Building the Front Steps

Project: Bob's Shingle Style Home, Episode 24, Part 3

Bob meets with the interior designers for a look at their color and fabric schemes as they’re starting to come together.  We get a peek at Bob’s new basement workshop, complete with bright new flooring products like Pergo and Amtico.  Outside, Ryley’s putting together the new front steps.

Part 1: Discussing the Interior Design Plans
Part 2: Installing a Decorative Inlaid Vinyl Floor and Reviewing the Workshop Layout
Part 3: Building the Front Steps

Bob talks with carpenter Bob Ryley about the elaborate front steps being built. Special care is taken because it is the approach to the house and the first thing people will see. A picture frame is used around each step, and redwood, which will weather beautifully, is inserted.


This project centers around the remodel of Bob Vila's own gracious Shingle Style home in Cambridge, MA. It's a house with a lot of history and beautiful architectural details, many of which were obliterated in remodels of the 50s and the 70s. On the centennial of the house's construction, Bob gets together the best talents in the business to recreate and renew it to its former glory, making some important modifications along the way that will transform this into a dream house for today.

Also from Bob's Shingle Style Home

Hi, I'm Bob Vila. Welcome home again. Well, the job isn't quite done, but like millions of Americans who remodel their own homes, the Vilas are moving in . We've got the first load right here.

We've got lots to talk about today. The interior designers are here, and they're showing some of their ideas for colors, fabrics and wallpapers. Also, we've got Reilly, and we've got Danny working up front on one of the most essential features to any the remodeling jobs; new front steps and a railing around the front porch, and most exiting, I'm starting to move into my basement workshop. Stick around, its good to have home again.

Bob Vila' s Home Again.

Let's get started meeting Susan Tongor and Christine Lane, our Interior Designers from CLC here in Boston.

Hi, Bob.

Ladies, how are ya?

Good. How are you doing? I'm great. I'm happy to see you. This is the first time you have actually been here with me in front of the camera, but you've been working behind the scenes for months, right?


Oh, absolutely, and you know that's really important that we start early in the process, because all the product from the fabric to the furniture to the window treatment really has a long lead time So it's important that we start early on.

But Christine, the role of the interior designer isn't just ordering stuff, right?

Right. Typically what we do is we start with the floor plan, which you can see here. And then you have a lot of gorgeous rugs that you've collected and antique furniture. So what was we've plugged in your existing furniture along with some new pieces.

Yeah, when you're working with somebody as old as I am, we already have a bunch of stuff in the back ground and we're coming from another house. So, you've helped us inventory, what we have and figure out what to use and what to replace.

Right, right.

Yeah . So we're in our dining room here, and you've laid out the furniture placement in terms of a rug that we've had forever .

And it's a small dinning room,so there is really only room for the rug, a table and some chairs. And of course we have our built in hutch. But let's talk a little bit about the colors and things you've chosen for the dining room.

Well, the starting point was your beautiful area rug. And then from there we went on to this William Morris wall paper, which is very typical of this style and period of house.

Late 1880's and 90's.

Right, right.

And William Morris was this fantastic Englishmen who created unbelievable designs.

Tell me a little bit about how this paper is made.

It's an arts and craft paper , and it's done with hemp blocks, out of pear wood blocks, and it has eight different colors, and everyday a different color is put on so it's really an eight day process.

So this is still done in the exact same way that it was done in the 19th century.

Right, exactly.

And also because of that it tends to be a little bit expensive so what we recommend, Bob, is to have it above the chair rail, and use the paint color below.

So you chose this color here, this blue, which is in the paper.

Yeah, that's right.

And, what you've done, well, you can see right behind you here, Cristine what you've done is spec the paint below the dado, the chair rail, and then the expensive paper on a wall.

That's right.

But we have large windows too

What about this table that you've got in the picture here?

Well, you haven't selected a dining room table, but this is what we would recommend. This is a neoclassical Bedamar style table.


And the scale of it is nice. This dining room is more of a cozy scale. And this table will allow you to expand it with leaves so that for larger dinner parties, you can accommodate all the seating.


And a Bedamar style chair would look very handsome with it.

Mm-hm. And you've chosen fabrics. This is really is really neat. Tell us a little bit about that.

This is a glazed chintz fabric.


And it has an Asian motif on it which is very handsome.


And the color also picks up the color of the berry in the William Morris wall covering.

Right. Subtle little things like that, that really key a room and help bring it together.

That's right, so it really pulls it together so that the concept is nice and tight.

Okay, well looking back at the floor plan, you've taken advantage of, as we said a minute ago, rugs that I've got.

Over the years.

My wife and I found this rug actually on a trip a few years ago. in Greece.

That's right.

And you're gonna put that in the front hall.


And this one, we've had forever. And you're gonna put that in the living room.

In the living room, right.


And the paper that you've chosen for the front hall is interesting. Because , again, it's a William Morris, right?

That's right.

And this is what they call his chrysanthemum pattern. And you can see it's a beautiful leafy pattern -- very typical of his style.

And the important thing here is to make sure that you have light woodwork when you're using a paper like this.

That's right Bob, because it really makes a nice contrast, and it keeps a very fresh palette in the space.

But I love the stain color that we chose for the floor.

Oh yes -- very handsome.

We have the details put in. But when you have that red against the floor, and it's done, it's gonna be gorgeous.

It's very rich.

Let's take a look in the library.

Okay, great.

Now, in this room, obviously, we've got the proportions from the original house, which are not a square, but rather a cut off corner with a fireplace. And then we've got our architectural renovation. Which includes some details like this beautiful library wall that we're just finishing up, and the new floor that we installed, which is essentially an oak herringbone. And tell us a little bit about what your job was here.

Okay. What we wanted to create in this room is a very warm, cozy room, so you'd feel very comfortable in the snowstorm in the middle of winter. So, what we did is we took this mahogany and put a red mahogany stain on it to make it very rich and enticing. And then for the floor, we did the same thing. We put the red mahogany stain, which is a slightly lighter color than the red mahogany.

Yeah. And, of course, the mahogany carries around the whole room with the cornice molding. The walls have just gotten a coat of this red paint. What happens next?

Well, what we're suggesting is doing a parchment finish, or a striae finish, so it has a kind of Pompeii-ish red look.

So that involves ragging, or glazing, or what?

Right. It involves glazing think so it brings and we've layered the colors so it becomes very rich.

It is going to be a special paint job, yeah.


And then you've chosen some fabrics as well.

That's right, this is also very beautiful. It's a Moire damask and we will be putting this on the two upholstered chairs that will be on the angle coming off of the fireplace, which will create a really nice seating area for those cold winters, fire, two chairs, and an ottoman.

And the only thing I had that I definitely was bringing was a big library table.

That's right.

Which will be my work table when I'm here.

That's right.

Good. I can't wait for it all to come together.

Yeah, it's going to be great.

Its going to look really wonderful.

Thanks for your help.

Thank you.

We've got to break for messages. Don't go away. The kitchen stairs in New England houses usually lead to the basement, where they kept the coal and the dust and the mess. But, having redone this house totally, we've taken advantage of the basement space.

We're really making the most of it. This area back in here will be our exercise room. and we've already got a floor in place. They've just finished this Pergo laminated flooring, which looks very similar to the kitchen floor, which is genuine maple.

This is a laminated product that really wears well, but right now let's go into my workshop.

You know, one thing that's very important when you're in the woodworking shop is to stay alert. With that in mind, my architect Gregory Rockland specified a floor product that is almost hazard yellow, as they call it. It will definitely keep you awake.

Hey, guys. Hi, Anthony.

Hi, Bob.

Greg, how is it going?

This is,

This is your old workbench with the new base.


That Anthony just built.

A nice, stable new base, and that goes right in here.

Right in here.

Good, well, we'll talk in a minute about the layout of the workshop, but first let's talk about this floor. How do you like this product?

Oh, I love this product. They've been marvelous to work with. I sent them a CAD drawing of the saw blade which then they cut into floor. It's just remarkable what these people can do.

It is amazing. So we've got all of this field of diamonds in yellow and metallic silver and then a dark gray saw blade, and it was fun to watch them do. Of course, we have some flashbacks to show you, first with David Altman who installed the Pergo flooring in the exercise room.

We're here in the exercise room below the kitchen where we're installing Pergo, which looks just like the maple floor I've got up in the kitchen, but it's not. Dave, what is Pergo?

Pergo is a high-pressure laminate floor which has all the beauty of a real wood looking floor with much more durability.

So that's it's main advantage. It's a more durable product than a regular wood floor?

Absolutely, and it's easy to install.

Yeah, it is a real do-it-yourself product and it doesn't involve nails or fasteners at all, right?

Exactly. All you do is fill up the groove with Pergo Glue and tap it together.

And it floats on top of either, in this case a concrete slab or a plywood deck or even an existing wooden floor?

Absolutely. You could put it over just about at any type of substrate.

What have you got on top of our concrete here?

Okay, what we've done here since you have a nice flat level concrete subfloor. We have to use an eight mil Pergo polyethelene film to act as a vapor barrier because all concrete gives off vapor emissions.

Exactly, so that we won't have any kind of damp coming in that could cause it to lift up. But what's this other product that you've got underneath it?

This is a special engineered cellulose type of a paper, compressed paper, underlayment that we have developed.

Just for this?

Yes, just for this.

So that this could give you a bit of a cushion, right?

Yes, gives you a good comfort.

Um hmm.

Comfortable floor to walk on.


It gives you better

any qualities. What is the price point?

Pergo retails for approximately $4 per square foot.

And has quite a warranty, right?

Absolutely, I'm just gonna put it to the test, this is indelible marker. It 's no problem. All you need is a little bit of acetone, a little bit of finger nail polish remover, and it'll come right off?

Takes it right up.

Oh, boy. Just a little bit more acetone.

Little bit more acetone.

You're out of the woods.

Terrific. Thanks Dave.

Now, lets go to the workshop and we'll look at a different type of flooring.

Well, we've got Richard Wilton from Amtico Flooring. How are you, Richard?

Hi, good, Bob.

And Doug Sprague from Harry's Installation Services from Quincey, Mass.

And boy, what a floor I've got here.

What kind of product is the Amtico floor?

Amtico is a pure vinyl product, which means it will not shrink, crack, or curl and it's fully flexible.

So it's a 100% vinyl.

Yes it is.

Good product to use in a work shop from he durability perspective, and also I guess from the installation. But what I love is the versatility of design. How many colors do you guys make?

We manufacture over 160 different colors as the standard range.

Mm-hmm. And this particular design, which our architect came up with, is basically a blow up of a big power saw blade that's being transferred right down here onto the floor. Now, how did he do that?

He actually drew the design on his disc and sent his computer disc down to our cutting room in Atlanta.

Through a CAD program.

That's right. So, we produced the CAD, and then the CAD program that we produced is then automatically put into the cutting room.


Now, Doug, what are you involved in doing right now? Is this just a...

This is a dry run, Bob. I'm laying these out just to see that everything fits where it should in the room. And then we'll adhere it and put it in permanently for you.

Okay. And what kind of an adhesive will you be using?

It's an acrylic-based adhesive. The tile goes into it wet and gets rolled with a hundred-pound roller. And it's a very, very strong adhesive fabulous. What part of the equation do we have here? What's this supposed to be?

That's your arbor for the center of the saw.

How perfect. Well, I can't wait to get it all finished.

Well, it's really turning into a beautiful shop. And this of course is one of my favorites, this 10-inch which is so versatile. You can move it out of the way.

Let's talk about your layout, your design for the space. How big is the space?

The space is about fifteen by thirty, which is a good size space for a home workshop.

Generous. And the only given, the only thing you had to deal with was over here. Right?

Right. Well this masonry mass of chimney support and column.

A natural division of the space.


So, how did you proceed?

Well, we divided into two areas. We've got our metal working area over here where you can repair your lawnmower, or your bicycle, or something like that, and all your wrenches and screwdrivers will be stored here.

Exactly, and my big rolling toolbox will go in the corner eventually.


And then in the middle of the space, we got the radio arm saw, which is a very versatile tool, and should always be kind of in the middle of the space so that you maximize how much room you have for the boards, for the board length.

And then on the other other half of this space. What's the logic here, Greg?

Well, on the other half of the space is where you work at your bench. And this is a woodworking bench where you can put together the projects you're doing. All your edge tools will be stored over here -- planes, chisels. And then underneath, we've got all your Sears hand tools laid out. And, so, everything's readily at hand.

What I love is the contrast between these floors and just having plain wood and plywood -- no paint, no stain. We'll have plenty of room to put hooks and nails and hang things.

And we've even got a nice clean-up sink right in the corner.

But now we have to break for some messages.

When we come back, we'll get together with Bob Riley. We're building some front steps.

Don't go away. Well, let's check in with Riley now and talk about our front steps. Hi, Bob.

Hi, Bob.

So we have a rather elaborate set of front steps that we're building, how wide will they be?

They're going to be the same as the walkway coming in which is five feet.


And , we're going to be using six stringers in here, reason being on either side we have a post which is going to be sandwiched in between between a couple of stringers.


And then we're going to cut the span in the middle. It's too long.

We will get to that a little bit later, but that is a good way of supporting the posts for the railings.


The railing system in this, the existing porch. What we had here, the 1897 railings are very pretty and graceful and all that but they only come up to about mid-thigh, they're about twenty-four inches. And in order to meet code we've got to replace them, and we found something, these are two bucks apiece at the home center. And so, I think we're going to make out all right. We'll get to work on that a little bit later, but they will surround the porch as well as going down. How did you determine You're, you're stringer. You've got all your stringers cut out here. What's the height?

The height, well, what we've done is, we've just level across from the finished deck to the finish, walk way down here so you have got finish to finish.

Finish to finish, that's right.

And use a level to get an exact measurement.

That's right and what we've got is exactly 39 inches.

Okay, and then, what does that mean in terms of your cuts?

Well we wanted to have a shallow step, so we're gonna use six risers at six at a half inches a piece. Brings us right to 39 inches.

Yeah, 39 divided by 6 so we got 6 and a half inch. Risers.


That is very comfortable.

And 12 inch treads.

Yeah. A nice comfortable lot.

Yeah, what did I just interrupt, what are you?

Well I'm just ready to cut off my last mortars here to receive their stringers.


Alright now putting all these consecutive
cuts it like this. Obviously, it's the quick and easy way to put these notches in the lumber, but it is something that, if you're a do-it yourselfer, you should practice first on the horizontal plane and get real comfortable with that saw.

You really have to be handy with the circular.

Yeah, and it's a good way of plowing things out.

And a good sharp chisel.


Boy, that's good looking lumber, that's a 100 year old piece of timber, probably a good 6, I'd say it's a 6x8.

It is a 6x8. It is nice, yes.

Beautiful I can smell it. OK, now are we ready to bring that up?

Yes, we are. Sorry.

And we're putting the last nail in the top riser.
The risers, of course, are giving stability to these stringers which we have attached up there and now we are ready to start figuring out about the skirt board.


And you got a tricky way of marking it off.

Right, well, it's pretty, it's been around for a while, I want to attach this
first so that it's secure. And we just use this fork.

Yeah, this is simply a piece of stock that he has taken and he's cut out, a three-quarter inch slot in, and show us how it's going to transfer that line for you.

I'm just going to take the plane of the riser, and put it on the outside of my skirt.

It's a quick way to get that line.

And then we're going to go through that with a circular saw at 45.


Now, the only other thing I need is the level-line coming across where the tread's going to be.

Look good?

That's good right there.

Alright , now we'll take it over to the bench and put all these cuts into place.

OK. alright, so it's already set at a 45 degree angle.


Because it's a mightier cut.

OK, now reset the saw to 90 degrees.

And get all our straight cuts for the treads.


Looks real nice up here.

Yeah they come out good.


That's a great tip because you get all your cuts marked off there and its nice.


So are you going to nail it on there?

Not yet, I've got the other side to do and then we want to prime these first and then move on to the treads.

Then we'll get on the treads.

Alright, because these are the approach to the house and the first thing that people see, we're taking special care. We're using a redwood which will, weather really beautifuly here, but we've also put in a picture frame. around each step and then we're inserting the redwood one-by-fours.

And, I should add that we're using stainless steel nails because they really won 't bleed or corrode with the Redwood.

That's gonna look terrific, Riley.

We got to break for messages, don't go away.

Well, we're running out time. Come home again next week.

The kitchen appliances are all in place.
And we'll go up in the third flood to look at the complete media center, with some incredible sound, surround sound by Bose.

Don't miss it.

Till then, I'm Bob Vila. It's good to have you home again.



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