I was hoping to keep the existing stairs to the lower level. I thought they were in pretty good shape, but it ended up there was termite damage at the bottom of the stairs. I spent an hour on Wednesday evening cutting the stairs up with a Craftsman circular saw and DeWalt reciprocating saw (MVP of demolition!). They look sort of ghostly just hanging there, don't they?
Also, the existing stair were not up to code in many ways: tread height and depth (too narrow, too tall), and there wasn't enough headroom at the last step. If I'm not too careful, i would have been bumping my head anyway. goodbye!