Building a Stairway to heaven(ly) Lake Mohawk!

This is the view of Lake Mohawk (NJ) yesterday from the house we are currently renovating….but “how do you get down to the lake?,” is the bigger question?

View to the Lake (Mohawk) from the mid-century house project we're working on!

View to the Lake (Mohawk) from the mid-century house project we’re working on!

Recently, when considering whether or not to replace the old, rickety stairs to the lake at our current Lake Mohawk project, we turned to our trusty, veteran deck & stair-maker and asked his opinion.  Do we fix them…..or replace them?


He pointed out to us that the existing staircase wasn’t well-built and, more to-the-point, probably not up to today’s “Code”.

When “flipping homes” as we do, one must be well-versed in what the “Code” requires!  The Code is a collection of statutes  required by the law per the construction and building administration, on both the State and the National level.  As the GreenRose Team flips houses, we must be certain to meet Code requirements or we’re simply wasting time and energy….both of which cost money…right?!    In addition, we have found that often, those standards based on Code which are required of a homeowner may be slightly more (let’s say) lenient than when the project is being renovated by professional investors!  That’s why we at GreenRose Fine Homes always follow what the Code requires and look to meet and often exceed Code Requirements!  But I digress….

The old stairs had many strikes against them:

"Code" dictates that risers on stairs must be uniform

“Code” dictates that risers on stairs must be uniform

Risers!  There was no consistency to the “rise” of the steps….i.e. the height between the steps….from one level to another.  You can’t have some steps at a 7″ rise and then steps at a 5″ rise as it creates a hazard, putting it’s climber in danger of tripping and falling!  Also, that inconsistency between riser height makes the stairs that much uglier!

Fasteners!  Some of  the stringers (the cut-out supports which hold the stair tread on both sides) were incorrectly attached with nails when they should have been clamped!  Other parts of the stairs were correct but …. all in all …. they were just plain ugly!

Railings!  The hand railings were not strong and did not provide the sense of security that one looks for in a hand rail.  Further, they did not have balusters and the side restraint boards were too far apart leaving too large of a gap to prevent kids from falling through.

Note:  It’s typically OK to skip side restraints if there is no “fall” there…that is, no drop…..but, with the slope of the rear yard….there were plenty of sections with substantial drops!

Can you imagine yourself walking down all that way on old and unsafe stairs!?

Can you imagine yourself walking down all that way on old and unsafe stairs!?

…..oh……Did I mention they were really ugly?  And the color was just wrong!

Rickity Railings with no side restraints!

Rickety Railings with no side restraints!

The ultimate determining factor for replacement to us was all of the above …. and that they were …. you guessed it …. UGLY!

One the simplest tenants of real estate sales is this …..“If it ain’t pretty….it won’t sell!”  The old stairs zigged and zagged their way down to the lake in an inconsistent manner, cutting through the glorious wild growth along the side of the cliff.  The risers were all over the place, some of the stringers were rickety, and a few of the handrails were loose!

Nasty old stairs from the lake to the house!

So….Out with the old and in with the new!  We turned back to our trusted architect, Jonathan Perlstein of OASIS Architecture, Montclair NJ for the design and to our veteran deck and stair-maker (Bob Kiefer, Decks by Kiefer) and had him come up with a proposal based upon what we felt would work well with the rest of the new deck railings we had designed to be installed and hired him to build them!  In short, ….remove the old stairs and build new, strong, Code-compliant stairs which would run in a straight line down to the lake .

And here we have the new stairway….(paralleling the tram tracks….which you can see just to the left of the new stairs below).

If you look closely you can see the (white) space where the old stairs used to zig and zag down to Lake Mohawk.

They’re now almost complete!  The new stairs are compliant with Code!  Strong!  And really good-looking!

The hand railings are made of solid mahogany which will match perfectly with the brand new railings set to replace all of the old railings on the existing 3 decks off the house.

Solid Mahogany railings are not only beautiful but durable!

Solid Mahogany railings are not only beautiful but durable!

Note:  the rest of the (pressure treated) lumber on the lake stairs will eventually be stained to match the upper decks and work well visually with the real mahogany railings.  Also note… can see where the old stairs once ran down to the lake.  Now….all of that space will, come this Spring & Summer, become an open view of green-space for the owners to enjoy for years to come!



Brand new stairway to heaven(ly) Lake Mohawk!Here you have the new stairs….including the mahogany handrails and stainless steel cables (running horizontally) instead of (vertical)balusters, giving the railings a thoroughly-modern, visually-stunning, and view-enhancing “look”!

This rendering (courtesy of OASIS Architecture) of the finished home shows how the new (lake stairs) will coordinate with the new railings & deck! Visually much more appealing than the railings there now.


7 Rocky Terrace:  rear elevations, renderingClean, new, safe and…..beautiful!

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