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Thread: Replacing stair treads

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Replacing stair treads

    I'm planning to replace our carpeted stairs with some hard maple treads with a clear finish. The risers will be painted white. The bottom 5 treads are open on one end. the remaining 7 treads are between the walls. The existing stairs have some squeaks but nothing terrible. However, I'd really like for there to be no squeaks once I'm done so I'd like to do it right. I just don't know what "right" is....

    From my research online I plan to do the following:
    1 - Remove the existing treads. The bottom 5 look to be Oak treads or at least the exposed portion on the end is Oak. I'm assuming the upper treads are plywood or particle board.
    2 - Check all the riser heights to make sure they are consistent. I may run into an issue on the top stair/landing as I am planning to put down 3/4" maple floor and with the subfloor that may end up to high. My understanding is I can have up to a 3/8" difference in riser. Will that be noticeable? Right now nothing seems out of the ordinary on these steps as far as rise/run. House was built in 1975 so nothing too unusual like really steep rise or short treads.
    3 - Check that the stringer notches are level. If they aren't then shim accordingly from the top side. (Drywall is covering the bottom of the stringer)
    4 - Place the new maple treads using 3 big blobs of PL Premium on each stringer. Smoosh the PL.
    5 - Predrill for a screw on the back of the tread on each stringer. Use a GRK trim head screw as close to the back as possible so it will get covered by the painted riser.
    6 - Predrill for a screw on the front of the tread on the outside stringers next to the wall. Use a trim screw and fill with matching putty. (Do I need to put screws on the front edge? I'd rather not but I don't like squeaks more than I don't like small puttied holes)
    7 - Do all the treads and then go back and do the painted Risers. Maybe it is easier to do them in order alternating from the bottom up?
    8 - I plan to leave the skirt board in place. I do have a stair tread jig I made so I should be able to get pretty close to a good fit.

    Does this approach sound OK?

    Is there something I'm missing?

    Are there some pro-tips to make this easier? Seems pretty straightforward to me but I admit that I don't know what I don't know yet.

    Thanks - Mike

  2. #2
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    My only knowledge on the subject is about the squeaks. A little talcum powder where wood rubs wood can silence a squeak.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  3. #3
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    Mike, if the extra height at the top step is too much, split the difference between two or three steps so that you don't notice it. A stair with the top step extra high is the most noticeable of all. This will require a bit of creativity. You may need to rebate tread ends and pack under them and replace a riser. Go with what looks right and is structurally robust.

    If you don't want to see fasteners at the front edge and you can't get to the underside of the stair, it's best to run a dado to accept the top edge of the riser and glue the joint with good glue. The existing stairs are probably made this way anyway but if not, this approach may require new risers which is not part of your plan. Whichever way it pans out, make that front edge joint exceptionally well and ensure it is well supported under the bottom of the riser as well.

    Start from the bottom and work up. Make sure everything fits and is tight as you go. It's too big an item to assume that it will all be perfect if you do all the treads then all the risers. It will require adjustments as you go. Also, be prepared to remove skirting if it gets in the way.

    Cheers
    Every construction obeys the laws of physics. Whether we like or understand the result is of no interest to the universe.

  4. #4
    You really need to know how the upper steps are being supported. If they are inset into the side pieces, replacement will be considerably harder. You may find hardwood under the carpet. When installing stair treads and risers, screws and glue are your best bet to prevent squeaks. Glue and screw the treads to the stringers and the risers to the top and bottom of each adjoining tread.

    A height difference of 1/4" can be a problem on stair risers. Building code does allow a 3/8" maximum variation between any two risers.
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    Lee Schierer
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  5. #5
    Putting caps atop squeaky treads is not going to solve your squeaking problem. You should really consider "doing it right": replace the existing treads (and risers, potentially). It's not much more work than what you're already proposing, and it'll have the advantages of being completely quiet and every tread at exactly the right height.

  6. #6
    Since there is so much height difference ,I'm guessing the treads are supported by inaccurately sawn "horses",...not set into routed stringboards.

  7. #7
    I think your way will work but if I understand what you are saying it depends on your new and old treads being the same thickness. I redid one from carpet to hardwood a couple houses back that had framing lumber treads - 1.5 inches thick. I cut the nose off (not easy, used a circular saw + hand saw) about flush with the riser. I then covered the softwood tread with luanstein 3/8 thick flooring. A full 1 inch bullnose piece was added to the end secured by construction adhesive and some big finish nails into the softwood tread. A cove molding underneath covered the junction of the nosing piece to the thread. I spackled the crude plywood risers and painted them. This method was not terribly easy but I don't know that there is an easy way to do this. First step rise increased 3/8 but it didn't bother us. Last step went down the same except that I changed the hallway at the top from worn out carpet to the same thin flooring. We like it and it helped sell the house. Buyers thought it was a hardwood staircase - which it kind of was.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Friedrichs View Post
    Putting caps atop squeaky treads is not going to solve your squeaking problem. You should really consider "doing it right": replace the existing treads (and risers, potentially). It's not much more work than what you're already proposing, and it'll have the advantages of being completely quiet and every tread at exactly the right height.
    It was my intent to remove the treads and risers. That was step 1 although I didn’t say I would remove the risers. My plan is to strip down to the stringers and then start checking everything for level and make sure the rise is consistent. Right now there is nothing to make me think the rise is inconsistent but they are carpeted now so measuring to the 1/8 isn’t really possible until I pull the carpet.

    Is glueing and screwing the best chance for for completely quiet treads? I was planing on PL premium and trim screws.

  9. #9
    The best way I have found to build quiet steps is to add as many glue blocks as possible on the underside. I make the blocks 6" long from 2 x 2 stock ripped in half @ 45 degrees - apply glue and air nail in place everywhere you have a 90 degree inside corner - tread to riser, tread to stringer, riser to stringer.

  10. #10
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    Glue and screw is the best for avoiding squeaks. Use plenty of both where you can. You can also rub glue blocks into at least some of the joints for extra glue surface area. Cheers
    Every construction obeys the laws of physics. Whether we like or understand the result is of no interest to the universe.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bradley Gray View Post
    The best way I have found to build quiet steps is to add as many glue blocks as possible on the underside. I make the blocks 6" long from 2 x 2 stock ripped in half @ 45 degrees - apply glue and air nail in place everywhere you have a 90 degree inside corner - tread to riser, tread to stringer, riser to stringer.
    That's what I did when I recently redid a staircase. Removed the old treads but kept the old risers in place, then screwed & construction-adhesived triangular blocks to the risers for additional tread supports. Screwed through the fronts of the risers because these were later covered with thin painted hardboard (alternatively could have used 1/4" ply). Added rectangular blocks at the corners of stringer-riser-tread, using 4" spax screws into the stringers & wood screws through the risers, again with construction adhesive all around. Working from the bottom up, treads were attached with glue, pocket screws through the lower riser, and wood screws through the upper riser into the back of the tread. New riser faces were attached with glue & 23 gauge pins.
    20171216_092630.jpg

    Stairs were really squeaky before; now, aside from an occasional creak from the underlying framing (the house is c. 1900), they are silent.
    Last edited by James Morgan; 01-04-2018 at 4:51 PM.
    -- Jim

    Mr. Natural sez, "Use the right tool for the job."

  12. Lots of PL Premium and pocket screws on the risers into the treads.

  13. #13
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    Thanks all. I hadn’t thought of glue blocks but it makes sense. And I’ll take a look at potentially keeping the risers and covering them later with thinner plywood.

    Next up... what finish to use?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Berrevoets View Post
    Next up... what finish to use?
    Rubio Monocoat, unless you want a high sheen.

    New risers in front of old risers do not create the same problem as new treads on top of old treads. Since I installed the new tread on each step first and then the new riser face on top of that, I increased the width of the tread by the thickness of the riser face. That way both rise and run stayed that same as before.
    -- Jim

    Mr. Natural sez, "Use the right tool for the job."

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Morgan View Post

    Rubio Monocoat, unless you want a high sheen.

    I have a remodeling client whos pretty well set on using the Rubio finish, seeing youre recommending it you must be familiar with it.





    Its 100 year old Craftsmen style house , with old , possibly original VG Fir flooring the 3 1/4 to the face stuff. My floor guys used it once five years ago, hes not a big fan of it.

    Ive never used it but have been doing some research about it , sounds like on Fir and Pine they recommend it being a two coat finish.

    So any info you have would be appreciated.
    Thanks

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