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succeed 02-28-2012 09:04 PM

Replacing Stair Risers
I have a 40 year old house and we removed the carpet from the staircase last week. I have oak treads (in fair condition) but the risers were made of thin presswood / particle board and are cracked in places. They support nothing - and we have the squeaks to prove it.
I'm thinking of 3 options - please tell me if any of them would work:
1) The overhang of the bottom of the tread is 3/4 inch, so could I nail in 3/4 inch plywood as a new riser (which would actually give the tread some support)? And then reface everything with new veneer? Don't they have those stair refacing kits in the big box stores? OR
2) Could I nail in 3/4 inch of a better quality wood, and use that as my new riser, and sand my existing oak treads? OR
3) Should I tear out the thin presswood / particle board first, and then do either of the above? I don't think the existing risers are more than 1/4 inch thick, and they're so fragile I can't see any problem ripping them out.
Am I anywhere close to the right track with this?

joecaption 02-28-2012 09:26 PM

The over hang for those treads was suppost to be from 1" to 1-1/4 and the riser was suppost to be 3/4" thick.
Looks like someone tryed to use soild wood not laminated for the treads.
Even if you did add nosing on the treads you still would not be close to what it should be to be able to add the right materials.
You treads also have no round nosing.
I would not use plywood on risers, unless the staircase is enclosed. The main reason is it will leave the plys exposed on the ends.
To have this come out right and meet code your stuck with having to replace the treads and the risers.
Risers almost never cause squecks. It because someone did not install tar paper under the treads on top of the stringers or constrution adhesive, or poor stringer design or the way it was installed. A simple thing like only two stringers instead of the required three can cause all kinds of trouble.

succeed 02-28-2012 10:10 PM

Thanks JoeCaption,
The overhang is 1" on the top of the tread, but 3/4" on the bottom part of the tread - the overhang is not rounded, it's beveled. So I figured I could get away with adding a 3/4" riser.
According to those kits where you re-face your treads and risers, they say you have to saw off the overhang anyway, so I figured I'd only have 1/4" to saw off (it all has to be flush to install those re-facing /re-covering kits).
Those kits come with the nosing already built on the new tread.
Yes, my treads are solid 1" oak - not bad actually. I'm not sure if they even had laminate 40 years ago.
About the plywood, I was only going to use that if I used the kit to re-face both the treads and the risers. If I was not going to re-face them, then I'd choose better quality wood because it would be exposed.
If this won't meet code, then I'm surprised they sell the re-facing kits at all, and I'm surprised there are so many companies on the internet who are willing to come and do the re-facing for you. Something does not compute.
There is a definite bounce in the treads when someone steps on one - so whether it's an actually squeak or the groan of the wood under weight, it's noisy. That's why I thought reinforcing the strength of the riser might help. But someone else told me that solid risers break (which I find hard to believe) - cause haven't they been making solid wood risers for a couple of centuries now?

joecaption 02-28-2012 10:22 PM

Soilid risers are not going to break.
I can see were often times soild treads break. There so wide the wood wants to curl or check.
I think you talking about over treads there thinner treads that get installed over the treads you already have.
Your trouble is the risers you already have are to thin, if you remove them and add the correct material your over hang becomes about 1/4.

BigJim 02-28-2012 11:11 PM

Why don't you pop one of the risers out, you are going to replace it or at least cover it anyway. That way you can see what is going on. Can you get under the stairs? If you can is there a support wall half way up the stairs? Do you have three stringers, do your stairs have mortised in treads and risers or are they nailed on top of stringers? Are your stairs open on one side or are there walls on both sides?

succeed 02-28-2012 11:17 PM

Ah-ha! I thought solid risers would not break - thanks for confirming that for me. I think that is a reasonable way for me to go, whether I use plywood (and re-face) or whether I use a better quality wood and refinish the treads.
If I re-face, then I won't have to worry about the over-hang because it is built-in to the design of the re-facing kit. Thanks for the link to the codes - looks like the re-facing kit meets them.
However, you're right - if I simply use a better quality of wood for the risers and sand/stain the treads, my overhang won't be big enough.
So I guess it looks like the only solution is to put new plywood risers underneath, and then re-cap / re-face everything with the kit available at the big box store.
But wait - if the risers in the re-facing kit are 3/4" thick anyway, then why even bother with the extra layer of plywood underneath. Maybe they would offer enough support as is?

succeed 02-28-2012 11:29 PM

Thanks Jim,
Actually I'm anxious to rip all the risers out cause they're in such bad shape and I'd like to be rid of them, but we have cats so I can't open up any holes until we're ready to do the work. Maybe I can look for something to cover up the opening . . .
We could take apart the drywall underneath if necessary - if we needed to shim/wedge to help with any squeaking (but I really don't want to do that unless absolutely necessary). This house has too many surprises and every time we open a piece of drywall another issue arises.
I poked around between a tread and a riser and there is either a stringer or a 2x4 in the middle of the staircase. At least that would be something to nail the new risers to.
No, there is no support wall half way up the stairs (from underneath) - the stairs leading to the basement are under the main staircase.
Yes, 6 of the stairs are open on one side, but the other 9 are closed.

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