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."