Gonna instal new stair treads/risers...a few questions

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by LuciferMutt, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. LuciferMutt

    LuciferMutt Rides slow bike slow

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    So I'm going to 86 the nasty-ass carpet on my two runs of stairs (tri level home...the runs are basically "half" runs) and replace whatever is under there with hardwood treads and risers and then stain the whole thing.

    The stairs have drywall on both sides. There are no existing skirtboards and there is no trim of any kind -- yes the carpet simply butts up to the wall. It looks horrible. So it seems I will also be installing new skirtboards to trim out the new treads/etc.

    So... I did some research and it is split 50/50 as to whether the treads/risers should be INBETWEEN the skirtboards, or if the skirtboards should be cut to lay ON TOP of the treads, almost like baseboard moulding. Putting the treads/risers between the skirtboards seems like it would be really difficult to get a nice, gap-free edge along the skirtboard. Doing it the other way looks like an even worse PITA though -- cutting out all those triangles and then notching to clear the bullnose of each tread -- but it would conceal edge issues assuming you could it to fit right. What would YOU do and why?

    I plan to use construction adhesive and screws to hold the treads and risers to the stringers.

    Any other tips will be appreciated.
    #1
  2. Dave in Wi

    Dave in Wi Long timer

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    I'm by no means a carpenter, so hopefully one will reply. In the meantime here's my do- it-yourself input.

    Definitely install the skirt boards first, and butt the treads and risers to them. Start at the bottom of the least visible stair to get a feel for it. Theres probably a trick or two to measure or scribe the treads to get minimal cracks. I just don't know what it is.

    I'd stain and finish the wood first, it's a lot easier to do this on sawhorses than in place. Maybe do a final coat of poly or whatever finish you use in place, but that's it. Sometimes a combination of stained treads and painted risers looks good, just depends on the look you are going for.

    Keep in mind, whatever you do will look 10x better than what you have now.
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  3. Dave in Wi

    Dave in Wi Long timer

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  4. Canuman

    Canuman Crusty & Unobliging

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    As long as you cut your treads carefully and make sure the skirting is installed reasonably squarely, you can get away with installing the treads afterwards. Use a carpenter's bevel to get the angles just right, or you can invest in a "stair tread wizard" such as this one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Wheaton-Tools-PL200-Stair-Wizard/dp/B0000224Q2

    You can also make your own, if you're handy. They make the job MUCH easier.

    Remember two things:

    1. Nothing in trim carpentry is EVER square. Don't assume it will be. You're following up after people that were trying to get the job done as quickly as possible. Go for the best compromise.

    2. You're not building a piano. Minor gaps can be filled with caulk or putty. Please note that a minor gap is just that, minor. Some guys get way too anal about details than will never be seen. You rarely are on your hands and knees while ascending a staircase (I hope).

    For this job, a good compound miter saw with a good, sharp finish blade is worth its weight in gold. Attempting the job with a hand-held circular saw will have you tearing your hair out and wasting valuable material.
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  5. MrBob

    MrBob Out there

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    Yes to using construction adhesive and screws on the treads. This is your best chance to not have a squeaky stairway.
    I've always installed the skirt board first. It's a lot easier and if you ever need to replace a tread you'll be glad you have that setup.
    For the tightest joints between tread and skirt board you can use a sliding bevel square. Lay one edge against the riser and the other against the skirtboard. If that angle isn't square you'll grab the true angle.
    Using a tape measure to measure the distance between skirt boards is iffy. I have an old-style wood, folding ruler with an inlaid brass sliding ruler. This will give you very accurate inside measurements and the tool isn't expensive.
    Hopefully, you can get behind the stairway and fasten the risers to the treads for more strength.
    A belt sander can be very helpful of you need to cleanly remove a little from the ends of the treads.
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  6. LuciferMutt

    LuciferMutt Rides slow bike slow

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    Great tips guys thanks! No access behind the stairs unless I feel like removing a shit ton of drywall. I will probably glue the bottom edges of the risers to the back of each tread though.

    I will be borrowing my step dad's miter saw to cut the treads and risers. I'm sure he has a small belt sander I could borrow.

    I'm having trouble picturing this sliding bevel square. Anyone got a link?

    And MrBob, you are suggesting using some sort of direct physical "gage" type measurement for the width of the treads and risers?
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  7. MrBob

    MrBob Out there

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    Here's the bevel gauge. It's an essential tool for woodworking. You can capture the correct angle on the stairway then lay the handle of the gauge against the fence of your miter saw and align the miter saw blade with the blade of the bevel gauge.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sliding_T_bevel

    You're assuming the angle between the stairway stringers and riser isn't square and the bevel gauge reads the actual angle.

    Here's the ruler. You can see the inlaid gauge. Unfold the ruler as far as possible between the skirtboards and use the inlaid ruler to complete the distance. You'll get a very accurate inside measurement.
    You could probably get both tools for less than 40.00.

    [​IMG]
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  8. Maggot12

    Maggot12 U'mmmm yeaah!!

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    Had my stairs professionally installed a couple yrs ago. The guy that did it put the mdf skirts and risers their first. Then I painted it white using malimin paint.
    He came back the next day and installed the treads, using small but long nails and a lot of PL Premium. I've seen many examples of his work and it looked incredible with no putty needed. He then trimmed it with a lot of moldings stained the same as the floors, treads and rails.

    One tip though, when you put the stain on your treads it'll lift the grain, so you'll need to sand again. I did this a couple times to ensure smoothness. I put nine coats of clear coat afterwards and this was done before installation.

    I have a second house with carpeted hall stairs like you have, and will do these myself over the winter.
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  9. MrBob

    MrBob Out there

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    You can use nails and it helps if they're ring shanks for better grip. Pre-drill the hole and use a nail set to finish driving the nails home.
    If you use screws you'll want to use a plug cutter and pilot bit to drill the proper-sized hole in the tread and then cut a matching plug to cover the head of the screw if the finished product needs to look pretty.
    Properly cured construction adhesive is much stronger than fasteners so fasteners only need to hold treads in place until the glue cures. That said, I usually use screws and plugs over adhesive in heavily traffic areas, just in case.
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  10. Canuman

    Canuman Crusty & Unobliging

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    Finish screws do a very nice and secure job, and the holes can be filled with a dab of putty. When used in conjunction with adhesive, they make a very secure and strong application. Find 'em here:

    http://www.mcfeelys.com/search/finish+screws

    Pre-drill!!!
    #10
  11. rapidoxidationman

    rapidoxidationman Easily trainable

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    Don't just pre drill your (finish) screw or nail holes. Lay them out with a tape so every hole is in exactly the right spot, aka "trim fastening". It'll look so much better than "approximated" holes.
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  12. PunkinHead

    PunkinHead Moobless Adventurer

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    I *just* did this job a couple days ago. See the last page of this thread. I used two pieces of 1/4" plywood to make my own tool.

    Butt each one against the skirt board, use a couple spring clamps to hold them in place, then use it as a pattern to trim your treads. You can also use it vertically for the risers since the walls probably aren't plumb.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    I used a finish nail gun and kept a few inches from the edges to avoid splitting. The holes disappear with some matching putty. For construction adhesive, I erred on the side of caution and used a polyurethane adhesive (Loctite PL-400). The adhesives labelled "low VOC" are likely to be water based. The last thing I wanted was the underside of the tread soaking up moisture and causing it to warp or split.
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  13. muddywater

    muddywater Been here awhile

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    +1
    Finish nails will hold it in place until the glue sets. The polyurethane adhesive is way ahead of the regular "construction adheiseve". I can't remember my last squeaky tread.

    I have a stair tread wizard, but have used the thin plywood method many times.

    I miss doing finish work..I took a new "career path" when the building come to a halt here in 2008.
    #13
  14. Canuman

    Canuman Crusty & Unobliging

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    Nicely done! That's a clever and versatile jig for cheap! I think I'll copy that. Of course, I'll give full credit.
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  15. darenative

    darenative Been here awhile

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    Sliding miter saw and a tread jig are must have pieces.

    I'm not a fan of capturing the treads with the skirt, if one ever needs to be replaced it turns a simple job into a pain in the ass.
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  16. MrBob

    MrBob Out there

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    Very nice idea.
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  17. Tweaker

    Tweaker ...

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    I do a lot of treads. gotta disagree with that, there is a lot of room for error across an 11 1/8" tread. Even with new skirts, there will be lot of variation as it follows the contours of the wall, even in the width of a tread. For putty-less (there should not be putty between the tread and the riser- it happens but it's sloppy) treads, a good jigsaw is the ticket.

    I am going to pick up one of those rulers, I've long wondered, never saw one witht he slide. I have one of those stair wizards, it's been sitting on my shelf for about 15 years because it has waay too much room for error. I use 2 sticks and a needle nose vise grips for inside measurements. you can use your fingers if you're too cheap for vice grips. Like you said, find the square(ist) side and work off it, front and back, it can't go wrong, (except for countour). Cut the line using a good jigsaw. Then go back and angle cut that just below the suface for the bulk of the tread, only straightening up for the nosing where it can be seen. The angle has several benefits, Im too tired to write now.
    For circullar stairs or skirts with dips and dives or both ends not square, I made a measuring jig using Harbor Freight contour guages as a base. [​IMG]
    Since I needed 3 of them to span the treads I was doing, I sandwiched their plastic red bits between my own boards for an 18" width. I glued a few rare eatrth magnets into routed holes in my boards so it sticks to a steel framing square. Now I can put the square against the back riser and easily scribe both ends should everything be whacked.
    Theres a few other tricks, shimming the riser out to prevent dips and dives along the back of the tread. staining and coating the treads before install leaving just the final. I have a pic of a staircase in the Things I Made thread.

    Oh yea, have you measured all your rises? Codes usually say no more than 3/16" difference over the entire flight. Often, there are problems at the top and bottom tread in this regard. Plan ahead.
    #17
  18. ragtoplvr

    ragtoplvr Long timer

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    better to screw and put in wood plug, as putty will not darken with age the same as wood. If you putty is should be a little darker than the wood.


    Rod
    #18
  19. PunkinHead

    PunkinHead Moobless Adventurer

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    Depends on the wood. Cherry will darken a lot. Walnut will get slightly lighter with age. I'd try to avoid putty with those. Oak and ash don't really change over time.
    #19
  20. MrBob

    MrBob Out there

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    Making a long and straight cut like that with a jig saw sounds like quite a challenge but, YMMV. I use the belt sander with a #80 belt to adjust for small variations after using my circular saw.
    Like the angle cut on the treads, I give the risers a slight back cut so a finer edge meets the skirt board.
    If you lay your treads from bottom to top you have access to the backs of the risers so they can be fastened to the edges of the treads. Plus, you have something to kneel on when working. The downside is that you're loading an area with fresh glue so everything had better fit tightly.
    It goes without saying the your stringers have been checked to be certain their surfaces are on the same level so the tread lays flat.
    I could see using putty on nail heads but that's it on a stairway.
    #20