Squeaking Stairs — Several Solutions

Probably more common than squeaks in floors, squeaks in stairs are caused by the same basic problem — wood rubbing against wood.

The solution is either to eliminate movement between treads and risers or to lubricate squeaking areas. Locating squeaks in stairs is, of course, easy. Simply move from step to step, pausing to rock back and forth on each step. Test the center of each tread first, then the ends.

If the undersides of the stairs are exposed — inside a closet, for example — eliminating squeaks can be relatively easy. If your stairway is carpeted, being able to work from below can be particularly useful. When you don’t have access from below the stairs, you’ll have to work from above.

For cosmetic reasons, naturally, it is preferable to work on stairs from below; so among the following suggestions for silencing squeaky stairs, the remedies that can be applied from underneath are presented first.

Fig. 95-1

Wedges make the simplest solutions to squeaking stairs . You just drive them between the riser and the tread, from below or above. While a helper puts weight on the squeaking step, look for any noticeable movement. Wherever there is play between the tread and the riser, you’ll need to install wedges.

Wedges are best driven up from below, between a riser and the lip of the tread above it. The wedges should be small — an inch or two long; you can whittle them off a board or shingle, using a pocket knife. Dip the tip of each wedge into a common white wood glue. While the step is weighted, take a block of wood, place it against the blunt end of the wedge, and tap the block to drive the wedge snugly into place. But don’t overdo it — you don’t want to pry the stair and riser apart. Two or three wedges should be adequate. When the glue has dried, use a utility knife to cut off the protruding ends of the wedges, if you wish.

Fig. 95-2

Where it’s possible to work only from above the stairs, you can easily insert wedges between a tread and the riser above it. Here, too, coat the tip of each wedge with glue and carefully cutoff the end when the glue has dried. When driving wedges always use a block of wood to provide a larger hammering surface and to keep from marring the stairs.

Fig. 95-3

Wood blocks work better than wedges where you have access to the underside of the stairs. Glue 2 by 2 wood blocks tightly to the tread and riser where they join, and secure the blocks with woodscrews in both directions. Installing the screws will be easier if you pre-drill screw holes in the blocks. Be sure to select screws that are not too long — they should come no closer than 1/4 inch to the surfaces of the treads and risers.

Fig. 96-0

Shelf brackets or metal angles are easier to install than wood blocks—again, if you can work from below — though not as effective. The kind commonly available at hardware stores can be used. Choose short wood-screws that will get a good bite but come no closer than ¼ inch to the surface of treads and risers.

Fig. 96-1

When there’s no alternative, molding makes a practical remedy that can be installed from above the stairs. Quarter-round or any decorative molding can be glued, then nailed to the angles between treads and risers to eliminate movement. The molding should be nailed to both surfaces.

Fig. 96-2

Though you may need molding on only one or two stairs, you should install it on every step to give the stairway a uniform, finished appearance. For the same reason, all nail holes should be filled, and the molding finished. Molding can be finished before it is cut and installed. This way, it only needs touching up once it has been nailed in place.

Lubricants used on squeaky floors — graphite, talcum powder, floor oil, or mineral oil — can be used sparingly in the joints between treads and risers to eliminate friction. This solution can be applied only from above, and may prove to be temporary. But since adding lubricant is a simple task, it can be repeated when necessary. (For details on using lubricants to eliminate squeaks, see earlier discussion.)

Common white wood glue can be worked into the joints between treads and risers to bond them. Obviously, this work is best done from above and is effective only where the movement between pieces of wood is minor.

Fig. 96-3

Work the glue into the crack with a putty knife or similar tool, and wipe away any excess glue immediately. Avoid walking on the step until the glue has dried.

Prev: Squeaking Floors — Annoying But Fixable

Next: Refinishing Wood Floors—Exacting but Rewarding

top of page   home

Saturday, 2008-12-13 20:00