Fireplace Surround and Reclaimed Storage Under the Stairs

Although the living room carpet itself wasn’t so bad, Lee has also spent a ton of time on the smaller areas.  This project has expanded to include lots of extras, which is great from a refresh perspective but is definitely taking more time than either of us thought.  On the plus side, I am finally getting lots of little improvements that I have wanted from the beginning and my absolute favorite is the tile on the fireplace.  The original “tile” was pretty bland and we have talked about replacing it for years.  Lee has never done tile though and it seemed like a frivolous project all by itself until we were in full project mode. (The “tile is actually a piece of MDF board with a coat of white paint on it, and then little squares of gray linoleum were glued on. After a year or so the adhesive started to show through, as you can see in the image below. Ugly as hell. – Lee)

Original look is pretty bland

The first thing we did was go to Home Depot and take a look at what they had.  We spent well over an hour looking at all the tile samples and it was really hard to pick.  Thankfully I had brought a piece of the new carpet with me and it was a little easier to narrow down.  Finally I selected Treasure Trail and at less than $5 per 12″ x 12″ sheet we brought several home.  Lee also purchased a big sponge, and some adhesive Simple Mat and premixed grout at the recommendation of Cori and Bill who had both previously put new tile in their RV’s.

First Lee used the simple mat to cover the old material and give the new material something to stick to.


The back of the tile has this sticky stuff and it went on easily. It also stuck well although he had to be careful about keeping his lines straight. Since it was in small squares he could easily cut it into smaller pieces. That was important because he didn’t want to get into trying to cut larger pieces of tile


Once all the tile was on he taped the area to protect the wood and fireplace from grout.


Laid down a towel to protect the new carpet

Then he did the grouting, and I will say he absolutely hated it.  A direct quote, was “I am never tiling again”!  Thankfully it was a relatively small space and it didn’t take that long.  Basically he put the grout on then wiped the top of tiles with a damp sponge.  Then it sits overnight and the next morning you buff it to get the shine.  I loved the finished product!

(Hands down this was the most bang for our buck from an improvement standpoint. It only took an hour or so to do, and only cost around $50. – Lee)

Finally Lee worked on the stairs.  It has been driving him crazy for years that he could not recapture the space and finally today was the day.  I was happy he was going to get to work on it, and largely tried to stay out of his way because this was another tough one.

(Before we start talking about this I want to point out that this part includes some working with electrical lines, both 120v AC and 12v DC. I have been working with electricity my entire life, and while I am not licensed, I have an excellent grasp of the fundamentals, and more importantly, I understand the risks and I know the limits of my knowledge and I NEVER exceed them. Electricity can be incredibly dangerous, and more so in an RV because of the mix of AC and DC, and the movement and vibrations. Any time I do ANY electrical work I keep in mind that everything will be moving and vibrating, and I take extra care to securely tack everything down and check for points where things might rub and wear through. RVs are a fire waiting to happen, and most of them will burn to the ground in less than 15 minutes. They are also generally poorly built, EVEN THE EXPENSIVE ONES, and I over-engineer ever chance I get, because who wants to die in a fire??? Anyway, if you are not 100% comfortable with electricity, just don’t do mess with it. Have a professional do it. – Lee)

This is what it looked like before we ever started, before the kitchen carpet was even put in!


First he removed the existing carpet

Again he had some helping paws

Then he organized and cleaned the inside. The wires were just thrown in there

(As you can see, because it’s an area not normally seen by owners, they didn’t even clean up after themselves during the manufacturing process, they just left cut up pieces of wood and other detritus. That really bothers me. In the picture below you can see that where the 120v and 12v wires go through the void, they take the shortest possible route, diagonally THROUGH the stair riser frame, instead of straight across between the two holes at each end. Some of the wiring is in the front, and some is in the back, and in order for me to use the space at all first I had to clean it all up and then reroute some of the wiring.  – Lee)

(Here’s what it looked like after I took a minute to vacuum it out so I could see what I was dealing with. One of the problem areas was the 3 12v DC lines going out of the picture in the lower right corner. Another was the lack of suitable framing for the upper riser. – Lee)


(Another problem was the wiring going into the cabinetry on the right. You can see where it crosses over a sort of wooden threshold, which keeps the wire up pretty high and makes it hard to use the space. I had to cut that wood down so the wiring could be as flat and close to the floor as possible. In the picture below note that there are two holes for the wiring going into the floor. I cut through the small connecting piece to allow me to cluster the wiring together and keep it lower. – Lee)




(These are the wires the I need to reroute because the went THROUGH the stair riser frame, which involved removing the frame, because while I could remove the AC wire from the power center, the DC wire area of the power center was just too tight and crowded and I didn’t want to end up spending hours dealing with it, plus I was able to rebuild the riser and make it a little more stable and secure when I put it back together. It was assembled with just a few long staples, and I used 2 1/2″ coated deck screws, which really tightened it down and stopped it from squeaking. – Lee)


(In order to reroute the wires and make the area safe to use I had to pull out the power center, which is just above the stairs, to disconnect a 120v circuit.  Luckily there were was’t THAT much to do, but it still took a while. A few of the 12v wires were actually left over from when we did our solar install. They were well capped and taped from when we disconnected them, so I just  coiled up the excess, zip tied it securely and tucked it into the roomy void of the cabinet that holds the power center. – Lee)

Moving the wires took quite awhile as he had to be careful

(Here you can see where I cut out the wood to allow the wires to lay flat. – Lee)




(Still a mess with the riser removed, but at least now I can get things arranged to allow for use of the space. – Lee)


Removing the riser frame.

(This is the rear, taller riser void, cleaned up and ready for a new “floor”, with the wires separated, flattened out and secured. – Lee)


(With the riser back in place, I was able to secure the two wires in the front up and out of the way of what would be stored inside. – Lee)



(I used the old treads as a template to make new treads, slightly smaller to allow for carpet to wrap around them, and in pieces to allow for lids that would clear the odd curved shape. Also note on the right side I had to use small pieces to slide the doors left enough to clear the protruding power center. A lot of engineering, but I love reclaiming space! – Lee)


And he cut pieces of oak to replace the existing stairs. ( he is hanging onto the old stairs just in case.  As you can see he made cuts so part of it could be lifted.


(Piano hinge on the lower tread to allow the tread to be lifted. You can fit a LOT of canned food (over 30 cans!!!)  into that space. – Lee)


(In order to clear the wiring in the back, and protect it, I used 2×2 stock to make a new slightly higher floor in the rear. It’s twice as tall as the front tread compartment, so I didn’t mind losing 2 1/4″. I also cut and notched some 1/4″ plywood so I got to keep as much of the floor space as possible. – Lee)


You can see in the upper right corner the framing I added to support the lid and the lower framing for the false floor.



Even the farthest and hardest to reach space got a higher floor.




(Below you can see the door/lid on the second tread. It’s pretty small because once you reach the curve in the wall a lid won’t open. The entire area is accessible , it’s just a relatively small hatch. That area will get things we rarely need. It also looks crooked, but it’s not, the wall curve starts very gently and then tightens up. – Lee)



Next he carpeted!

(Carpeting the stairs was really hard and took forever. I wanted the fit to be as tight as possible between the framing and the lids, so I had to test it and check it with each staple, and cut away excess 1/4″ at a time. Corners also had to be wrapped and trimmed and carpet at that scale is really stiff and hard to work with. Overall I was pretty happy with how it turned out. In my mind there was no discernible line where the lids meet the frames, but in reality that just isn’t possible. Over time I think it will blend a little better, but for now I can live with it, because, HUGE storage reclaimed, and that’s the name of the game. – Lee)


And finally the finished product.  The carpet shows some lines but well worth it to us to recapture all that space.

And finally, carpet on the inside and then filling the newly gained space with stuff!!!

These two items both took quite a bit of time, but again well worth the effort. There are still a few odds and ends and the living room desk slide, but those will be in the post after next. Next up, the bedroom carpet gets replaced!

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