A top-quality prebuilt staircase takes just an hour or two for two men to install, and it costs the contractor little more than he would pay for materials alone.

I'm a design-builder in the high-end custom market in coastal New England. For every house or remodel I take on, I create a unique design, which includes the staircases. Like a lot of builders, I used to have my own carpenters build our custom stairs. Then one day, my neighbor Dave Cooper invited me to check out his stair-building shop, Cooper...

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