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How To Make Stair Treads From Hardwood Flooring

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  1. Assess the number of treads you need.
  2. Carefully measure each existing tread.
  3. Select the hardwood floor and materials you'll use.
  4. Cut each tread according to your measurements. 
  5. Apply your desired stair stain mix.
  6. Apply polyurethane coat to finish.

Step 1. Assess the number of treads you need.

Count the number of treads needed so you can make a rough estimate of the amount of wood you might need. Generally, there are around 12 or 13 steps in a stair flight. However, this may vary depending on the staircase's height, location, and purpose. 

Wooden stairs and white wall leading up

Step 2. Carefully measure each existing tread.

Avoid assumptions that each tread is identical because some may measure differently according to the outer edge or nose. Most treads measure 8 to 10 inches long and 22.5 to 30 inches wide, although this may vary. 

Carpenter measuring and marking stair tread for a cut

Measuring the length: 

  • Measure the tread from the step's back to front.
  • Place your tape measure against the vertical riser.
  • Then, extend it to the stair's outer edge overhanging the next riser.

Measuring the width:

  • Measure the tread from the step's edge to edge. This is perpendicular to the tread length. 
  • Place your tape measure against the step's left and right edge. In typical geometric measurements, the length is usually longer than the width. However, when measuring steps, it's the other way around. 
  • The handrails arent' included in measuring the stair tread's width. 

Step 3. Select the hardwood floor and materials you'll use.

Prepare the hardwood floor you'll choose for your treads. You can mix and match various hardwood styles and materials like Red Oak, White Oak, Walnut, and others. Check if the wood is suitable for staining because you might want to do that with your tread later.

Step 4. Cut each tread according to your measurements. 

Cut each tread according to your measurements. Use a circular or sliding miter saw. An angle finder is also helpful to ensure the cuts are accurate. If you want a rounded-over edge, cut the tread 2 inches wider than usual. Use a router to round the edges. 

While there is no rule that the tread edge should be rounded, doing so reduces splintering and gives your stairs a better look. 

Step 5. Apply your desired stair stain mix.

Lightly sand the treads, then apply desired stain mix. It is recommended to test the stain mix on off-cuts to know how it'll turn out once dried. Test the polyurethane coat, too, so you'll have a clear view of the output. Some coats tend to change how the colors look, so if you want to avoid this, use water-based ones. 

Step 6. Apply polyurethane coat to finish.

Pouring polyurethane clear coat

Sand the tread once more and wipe it with a dry cloth. Don't shake the polyurethane can, as this will cause bubbles in your finish. Just invert the can gently for a few times before using. Follow the product's instructions as some polyurethane requires 12 to 24 hours of drying and sanding per coat. 

 

Check out this water-based wipe-on polyurethane on Amazon.

Modern stair design with wooden tread and white riser

After making and staining your stair treads, it's time to install them! Prepare the following materials:

  • Drill and screws
  • Construction adhesive
  • Saw (circular reciprocating/miter)
  • Oscillating tool
  • Hammer and nails or Electric nailer

1. Prepare the stairs.

Remove any old tread layers like carpets, aluminum, vinyl, etc. Peel off as much as you can. If possible, the goal is to reach the bare wood. This makes your tread more secure.

Remember safety first! Wear a mask when pulling off the layers. Doing this protects you from dust and the possible presence of asbestos. While its mere existence may not be harmful, damaged asbestos may become a health hazard over time. 

2. Trim stair treads to size. 

Using a circular reciprocating or miter saw, trim the stair tread overhang. Doing this ascertains a clean fit for your new treads. Also, aside from a circular or miter saw, you may use a table and radial arm for cutting width and length. For protection, wear a mask, eye gear, and gloves. Don't forget to read the product's manual and warning!

Check out this atomic circular saw on Amazon.

 

Check out this miter saw on Amazon.

3. Attach stair treads.

Now that the overhang is removed, the next stage is to attach the new treads on top of the stairs. Be liberal with your adhesive. Apply generous amounts under each tread and riser to ensure they'll stick. Let it dry completely. 

 

Check out this liquid nails construction adhesive on Amazon.

4. Secure the top step and floor. 

This part is the trickiest component of the tread project. Upon reaching the top step, you must do some notch or cuts so that the top tread can sit in and match your floor level. Ensure that you have measured accurately and that everything fits well. Again, your staircase, floor, and nosing may have different structures, so installation may vary. 

Here's a video on how to connect a hardwood floor with the staircase: 

5. Clean up. 

Give ample time for the adhesive and stairs to dry and entirely meld. Once okay, do a walk test on your stairs. Watch out for squeaks or when your steps don't feel right. You can always make changes, but detecting problems early is better. 

Is it Safe to Put Carpet on Stairs?

Partially carpeted wooden stairs in a house

For additional protection, yes, you can do carpeting on your stairs. It reduces footstep noise and friction and also provides warmer footing. In case of a fall, carpeting cushions the blow, lessening injury impact. However, just like other things, carpeting also has its cons:

  • Difficult to clean
  • Material and labor can be costly
  • Can damage wood stairs
  • Reduces depth perception

Stair Carpeting Alternatives

So, if you have wood stairs and you want a cheaper but safe option, here are some alternatives:

Carpet Treads

Instead of carpeting your entire staircase, use carpet stair treads. These are individual carpet pieces placed on each step. A clear advantage is its easy installation and cheaper cost. However, you must install them properly. Otherwise, they may slide and cause harm. 

Non-Slip Adhesive Strips

Choose the clear non-slip adhesive strips so they won't clash with your stair's appearance. These adhesive strips prevent slipping by adding slight roughness to each stair surface. They're simple and easy to install. 

 

Check out this non-slip stair tread tape on Amazon.

Non-Skid Grit Additive

Grit additive is a powder additive mixed with floor or wood coating. Once it dries, it gives the surface a non-slip finish. It secures your steps and doesn't disrupt the stair's look. 

 

Check out this anti-skid additive on Amazon.

When to Replace Stair Treads

In the long run, even the most sturdy treads can wear out. The signs that you have to replace your treads are as follows:

Surface Falling Off

Surface peeling is the most obvious sign of a damaged tread. This could be caused by faulty fasteners, old adhesives, and others. Don't wait for the entire surface to peel. Immediately remove the stair treads, clean the top and surrounding parts, and install new ones to avoid accidents. 

High Wear and Moisture Levels

Heavy use and high moisture level can cause your treads to break down. So, if you notice cracks and unequal tread spots, it's time to replace them. If the problem is with the house's structure or foundation, it's best to contact an expert contractor. 

Old Treads

Interior of the staircase leading up

Treads don't last forever. So if yours have been there for a long time, replace them with more efficient ones. Ensure that your materials are good quality, durable, and water/weather-resistant. Moreover, to lengthen their life expectancy, clean the stairs regularly. Do it by sweeping, vacuuming, or mopping them with a neutral detergent solution. Simple maintenance goes a long way!