In the years before the invention of the vacuum, cleaning your house was even more of a chore than it is today. You had to sweep every inch and some areas were such a problem that creative inventors came up with a unique, frustration saving item called stair dust corners that would not only become a useful helper for keeping a clean house but a decorative piece of home hardware that you may want to consider for your home.
In this post, I’ll tell you all about the history of stair dust corners, where to find them and how to install them. Get ready for a cool story about a unique little piece of often over-looked hardware.
The History of Stair Dust Corners
It is believed that stair dust corners were invented by Sarah Winchester of Winchester rifle family fame. During her almost constant renovation of the Winchester Mystery House (an incredibly unique house and a story for another time) from 1886 to 1922 she created many unique innovations, one of which was the stair dust corner in the 1890s.
Made from pressed brass or bronze originally, the stair dust corners were installed into the corners of the stairs to create a concave corner that allowed dust to be easily swept from the stairs during the almost constant cleaning that occurred in her sprawling mansion that was constantly under renovation.
As an eccentric woman from a very well-known and wealthy family her invention easily caught on in influential society and eventually spread to the general public since the invention was one of those unique things that is both a sign of good taste and was not terribly expensive to add to your home.
Victorian style houses of the time littered their staircases with stair dust corners. Today, most people have never heard of them or when they find them they wonder what on earth these little metal triangles are on their stairwell.
How to Install Stair Dust Corners
I have to admit this is possibly the easiest piece of hardware you will ever install in a historic house. Stair dust corners require just a single nail through the center of the piece to attach it into the joint between the riser, tread, and stringer. If you have open stringers on one or both sides of your stairwell then you need not install on those open stringers.
Stair dust corners measure just under 3” from point to point typically and are small triangles with a nail hole in the center. First, make sure the corners of your staircase are clean of any dust in preparation for installation. Then position the stair dust corner into the corner so that it nests securely and gently install the center nail.
It’s best to use a small tool like a 12 oz hammer or tack nailer to install the small nail. Be careful to avoid the missing the nail because they are thin metal and easily dented.
Where to Find Stair Dust Corners
There are a lot of websites that carry a few different design options and I’ve listed some of my favorites below. You can also find plastic self-adhesive options, but do I even need to mention those here? I didn’t think so.
Pricing usually runs between $3 to $8 per piece depending the design, metal type, and finish.
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I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.