In my 20 years as a drywall contractor, I’ve worked on a lot of two- and three-story houses. In just about every one, the finished stairs are in place when I start my work. My crew and I make numerous trips up and down those stairs. We work over them and on them, carrying drywall, tools, and 60-lb. buckets of joint compound. The steps need to be protected when we are working so that they’ll be spotless when we finish the job.
I’ve tried all kinds of protective layers on the stairs to keep them safe. Plastic is the answer for dust control, but it isn’t heavy enough to stay put without some ballast. Cardboard isn’t heavy enough to hold down the plastic. Plywood is heavy enough, but it tends to curl up and then move around when you walk on it. Drop cloths keep sliding down and are easy to trip on.
As shown in the drawing, my conclusion is that a combination of polyethylene plastic sheeting and drywall scraps is the answer. The heavy drywall holds down the plastic and stays in place. It also is quick, easy, and free in most situations.
Cover the stairs with 4- or 6-mil. plastic first, leaving it long, wide, and loose-fitting. Push each piece of drywall back into the riser so that its leading edge is about 1/2 in. back from the tread nosing. That will keep the drywall from tipping up when you walk on it. If the ends of the treads are open, the drywall can be scored and flopped down to protect the edge.
Myron R. Ferguson, Galway, NY