How to Fix Squeaky Stairs

Oct 22 2019

A squeaky stair at night is perhaps one of the loudest sounds on Earth. Well, at least it feels that way to us as each step seems to announce our presence to the whole family with deafening clarity. If this is the case for you, don't despair! We’re here to show you it can be a simple fix to do yourself and you’ll have a squeak free life in no time.

What is the cause of squeaky stairs?

 For some context, your stairs are made of a few different parts:

  • The tread is the piece of wood you actually step on
  • The riser is the vertical bit of wood that slots along the front of each stair, filling the space between one stair and the next
  • The stringer is the whole frame the stairs rest on, essentially the two large boards on either side of the stairs.

The usual cause of squeaky stairs is when the connection between these pieces has loosened over time leaving gaps, either through wear and tear, loose nails, or the glue holding them together has become less effective over time.

What is the fix?

  1. First, find the source of the squeak! Step along the affected stairs slowly, applying pressure to pinpoint the exact location of your annoyance, this will help you identify which parts are loose.
  2. Next, can you access the stairs from underneath and are the wooden parts of the stairs exposed? If the answer is yes, great! This will make things a lot easier for you! From underneath, you should be able to spot the small gaps between the different components of the stairs where parts have come loose over the years, or where the original blocks supporting the stairs have fallen out. It’s a simple fix to then plug those up with shims or wedges, tap these in gently with a little wood glue on the end or nail them in once the gap is plugged, depending on your preference. Remember not to use too much force as you could end up widening the gap and making the issue worse!
  3. If you only have access to the top of the stairs, it can be a little trickier to find the exact spot, and if you’ve got carpeted stairs this will also have to be removed before you start too. If you’re worried you may destroy your lovely carpet in the process though it might be worth waiting until you’re replacing the carpet and fix the stairs then.
  4. Once the carpet is removed, the most simple method is to just screw the tread back into the riser at the front or the stringers to the side, depending on which part is loose. Three screws should be enough for the job, one at each end of the tread and one in the middle. This should close any gaps and keep the riser or stringer night and tight against the tread.
  5. The only issue with drilling nails straight down is that they may come loose again with more extended wear and tear. As an alternative (beyond forbidding the family to use that particular stair) you can hammer nails in at 45 degree angles to tighten up the tread and the riser. Having the nails in at this angle will give some extra stability and they’ll be less likely to pop out.
  6. As a final step I’d tell the family not to use the stairs for a couple of hours after finishing. This will give time for any glue to dry where you’ve slotted in new wedges under the stairs.

 

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