How to install hardwood stairs | Pro Construction Guide

How to install hardwood stairs

Here’s how to install hardwood stairsWhen homeowners remove old carpet that covered simple lumber tread staircases or have wood staircases that have been damaged or are beyond refinishing, covering the treads and risers with hardwood is an ideal fix. Here’s how to install hardwood stairs:

How to install hardwood stairs

Step 1

Before you start to install hardwood stairs, it may be necessary to remove the existing hardwood stairs tread, either to match the elevation of the floor at the top of the staircase or because the treads are damaged. You may also have to remove the skirt board that runs along the wall. If you do, be careful not to damage the walls or knock the staircase stringers out of level or square.

Add a layer of plywood to the risers

Adding a layer of plywood to the risers may allow you to forgo the step of cutting off the overhang of the stair treads.

You may also have to cut the bull nose (the front part that overhangs the tread) of the existing treads, even if you are not completely removing the old tread. To do this, use a circular saw or reciprocating saw and carefully complete each cut with a hand saw, oscillating multi-tool, flush-cut jig saw or a hammer and chisel where the bull nose meets the wall. Installing a piece of plywood over the existing riser so that it is flush with the front edge of the treads can eliminate this step.

Finally, check each tread for “give” or any motion that will result in squeaks. Stand on each tread and shift your weight to locate any squeaks. Drive screws through the treads into the stringers until squeaks are eliminated.

Cut and install new risers one at a time

Cut and install new risers one at a time with construction adhesive and finish nails.

Step 2

Thoroughly clean the entire staircase by sweeping, vacuuming and wiping down all surfaces to remove all dust and debris. You may need to do this throughout the installation, especially if you decide to work from the top down, which is the preferred method.

Step 3

Install the risers. Cut the first riser to completely cover the existing one. It is best to install risers one at a time, as you want a precise fit and older staircases will have slight differences from step to step.

Test each piece by dry fitting.

Once you have installed all the risers, begin to install the treads. Test each piece by dry fitting.

If the intersection of the riser and skirt board is out of plumb, cut the riser about ¾-inch long, place it against the old riser and scribe a line with a compass and pencil and re-cut to that line. You may have to do this on both ends of the new riser if the staircase is set between two walls.

Test each piece by dry fitting and then use construction adhesive and finish nails to install the new riser.

Install treads using construction adhesive and finish nails.

Install treads using construction adhesive and finish nails.

If you are working with thin hardwood stairs risers, drill pilot holes for the finish nails to avoid splitting the wood. Thicker staircase risers can be installed with countersunk screws and hole plugs to match the finished surface, if desired.

Make sure all fasteners are driven into the stringers, not just attached to the old riser.

Step 4

Once you have installed all the risers for the hardwood stairs, begin to install the treads. Use the same process as with the risers to get a precise fit – scribing lines if necessary with a compass and pencil on an oversized tread until a perfect fit is achieved.

Screws are recommended to help avoid squeaks.

You can use finish nails to attach the new treads, but screws are recommended to help avoid squeaks.

You can use finish nails to attach the new treads, but screws are recommended to help avoid squeaks. Use a quality construction adhesive, drive fasteners into the stringers and pre-drill and cover all fastener holes.

–By Rob Fanjoy


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