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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am pulling out my carpet and installing laminate flooring. I am also redoing the stairs in laminate for the treads and painted white boards for the risers. My house is a split level, built in the late 70s.
I wanted to start on the stairs first, thinking they would be the most work. Today I stripped the stairs and wasnt happy with what I found. I found two split treads, and upon further investigation I found less than perfect stringers. The treads aren't actually resting on the stringers, they are resting on the pressed board risers. I took a square to the cuts on the stringers and they aren't very square. There are 6 stairs to the landing.

I am troubled with what i should do to make these stairs adequate to lay down the laminate. I am definitely going to replace the cracked treads and also the bottom tread because I will be repositioning the newel post. Should I just replace these three treads and be done with it? Should I remove all the treads and shim them so they are not resting on the risers as much? Or should I got all out and pull everything out and start fresh with new everything? What is necessary and what is the minimum I can get away with.

I've owned my house for a year and half now and I'd consider myself an above average DIY'er and have a pretty well supplied arsenal of tools. I don't have a lot of experience with framing or construction but and not afraid to tackle something new, I am also not afraid of work. I am afraid the best solution is to rebuild the stairs but I do not want to do unnecessary work if I dont have to. Thanks for any help



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Probably not the answer you're looking for but those stairs weren't built right to start with. If it were mine I would tear them out and buIld them properly with good lumber that I wouldn't cover with laminate. If you're using laminate, how were you planning on installing on each tread with the bullnose edge like it is?
Mike Hawkins:smile:
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I know most people wouldn't put the laminate it on the stairs but that's what momma wants so that's what she gets. Mike I figured they weren't built right, being that this isn't the first shoddy work that I've come across in this house.
Now keep in mind I am just a DIYer and I'll have an idea and adjust accordingly. What my original plan was to cut the nose back to a 3/4" over hang then stick some 3/4" planks on the risers to paint white.
It wasn't the answer I was looking for but it was the one I was expecting. I just didn't want to start tearing apart and somebody be like " you could've just done......."
So moving forward what would be the correct way to approach this. Are the 2x12's they used for stringers adequate or should I go with a heavier stock? Being that I am going to lay laminate on the treads and want white risers what is the best way to build them, and what material should I be considering?
Thanks for all the help, Andrew


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Rethink the laminate. It it is a loose laid product and IMO would be dangerous on stairs. Consider engineered hardwood that can be nailed or glued down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'm going to glue and nail the laminate on the stairs. Already have 52 boxes of Armstrong laminate so there's no rethinking to do. Just need some advice on rebuilding my top set of stairs


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Not sure how you are ever going to make that laminate look good and keep it safe. The edges will curl, and you don't want to me laying any kind of trim tat would create a tripping hazard. I tripped down a set of stairs once and the consequences were not pleasant. I agree with the others, those are bout so badly, I would rip the, out and start over. If are hard set on laminate, then don't bother using good wood , use plywood for the treads . Attaching the laminate will destroy the substrate anyway, so when some redoes this in the future will need to ripe out the treads anyway.

Laminate on a stairway would be cause significant issues for me if I were buying the house.
 

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I've been building stairs for a living for 12 years now. Laminate flooring as treads is a big no no for the reasons others have said. You don't want to glue the laminate to the existing treads because of expanding and contracting. Laminate is made to be installed loose so that the floor (in your case treads underneath) can expand and contract under climate changes. I was once in a house where they did install laminate flooring throughout the house including the stairs. They installed solid oak flooring for the nose overhang running it back about 2" which was where the laminate started. The laminate was starting to curl and would eventually cause a tripping hazard. Even if you did go that route and glued and nailed everything down you still have solid wood underneath that would fight the laminate when it decides to move. I do know they make a solid hardwood tread covering that you can install. It's I think 1/2" thick with a nose (overhang) that's an inch thick. You can just rip the back of it to the width you need for the depth of the tread. You can cut off the existing treads overhang or leave it. I also don't think laminate flooring on stairs passes code
 

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Or install new carpet on the stairs. Probably the easiest (certainly the cheapest) solution.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
What edges will curl? Are you saying the photo layer will eventually start peeling back? I have flush mount stair nosing that ties into the tongue and groove of the planks and both the nosing and plank will be nailed and glued. I understand laminate is kinda slippery in nature, which I'm addressing by putting stair tread pads on each step.
For the plywood, what is the minimum thickness I should be using. Is 3/4" enough or should I go with 1"? And for the stringers are 2x12 adequate or should they be heavier?


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I can understand where the OP is coming from though. Hardwood steps to match the flooring is nice but laminate is not the way to go. Looking at those pictures that stair wasn't built right at all. I don't know how stairs were built back in the 70' but stairs like that today would never pass code at least not in PA. I see no glue blocks at all which would explain why the treads are bowing. There's no dado in the underside of the tread to receive the riser (though not needed). And maybe my eyes are bad but looking at the 2nd picture is that not a mdf riser? That alone is a huge no no if that is the case
 

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Let's look at this in a flooring aspect. When you install laminate flooring you always leave a gap around the perimeter to allow for expanding and contracting. The base board will hide that. The perimeter is also known to curl over time which once again the baseboard will help prevent if installed correctly. The reason laminate is made to install loosely (not glued or nailed) is because your subfloor will always expand and contract differently than laminate. Different spieces of wood expand and contract differently. So getting back to your stair if you were to install everything tightly and glue/nail as you say, the existing treads will expand and contract differently than what the laminate on top will. To make things worse applying glue adds moisture to the wood thus making the wood expand till the glue dries. There is also nothing that's going to prevent that existing stair from getting worse. I see no glue blocks fastening the tread to riser to stringers. That's why the treads are cupping. Adding moisture when glueing will make it do it even worse. 3/4" risers are fine. 1" thick treads is fine. As for the stringers that depends on the situation. If the stair is being supported by a wall than a 1" by 9 1/4" is the bare minimal (as that's what my company does). If it's not being supported you can still use a 5/4x10 stringer but need another stringer on the inside of that. In our case we use a LVL fastened directly to the inside leaving a gap between for drywall to run up in. So in your case a 2x12" is plenty enough as long as it's structurally sound
 

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I would start over with the stairs especially since you want to see them not cover them up with carpet. Even the unsightly trim board against the wall has large enough gaps around the treads that will be hard to hide with thin laminate. 2x12's are what I used for stringers for my house stairs but do run 3 of them, if you do reuse your stringers you have now scribe a new trim board for against the wall and if you do it right and take your time you will have a hard time slipping a piece of paper between any cut you make.
I have seen alot of stairs done in laminate that were done correctly and stand up to use just fine...in fact I just did my own in the house last week. The bull nose for the laminate I used is no tripping hazard whatsoever. Does the laminate your going to use have any texture to it? Yes it can be slippery to a pair of feet with socks but that's not a deal breaker. You stated you were going with carpet treads which I think is a good option and looks nice but if you want to see just the wood look and still have excellent grip look into No Slip Strip and try there transparent Grit 2 Comfort Grip. It's very durable and easy on bare feet, buy the sealer as well and use it around the edges and it's there to stay and looks presentable. I've seen it used on main entry way stairs at a friends place and it's still great after 5+ years. I personally would not be afraid of laminate on the stairs but that's me....with that said by the looks of your pics I wouldn't waste it on the stairs you showed either though, it would get a redo first.
 

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Here's a picture to show the tread with the non slip strip I was describing, great product and if you call them they will send you a free sample that will show up on your doorstop in record time.
Also it will be rare to cut a square angle for a tread on any stairs and you don't want unsightly gaps catching your eye as you travel up and down. You may already have experience in cutting your treads/risers bt if not you can get a tread jig or simply make your own so you can capture the minute angle on both sides of your tread. This is basically all you need and I made mine out of an old 1by shelf board I replaced in a closet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Ok, so I am going to cut new stringers out of 2x12s. I'd really like to use the laminate because I'm a few hundred dollars invested in matching laminate stair nosing, that can't be returned. I understand the different expansion contraction rates of different material. I believe the planks are 5.3 inches so there will only be 1.5 planks on the stairs. With the small area of laminate that will be on each tread, will the different expansion rates really make that much of a difference?
Also I'm not familiar with the glue blocks you are referencing, could you briefly describe their function and installation.
Thank you all for your responses


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Even before you start adding onto the existing stair you need to focus on getting it as structurally sound as possible. There's 2 things the stair doesn't have and it's showing greatly. 1: there is no dado in the underside of the tread where the riser is. Though this is not needed it helps to keep the riser from moving front to back. When I build stairs I apply glue in that dado before setting the riser in place. That dado is not needed but..... 2: that stair does not have any glue blocks. Glue blocks will help prevent treads from lifting. Will also prevent stairs from squeaking when you walk on them. When I build my stairs I use 1" by 1" blocks that are 6" to 12" long. I apply glue to them and they get fastened to the underside of the stair where the riser meets the tread and also where the stringer(s) meets the tread and riser and then we also staple them fast. You can use screws. This also helps minimize squeaking and cupping of treads and risers and helps with locking everything together. Of course you only do this where applicable. Stairs done this way properly will easily last 20-30+ years until the glue finally lets go enough that you hear squeaking. Still it's a much much better way than not using any glue or blocks at all. And with adding laminate above you want that entire stair to be solid
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Cwoods, I'm glad you weighed in because I thought I was starting to sound like a crazy person. I didn't realize laminate on stairs was such a no-no, or I might have addressed it differently. It is 12mm laminate with a hand scraped pattern so there is some texture. My wife has found carpet treads which have a very sticky rubber bottom. I've already made a homemade stair jig


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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Jasons34, thank you for your input. I will totally rebuilding this set of stairs, so hopefully it is structurally sound after all this. That explanation of the glue blocks is very helpful and I will definitely be utilizing these. Looks like I need to invest in a good dado blade as well. I am planing on using one inch plywood for the treads. Can you dado plywood like you can solid wood? Not very experienced in woodworking, work with me here guys haha.


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If you look at woods pictures you will take notice that there is a solid oak front on each tread. That is not laminate. If you were to use laminate as the overhang it won't look right at all. If I was in your situation first I would fix the existing treads. Your treads are cupped so there is absolutely no way the laminate will even lay flat nor be glued down. I'd replace the treads with new ones with no nosing or overhang at all. Than I would make your solid wood nosing 1" thick at the overhang and have it run back 12mm thick say 2". Than run your 12mm flooring up to it. I wouldn't do a butt joint though. You should do some sort of half lap joint so everything locks in. That will help prevent any lifting
 
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