Sunday, April 4, 2010

How do you apply hardwood to the stairs?

So, you have put in your beautiful wide plank hardwood floors, now, how do you deal with the stairs? This set of stairs was refinished by someone that didn't have a clue how to do stairs. When I was called in the newel posts moved a couple of inches in every direction and the stairs were cladded in underlayment plywood and painted with white latex paint. So much work for absolutely nothing! Using 1/8" material meant that the top step was 3/4" taller than the lowest step--and the stairs would wear constantly and always look old and dirty.
The first thing I had to do was remove everything he had done.

Step two, remove the overhangs and step 3 fabricate and install brand new treads in Red Oak to match the floor and rail up top.

I have seen some tough looking staircases in my time. gluing and nailing hardwood to each tread with a nailed on nose just won't last. The best method is always to add a 1 piece tread to the existing rough stair tread.

You can likely buy pre-made treads at the big box store, however this is likely to be a laminated plywood product with a solid portion only on the nose. These laminate treads will wear out under foot traffic and because it is a plywood core they can't be refinished. Check the ends of the narrow part to make sure it is solid wood.

Normally these store bought treads are unfinished, just make sure the species is a match and normally the store that sells you the hard wood flooring will also have small quantities of stain and verathane on hand for matching the flooring on thresholds and stairs.

We tend to make our own treads--using the same wide plank materials, gluing them up marine quality adhesives and laminating solid wood to form a nosing that will last.
If you are considering removing and replacing any hand rails just consider that hand rails are a specialty item and there are many ways of messing the job up. Installing a hand rail is difficult with all new materials. Installing a hand rail already installed twice and botched previously is a painful task at best.