look at the end of this prefab skirt board you will see that it is made of multiple layers like plywood. This is the big difference. All skirtboards from Southern Staircase are made like this, with an extra hard primed coating to help prevent nicks and scratches. But that is not the reason I will only use this product. It will never cup or bow. That is the main reason. How many times have you seen a 1 x 12 used on the inside wall of a staircase and there is a gap next to the riser? That is because the 1 x 12 is cupped in the middle. The riser does touch the middle of the riser, but the top and bottom have gaps. Southern Staircase has this skirt board material. It comes 3/4 x 9 ¼ x 16. Call Southern Staircase today for a FREE quote on your next project.
ITEM A18
First step to finishing off this difficult area on the prefab staircase. Extend the main part of the staircase skirt board out flush with the end of the wall. Use the special glue I talked about on item A14 if you want it to stay where you put it. And when you do use this glue it will dry within 60 seconds! No clamping or long waiting for it to dry is needed. After you have glued the skirt board extension to the end, cut another piece of the same material, making sure that the small top is level. Make sure to give yourself enough length to install the base cap with the angled cuts you will be making, about 3 inches should give you enough room for that. Use a small torpedo level to help you with leveling. Do not worry about any small gaps you may have between the materials, I will share with you another trick of a Master Staircase Installer you will love.
ITEM A19
At his point you should have both pieces flush with the outside corner of the wall. The top should be level across and be wide enough to install your base cap on the top of the prefab staircase skirt board you have extended out. I should not have to tell you this, make sure you are cleaning all surfaces and edges of any drywall mud while prepping the different pieces before gluing and installing. If the end of your skirt board is a rough cut where you need to extend it out, re-cut it square. If a contractor installs a prefab staircase using his or hers own employees, most do not do a good job. Your prefab skirt board is starting to take shape now. Only a few more things to do.
ITEM A20
Last steps: Install the front part of the prefab staircase skirt board transition flush to the outside corner of the last part you installed. Make sure when you cut the front piece of material you give a reveal of a little more than half of the short wall, subtract the width of the basecap moulding. Run base cap moulding on the top of the skirt board to finish it off and help hide any gaps there. Do you see how I stepped down the front of the skirt board and terminated the base cap with a return? OK, here are my last two tricks:
1) If you have a wall that is in and out making a huge gap you can do one of two things. Nail the basecap using the outside top edge of the skirt board to give it the correct reveal and caulk next to the wall. Or, just nail it flush with the wall and have a reveal that is in and out on the top edge of the skirt board. Your choice. You should have contracted with a real framer so you would not have this.
2) After you have installed all of the skirtboards extensions, returns and before you install the basecap. Use car bondo. Do not use the type of bondo that had fiberglass strands added to it. Use the bondo that is smooth. After about 30 minutes, the bondo has hardened, (depending how much hardener you add) you can use an orbital sander to make it as smooth as a baby’s butt. No seams!! You can also use bondo on many more areas of your home.
ITEM A21
This is the outside of the picture above. You can see the base cap moulding under the prefab staircase rail cap. You can also see how the last part of oak rail cap is running uphill if you zoom in on the picture. This is because the framer cut the wall to long at rough in. Could it have been fixed? Yes. Why did I not fix it? The contractor did not want to spend the money. Believe me, I thought twice before I posted this picture, but I also thought you needed to be aware of the consequences from none actions. That way you will make sure your framing is right! By the way, I only charged $15.00 to fix it… the contractor did not want to spend the time to get any sheetrock mud for the wall. I can not stress enough for the need to have your framing around any staircase correct, be it a prefab staircase or a cut-in staircase; your trim is only as good as what it is attached to! It takes many years to become a professional staircase builder, a cabinet man, or a trim man. But after those man years you will know many tricks of the trade to help out when the framing is bad. I have not seen a project yet that I could not complete!
ITEM A22
The top picture of ITEM A21. When you have an architect draw up your custom plans you still will have problems with the actual construction of the finished product. All plans I receive have a neat little section saying plans will be field verified by contractor. To this I give my clients a neat little section that says, contractor will inform the client if their custom plans do not work as outlined during the construction of their project and proposal an alternative at an additional cost. I did not build this home. It was a high end spec home in the Lake Carolina section of Columbia. When the architect did not give enough room for this prefab staircase this is what could happen. There was no room to install an oak rosette to finish of the oak railing next to the sheetrock wall. You can see how I was forced to cut the rail back in this picture. Once again you can see why some sections of a prefab staircase are not prefab. There would be little change of installing a factory section in this area, so I cut-in the remaining section on this compound landing.
ITEM A23
The finished view of the prefab oak railing and nosing looking up this beautiful staircase. When you zoom in you can see how the skirt board steps up with the rake of the stairs on the staircase landing. I have seen all kinds of shortcuts used in areas like this, and all of them look bad. The only way a staircase looks good is if everything flows. Meaning there are no termination points on the basecap moulding. When zooming in on this picture you can see the basecap under the prefab balcony rail cap, (1 x 6). There should have been an apron, (another 1 x 6) under the rail cap next to the wall with ¾ inch cove moulding between the apron and rail cap, plus 1 3/8 inch basecap under the apron. This is how I like to install all of my staircases. It makes all prefab and cut-in staircases more pronounced! When you come in the foyer of a home and look up the staircase you do want to make an impression, don’t you?
ITEM A24
Just about forgot the bottom left of the first step. Here you can see the 5/8 plywood that was installed to attach the prefab staircase to thr half wall. This also gives it the room needed to slide ½ inch sheetrock down the inside wall of the prefab staircase. The prefab railing with the bottom railing cap will hide any gaps that may be there. Sometimes you have to modify the prefab railing cap in the field to make it fit correctly. All balusters have screws holding them in place so if you have to remove 1 or 2 to modify the rail cap it is not that hard to do. The starter post on this prefab railing is also held together with screws so you can remove that also for in field modifications.
ITEM A25
This is the long rake section of prefab staircase railing gong on the outside wall of the prefab staircase. Look and you will see the holes that have been drilled to install four inch wood screws into the top plate of the wall. I cover the screws with either oak mushroom caps or oak plugs, depending on my clients. The holes consist of a ½ inch diameter drilled 3/8 deep, then a 1/8 inch hole drilled all the way through the center to the ½ home so I will not split the prefab rail cap. Space your holes equally on each side of the baluster and about every 4th one. Use plenty of liquid nails adhesive to securely anchor the prefab rail cap to the top of the half wall. Shim as needed to get the starter post plumb and the rail cap level.
ITEM A26
Finally the semi finished oak rail cap with a glimpse of one of the mushroom caps on the top left.  The contractor needed a wider base for the downstairs of this home.  Pictured here is an MDF speed base moulding with base cap mitered into the top to allow it to flow together.  This is not your typical prefab staircase. Most of the time if contractors are building a spec home they will have a much easier design to save on the installation cost.  This was a spec home, but it was a higher end spec home.

I hope you have enjoyed the pictures and installation method for this prefab staircase. I do have another page showing you how to join the different sections of prefab staircase railing and cut-in railing. It is not as hard as you would think to do by yourself. You just need to take your time. Measure 2 or 3 times and cut once. The wood does not grow back together. You will find satisfaction with trimming out you very own staircase. Trick you friends and tell them you did it all yourself. Well you did install those entire prefab staircase sections yourself, right? If you have a problem drop me an Email or pick up the phone and I will do my best to talk you through it. (803) 600 2919



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