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rioch 07-18-2012 06:09 AM

Crack in wooden stairs: dangerous or not?
We have wooden stairs in our house on the second floor which lead up to the attic. There are a couple of large cracks along the middle of the part attached to the wall, and the paint is bubbly; there's also a gap along the bottom of the part attached to the wall:

Last year we had a leak in the bathroom. This has since been fixed (completely re-tiled, by a professional). The wall in the photo below was quite damp, so perhaps the stairs have been damaged because of the leak?

I have a couple of questions:
  1. Is this dangerous? Will the stairs break underneath my feet one day? They feel fine.
  2. How do I repair it? Can I just use a liquid wood?
  3. My goal is to sand and paint the stairs. Can I just paint over it?

gregzoll 07-18-2012 07:45 AM

I would get it fixed. Unless you remove the paint covering the majority of the cracks, you are just guessing how bad it is.

user1007 07-18-2012 07:55 AM

Liquid wood and filler (I use Abatron products) will certainly work on the cracks but something happened to cause the wood to fracture in the first place. You should address that issue rather than band aiding the cracks and this will probably mean replacing some of the lumber.

woody4249 07-18-2012 11:16 AM

Looks like dampness to me......especially as you know of previous water problems. I see paint bubbling, wood splitting and mildew........all typical of wood damage by water.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it looks like that stringer has to be isn't going to get better and wood filler is just a band-aid.
It also looks from the straightness of the cracks that the stringer was made from three pieces of material and curved at the bottom.
Do you feel confident enough to replace it yourself....with our help?


tony.g 07-18-2012 03:15 PM

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As Woody has suggested, it looks as though the string has been built up of separate pieces, glued/toungued/biscuit-jointed or dowelled together. When the wood gets wet, it swells and cracks at the weakest point, which is always the joint..The pieces could still work together, particularly if the treads have been securely fixed through the sides. My guess is that it will be OK and just needs cosmetic finishing. However, if you want to be extra safe, why not consider gluing and screwing some plywood pieces on to the string, one piece between each tread. Won't look fantastic but it will strengthen it. You can fill the screw holes and paint.

rioch 07-18-2012 04:11 PM

Thank-you so much for such a great, simple explanation. I've made a raised-bed and laid some lamminate, but this job is beyond me. Thanks for offering to help. You have given me my next job which is to call someone in to take a look. I was half-hoping I was worrying over nothing.

I'll let you know how it goes. If you don't hear from me, it broke while I was on it! :D

kwikfishron 07-18-2012 05:11 PM

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A triangle piece of ac plywood painted up, attached to studs from the floor to the bottom of the stringer would keep things in place for now.

Willie T 07-18-2012 05:13 PM

I'd put it down as being plywood layers. Lumber typically doesn't come apart like that. Trouble with using plywood for stringers is that water usually gets down inside and delaminates the layers.

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