Advice on staircase project

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Forum topic by jinjin posted 07-22-2017 07:54 PM 916 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 4314 days

07-22-2017 07:54 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question


Not sure if this is the right forum to post this question, but hope it’s ok..

I am planning on redoing the tread and risers on our stairs. There is no plywood underneath, only the frame (stair stringer). The current treads are attached using screws. However, tutorials I have seen in the past uses nails. Which is the right way to do it? It seems to me screws are more secure. I will probably have to use plugs to hide the screws. Which type of plugs should I use for these, flushed or buttons? If I ever have to unscrew the tread off and if flushed plugs are used, do I just cut through the plug since I will not be able to ply it open?

Thank you!

9 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4425 days

#1 posted 07-22-2017 08:15 PM

I would use nails. With nails you can
remove a step with a pry bar.

I don’t see any advantage to using

View Tony_S's profile


1329 posts in 3860 days

#2 posted 07-22-2017 10:36 PM

Most, if not all new ‘upgraded’ staircases are assembled with construction adhesive of some sort under the tread, and screws(in my part of the world anyways).
A rough construction grade(builders grade) stair with plywood treads and risers, and dimensional lumber for stringers is almost always built with similar adhesive(typically the cheapest crap you can buy) and nails only. Not because nails are better, but simply because builder grade stairs are a competitive, low margin product. The faster and cheaper you can build them the better. If it squeaks after 5 years, who cares is the unspoken mentality.
Screws will pull treads and joints tighter, and a good (we use PL Premium) construction adhesive will help fill small gaps between your new treads and risers and the old stringers, which quit often appear to be cut out by a 12 year old with a chainsaw.
I think you’ll find that 99 percent of stairs that squeak, creak and click, are nailed together.
If we do a cap job of an existing staircase, the old treads and risers would be screwed down to eliminate and existing squeaks and prevent and new ones from cropping up.
In jobs like this, construction adhesive and 16 gauge brad nails is standard practice.
As for flush plugs or buttons, flush plugs would be the standard.

-- “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

View jinjin's profile


13 posts in 4314 days

#3 posted 07-23-2017 02:44 AM

Thank you so much for your replies. I have another question related to the stairs.
I did a practice run of redoing the treads in one section of our house using unfinished pine treads from Lowes. I initially chose them because they were cheaper option to oak treads that sold. But after “aging” stain effect, I really love the look.

Now I am about to do the stairs that leads to living area where it will have to look nice. I like the pine, except I do not like the bullnose that comes with it. I do love the blocky look of framing lumber they sell at HD/Lowes—Douglas Fir. Are these ok to use as stair treads? They are thicker than ready made treads, but I do like the big blocky look. I just don’t know if these are not fit to be used other than as framing. Is it ok to use these as treads?

Thanks again!

View Tony_S's profile


1329 posts in 3860 days

#4 posted 07-23-2017 10:16 AM

I wouldn’t recommend Pine or Fir for stair treads, especially Pine. Both are far too soft to be under foot unless they’re used in a very low traffic area, but each to their own.
With that said, no, framing lumber wouldn’t be suitable for use for any type of millwork unless you happen to find some with a low moisture content…pretty unlikely. It should be in the 6-8% range or you’ll have a lot of problems with splits, checking and twisting. Framing lumber typically has a MC in the neighborhood of 20%.
Any hardwood lumber dealers in your area? They may have what you need.
Another option would be to cut the nosing off of the new pine tread and glue on a deeper 1 1/2” nosing. You could just buy a couple of extra treads and rip them up for the new nosings.

-- “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3074 days

#5 posted 07-23-2017 11:07 AM

He wants a worn aged look so nothing wrong with pine. Most homes before the victorian era had pine for everything. I would just bring all the wood in to acclimate and then pick the stuff that didn’t twist or split.

Your only issue in using thicker material is that the first and last steps won’t have the same rise as the rest of the staircase and it could be a weird trip hazard.

View hotbyte's profile


1001 posts in 3753 days

#6 posted 07-23-2017 11:33 AM

if you like worn looking pine, look for some reclaimed old growth/heart pine. It is much harder and durable that modern pine.

View tomsteve's profile


1038 posts in 1997 days

#7 posted 07-23-2017 06:46 PM

any chance ya have access to the underside so you could use pocket hole screws through the stringers into the treads and risers?

View ocean's profile


208 posts in 1611 days

#8 posted 07-23-2017 07:27 PM

Another consideration is the thread height. If you like your thread height now you need to keep it the same. Most stairs fall between 7-9 inches. Short people like lower and tall people like taller.

-- Bob, FL Keys

View jinjin's profile


13 posts in 4314 days

#9 posted 07-24-2017 05:49 AM

Thank you.

  • K, no Douglas Fir for moisture reason. Is softness of pine concerning for denting? If so, we don’t wear shoes in the house and also I don’t mind seeing dents and nicks. It gives character. What I am concerned though is stain wearing out after some point.
  • I considered attaching to another piece of pine to the nose (after cutting it off), but I was concerned whether the glued piece will be chip off over time. The edge is where there will be the most wear and tear. But I think what I can do is just glue the piece below the tread to just give a thicker look. Hopefully, the glued line will not be too obvious after staining.
  • Reclaimed woods are beautiful, but more expensive in my area.
  • I don’t have access from the underside of the treads, especially once the risers go in. But that was a great idea.
  • I think stair heights might slightly vary, but I think it’s ok. But anyway, I am going to ditch Douglas Fir due to moisture issue.

Thank you all!

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