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Lake House Basement Project – Update Eleven – Installing a Banister

Last weekend was another productive time working on our lake house basement project. Things are rolling along and we can almost see the finish in sight!

Smith Mountain Lake House

If you are new here, we are transforming our basement into a family room, bathroom, and bedroom. These posts chronicle the work that we’ve accomplished so far:

Let’s take a look at what we accomplished last weekend!

Staining the Doors

My main project for the weekend was staining the three wood doors. I set up a work station on the patio and worked on one door at a time.

Staining doors with Zar stain in Charcoal

For the stain, I used Zar Wood Stain in Charcoal. I chose this stain for the color and because it is a gel formula and it does not run.

Staining doors with Zar stain in Charcoal

I brushed the stain on with a foam brush and then wiped off the excess with an old t-shirt.

Wood doors stained with Zar stain in Charcoal

Over the weekend I was able to get both sides of the doors stained. I went back to the lake on Tuesday and applied the first coat of top coat. I’m using General Finishes High Performance Water Based in Satin.

Each side of the door is to get three coats of top coat and the dry time is 12-18 hours between coats, so this process will take me a while.

On Tuesday I also painted the three windows that are framed.

Staining the Newel Post

The newel post and banister were stained the same color as the doors.

Staining a newel post with Zar stain in Charcoal

Installing a Banister

Mr. SP’s main task for the weekend was installing a banister on the steps. He started the process by using a 2×4 to make sure that he had his measurements correct before cutting the oak banister.

Installing a banister on a set of stairs

We cut the banister template post angle at approximately 40 degrees to mate with the newel post. We also cut 2 temporary balusters at the correct height to help with the placement and marking of the template. Once we had the template in place on the newel post, we were able to scribe the angle of the ceiling onto the other end of the template, and onto the ceiling. We then dry fit the template in the correct position of the banister.

Installing a banister on a set of stairs

After we were happy with the angles and position of the template, we moved on to working with the banister by the same process.

Installing a banister on a set of stairs

Before it was installed, I stained the banister.

Installing a banister

Here we show the final dry fit of the banister in place before bolting it into place.

Screwing a banister to the ceiling on a staircase

Once the banister was cut to the correct length with the proper angles, we countersunk and drilled holes in each end for the bolt that will attach the banister in place. The banister was then bolted to the ceiling joist on the top end, and into the oak newel post on the bottom. We will cut two discs out of scrap oak to cover the bolts.

Attaching a banister to a newel post

Windows Framed and Trimmed

After the banister was installed, Mr. SP framed the remaining unframed window in the family room and he then moved into the bedroom.

Framed window

He was oh-so-close to finishing but ran out of wood for this window.

Framed window

He added trim to the family room windows until he ran out.

I delivered two contractors packs of trim to the lake on Tuesday, so he’s all set to finish that project this coming weekend.

Sherman Skulina in the basement at Smith Mountain Lake

My Redneck Engineering

One spot in the hallway had a huge gap between the baseboard and wall. We tried caulking it, but the caulk just fell into the hole.

I did a bit of redneck engineering and stuffed the open area with strips of cotton from a cotton ball.

Baseboard gapping from the walls

My redneck engineering worked and I was able to caulk over the cotton. I’m a messy caulker and have some paint touch-up to do in this area.

Caulked baseboard

Bathroom Work

In the bathroom, Mr. SP installed a LED light specifically for showers and he finished installing the fan. He also installed the toilet seat.

This bathroom is getting close to being finished!

Bathroom Painted SW Charcoal Blue

Sherman’s Weekend at the Lake

Sherman helped when Mr. SP did a bit of electrical work.

Sherman Skulina

He also enjoyed a bit of dock relaxation.

Sherman Skulina relaxing at Smith Mountain Lake on the dock

Morning and night he is always by his daddy’s side.

Sherman Skulina relaxing

We took Sherman hiking at Smith Mountain Lake State Park both Saturday and Sunday.

Sherman Skulina at Smith Mountain Lake State Park

Here he is on Turtle Island, one of our favorite places in the park.

Sherman Skulina on Turtle Island at Smith Mountain Lake State Park

To get onto Turtle Island, you cross the bridge seen in the picture below. If I was an artist, I would paint Turtle Island.

Sherman Skulina on Turtle Island at Smith Mountain Lake State Park

On Sunday we walked again at the park. Sherman’s mom and dad enjoy the hikes as much as Sherman does.

Sherman Skulina at SML State Park

What’s Next?

This weekend our main project is to install balisters on the stairs. Once that is complete, Mr. SP will finish framing the bedroom window and add trim to the windows that currently have none.

We also hope to finish the plumbing work for the bathtub and shower and get the shower curtain, towel rods, and toilet paper holder installed.

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Lake House Basement Project Update Eleven Graphic


  1. So glad you and hubby have the skills to do this project! Here in PA no outside construction work is happening here. Thankfully, Home Depot is open so we can get supplies we need for our simple projects!

    1. Yesterday when we went to Home Depot for supplies for this weekend it was hopping. I think that a lot of people are doing chores around the house since we’re all home.


    2. I love the stain color, it’s beautiful. The new banister is looking great too.

      Love seeing Sherman always, such a smuggler and belly rub lover. Our two want them every second .

      Stay well and keep enjoying that beautiful place


    1. Thank you, Laura! We hope to get the balusters on the stairs installed this weekend. The end is definitely in sight!


  2. Cotton balls, who knew!! Particularly like the last pic of Sherman and his daddy…Sherman has a great big smile on his face!!

    1. I was thrilled that my cotton ball idea worked! Sherman loves that daddy and he is one smiling dog.


  3. Paula, your selection of materials/finishes is beautiful. I’ve always admired your decorating (and power tool) skills. Thanks for continuing to share.

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! I really enjoy home projects but will have to say that I’m eager for the basement project to be finished. 🙂


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