How to fix squeaky stairs from above
Squeaky stairs don’t cause any structural or safety problems, but the noise can be a huge annoyance. If you know how to fix squeaky stairs you can provide your customer with quiet stairs even if you don’t have access to them from below – and even if they are carpeted.
The three basic components of stairs are the treads, risers and stringers. Almost always, squeaks are caused by the tread rubbing against the riser or the stringer. This can be because some of the wood components have gradually cupped, warped or twisted, or maybe because the nails or screws fastening the components are loosening.
How to fix squeaky stairs with powder
There are several ways to combat stair squeaks. The simplest way to fix squeaky stairs from above is to start with talcum powder or powdered graphite.
Apply the powder along all joints of the squeaky stair tread, doing your best to work the powder into the seams between the treads and risers. You can use a piece of paper to act as a “chute,” helping you get as much powder as possible into the seam.
How to fix squeaky stairs with glue
For more stubborn squeaks at the back of a tread, where it meets the riser above, you can put a bit of wood glue on thin wood wedges or shims and tap them into the seam with a wood block. If the wedges and the resulting gap are noticeable, you might want to cover the joint with quarter round or other trim molding. Just remember to do it on the rest of the stairs, as well.
How to fix squeaky stairs with screws
Squeaks at the front of the hardwood stairs may require you to drive fasteners from above. You can drill pilot holes through the tread – but not all the way through to the stringer or the riser – and drive some spiral flooring nails. Drive at least two of them, and angle them toward each other in a “V.” Countersink the nail heads and fill with wood putty.
Screws are another way to stop squeaks at the front of the stairs. Drill pilot holes along the front edge so the screws will catch the top edge of the riser. Use a countersink bit and pick up some dowel stock to use as plugs or make your own plugs from scrap wood that is the same wood as the stair treads. Drive the screws, put a little wood glue into the hole, insert the plug and trim flush with a sharp flush-cut saw. Sand it smooth, apply a dab of stain if necessary, and apply the same type of finish that is on the rest of the stairs.
How to fix squeaky stairs that are carpeted
You can also fix squeaky stairs that are carpeted without removing the carpet using a special kit. The kits attach to any standard drill/driver and consist of a screw gripper that acts as a depth gauge and specially scored screws for just this purpose.
Attach the gripper to your drill and drive the screw through the carpet and into the stringer or riser nearest the squeak. The jig stops the screw with its score mark just below the tread’s surface, and you can snap off the excess screw from above, leaving none of the fastener above the tread’s surface and doing little to no damage to the carpet fibers.
–By Rob Fanjoy