How to Stop Squeaky Stairs

Simple Instructions on How to Stop that Noisy Squeaky Staircase

By Mark J. Donovan

Question: I’m having a real problem finding help (even on your site!) and info regarding fixing hardwood stairs. We purchased a 42 year old home that has oak steps, front and back (bi-level), and we want to refinish them BUT…they are really squeaky. I’d like to take the time to fix them before we spend so much time refinishing them. I want them to sound as good as they look.

I have had no luck finding books, videos, or web sites that have any advice on how to fix them. I haven’t been able to find information on even just the basic understanding of stair construction. It seems all anyone wants to talk about is rise and run when it comes to staircases.

Answer: Squeaky wooden stair cases can be a real annoyance. Fortunately for you there are a number of ways you can resolve your squeaky wood stairs, and the techniques are straight forward.
First, if the back of the stair case is exposed, or you can make access to it, you can do the following:

If the squeak is at the nose of the stair tread attach a small block of wood (e.g. 1″x1″x a few inches in length) to the backside of the nose. Before attaching the small blocks of wood, apply glue to the wood on the surfaces that will come in contact with the riser and stair tread. Then toe nail the small wood block to the back of the nose of the stair tread. The nails should fasten into the riser, and the stair tread just above it. Make sure you use finish nails that are not so long that they penetrate through the small block of wood and the stair tread or riser. How to Stop Squeaky Stairs

If the squeak is on the back of the tread, then drill a pilot hole into the back of the riser and into the stair tread to enable a screw to be installed. Prior to installing the screw, and after drilling the pilot hole, countersink the pilot hole opening so that the screw head will sit below the surface of the riser. Next apply some wood glue to the screw (approximately a 2″ screw), and then install it into the riser and through into the stair tread. Finally, add a wood filler over the screw hole opening.

If you do not have access to the back of the wooden stairs, then you will need to work from the front of them.

If the squeak is at the nose of the stair tread, first identify the location of the squeak and then have someone stand on the tread. Next, drill two small pilot holes into the top of the stair tread, near the squeak, and directly overhead of the riser. The two small pilot holes should be drilled such that the two nails will be driven into the stair tread at opposite angles to each other (45 degrees to one another). Prior to nailing the finish nails (8 or 10 penny nails) into the stair tread, coat them with wood glue.

This will enable the nails to go in more easily and will add another level of rigidity to the stair tread once the glue sets up. Use a nail punch to sink the nails and then apply a wood filler afterwards. Note, you may need to install a couple of pairs of nails to completely silence the squeak.

If the squeak is occurring at the back of the step, then again drill small pilot holes into the back of the stair tread directly over the stringer (or stringers). Again, the small pilot holes should be placed opposite each other at a 45 degree angle. Then nail in the finish nails, countersink them, and apply a wood filler.

With these simple techniques your squeaky stairs should be a thing of the past.

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