Upgraded Staircase: After
Photo: Linda Oyama Bryan
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Upgraded Staircase: After

What she did: First, Kara rebuilt a rotten stringer from underneath and added support beneath the landing. Then ­inspiration struck one day as she was removing vintage ¾-inch southern-pine roof sheathing from another old house. Rather than toss it, she planed, sanded, and shellacked it to use as wainscoting and a handrail.

Toughest part: Cutting the planks for the wainscoting at the correct angle, while they were already in place. Kara snapped a chalk line down the boards, then cut them with a circular saw.

Favorite finishing touch: The three sconces that run up the stairs, with three different carnival glass shades.

Timetable: Three weeks

Final budget: About $750. "The wood and my labor were free," Kara says. "But I paid a pro to refinish the treads."
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