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Q: One visitor asked, "My husband and I are trying to hire a contractor to refinish our 1927 home's staircase and upstairs floors, which were covered with wall-to-wall carpet for years. The floors are no problem, but every person we talk to says they will sand and refinish stair treads, but not risers, because "most people just paint them." That would look silly in our home when all the woodwork is otherwise stained. I can't imagine having a new finish on the treads, and leaving the old, dark messy varnish finish on the risers. Please let us know why contractors will not do the risers, and if there is a way we can sand them ourselves before the contractors do the staining. If we are going to spend the money, we want everything to look good, not only parts of it!"

A: I can understand why a flooring contractor may not want to do the risers. It is all time consuming and labour intensive. I PREFER not to do them also. But I would not tell a customer I will not do them, if they are willing to pay the price. There is one exception. If the risers are oak veneer, it may be near hopeless to re finish them without breaking through the veneer. Of course, that is not likely to be the case in your older home. I think that if a flooring contractor cares about what matters to his customers, he will try and give the best advice possible. I have done risers as well as treads. Sometimes I give my best guess that a riser may not be worth the money in the end since the finished product may not actually look very good. People have been kicking them and denting the surface for decades, and it could be impossible to get out all the marks, for example. But if they really want them done, I will do them.

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