Repair & Care
Measuring Hardwood On Existing Stairs - Page Two
More About Stair Stringers, Skirting
Over the years before this section was born, many asked; "how can I install hardwood on my old stairs?" Many of the purists would scream if they saw hardwood strip or plank on stairs. It's all in the eyes of the beholder. Both are quite popular depending on where you reside and other factors.
First step, remove the old ugly stuff and prep the steps properly to receive hardwood. I would suggest anyone considering this kind of project, that may have a dry walled staircase, to have stair stringers installed before your project begins, if none are in place. The illustration on the right should provide a good example. Stringers provide a much cleaner final appearance in our opinion, but the customer in this segment preferred existing drywall on the sides of the steps.
In the above picture, stringers provide no added strength to the steps as they are not attached to the stairs but the wall board itself. We would recommend having them painted or stained prior to installing the hardwood. Expect to do some minor touch up once the steps are completed as there will be some minor scraping and marring during the installation.
What to buy? How to measure for the job? Typical step construction measures 11 inches in depth for the step itself and approximately 6 3/4 inches for the riser. Step being the area that is stepped on, and riser provides the face of the step. Common stairs in our example measure 36 inches across.
How To Measure. What's Needed
Each step requires nosing, stair nose, or bull nose(ing). These are provided by nearly all prefinished manufacturers and should match the flooring you've selected. In our job example we have 14 steps that measure 36" across plus or minus. Chances are good all steps will have different measurements, depending on what kind of job the original rough framers did. I've seen some vary by as much as two inches from the top of the staircase to the bottom.
Prefinished stair nosing comes in lengths of 6', 6'6", and seven foot, sometimes longer. It's important to double check measurements. There's nothing worse than having an installer ready for a job and he discovers you're short one piece. Wherever you buy, it could take weeks to get an extra piece.
In some cases there will be a lot of waste with stair nosing should your steps measure 42" across as an example, and nosing comes in six foot lengths. In that case you would need 14 pieces opposed to the seven we need for this project. I know what some are thinking.."we'll put two pieces on the step." No, absolutely not! I cringe at the thought and it screams hack all day long.
With our example, we have 14 steps. Our order will be seven pieces of nosing. You may want to add one extra just in case you get an ugly one...and it's been known to happen. Grain doesn't match flooring etc. Don't measure exact square footage for the step and riser as there will be waste. In this case I feel much safer with five square feet total for the step and riser combined.
Note: Mortised Treads and Risers
Some may find under the carpeting, staircases that were pre assembled off location and installed as one unit. In this case, stringers (skirting) do provide support of the staircase system with the step and riser mortised. Prep for installing strip or plank will be slightly different in this case.
Remove Carpet & Padding
Hopefully your steps will not be stapled to death (carpet padding) by the original carpet installer. In most cases the carpet will have been installed by the stretch in method. To remove, grab a pair of pliers and snag the corner at the bottom, pulling it up at the same time. This should free the stretch on the bottom area, allowing you to remove one section at a time. Carpet installers use several pieces on step installations so you won't have to deal with one huge piece of carpet.
The carpet pad will be cut into pieces, stapled to the steps, and overlap the nosing. They will be easy to pull with your hands providing not many staples were used. Did we mention the use of gloves while doing this kind of work? Those carpet tack pins are extremely sharp.Tack Strip Removal
Tack strip removal can be done with the use of a pry bar (often called wonder bar) and hammer. Did you ever wonder what was underneath all that carpet? Over the years I've found some real goodies, including carpet blades, cigarette butts (lazy installers), and lumps of drywall splatter to name a few.
In this case the removal was quite simple. Reasons being the installers used tack strip designed for attaching to concrete. Our guess is they were too lazy to use the proper tack strip for wood subfloors, which happen to hold much better.
Clean The Mess
Once again depending on who the drywall dudes were, you may find lumps all over the steps. All of it has to be removed before the actual installation. Any void under the hardwood will create squeaking effects eventually. Considering we will also be gluing the plank to these steps, paint overspray has to be removed to allow a good bond with glue and wood.
Renting a flooring edger will work the quickest, but it will not get into corners that will have to be scraped by hand. Maybe that belt sander in the garage will work?