How to install hardwood stairs

I have to admit, tackling the stairs was really daunting!  I was intimidated.

 Having done it, I don’t know why I was so nervous.  It’s one of those projects that you are scared to start but once you get into it, you realize it was pretty easy.

I must say, this is how we did it.  It may or may not be the “correct” way to do it.  {probably not} but it worked for us.

install hardwood stairs

Start by removing your carpet.  It should come off in a long strip.  It’s heavy and cumbersome but not a big deal.

After the carpet comes up, your stairs may be wood already.  If so, you are LUCKY!!  We were not.  Ours looked like this:

how to install hardwood stairs

What you are seeing is carpet pad and tack strip.  The tack is the strips that run the perimiter.  They have little nails throughout.  Be careful, they are sharp.  Don’t worry about taking these off.  You are going to just pull up the whole stair tread.

You can buy stair treads at your local home improvement store.  They are routed and sanded and ready to be installed and stained.  They look like this:

how to install hardwood stairs

This stair tread is from Home Depot and runs about $19 per stair.  You can also get it in pine for about $11 per stair.  This is for the treads only and does not include the risers.  {the white part going up the stairs} Those were around $15 per stair.

My Brother in law did his stairs at the same time and he bought the pre done treads from Home Depot.  He got two stairs out of each tread.  Depending on your stairs you might be able to do that also.  We could barely get one.

We are cheap and decided to do it ourselves.

We bought long pine boards and cut them down. We could get 3 stair treads out of each board.  Yours may get more or less depending on your stair dimensions.

how to install hardwood stairs

We took the long pine boards and routed them to have a bevel on the front.  Only on the front.  Leave the backside square.  Make sure you sand them uniformly and smoothly.

Pry up the old stair tread.  You remember the one with the carpet pad and tack strip on it.  Measure carefully and cut the new tread to size.  We installed them with screws.  Drilling a pilot hole first.  We did this to help with those pesky squeaky stairs you can get.


Once they were all installed, you need to stain them.

 how to install hardwood stairs

Since people still need to go up and down the stairs, you will probably want to stain every other stair.  It takes longer but is necessary. I wanted a very dark stair.  I used a gel stain as the first 2 coats.  The darkest stain I could find was giving me a golden brown color.  Not what I wanted at all.  So I cheated.  I took some black paint and glazed another two coats over the stain.  I didn’t use glazing medium, I just took a rag and wiped the black paint on.  It gave me this lovely dark color.  I love it!!  Don’t forget to seal the stairs after staining.  They are going to take a lot of traffic.


So now your stair treads are done.  What about the risers?

how to install hardwood stairs

 I didn’t want to pull them out and put in new boards.  While not visually pleasing, they are sound.  So I decided to face them.  I bought this white hardy board at home depot.


It was $13 and 1 board did all my stairs.  I had them cut it to size at home depot.

 Make sure you measure each stair riser.  They are not all the same size.  If you are off even 1/4 inch, they may not fit or may leave gaps.  Not good.  I ended up with 3 different widths for 12 stairs.

I applied the hardy board with liquid nails.  It covered up the yucky risers and made everything pretty.

how to install hardwood stairs.

I caulked the seams with white caulk.  It took care of the rough edges.  It also give that finishing touch.

how to install hardwood stairs

I love how my stairs came out.  Definitely worth the time.  The process is not hard, it just takes time.  If you have any questions, leave me a comment.

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  1. love the dark color! might have to do that since we are just finishing up our new stairs.
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  2. Your stairs look beautiful. Thankfully when we pulled up our rug we had nice hardwoods to refinish. The only trouble was removing the carpet tack strips and all the staples on each step.
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  3. I needed this very tut the steps are on my project to do list. I am following your blog I really hope you will do the same

  4. I’m so glad to have found this tutorial. Our basement stairs are AWFUL, and they’re covered with a carpet that collects cat hair and never lets it go. We’d been talking about ripping up the carpet for ages, but my husband seems to think it would be terribly complicated. Now I’m going to show him your tutorial!

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  6. This is actually very useful info for me. I am going to tackle my stairs soon. It is inspiring to see how well yours turned out.
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  7. Great results! Very smart idea to stain every other stair first and let the stain dry !!!!

  8. So cool! Do you know how much you spent on the whole thing? I don’t have a house, but live my DIY dreams vicariously through my in-laws, and am currently trying to convince them to do their stairs like this.
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  9. You are so awesome! I don’t think I’ve read something like that
    before. So wonderful to find another person with some unique thoughts on this subject matter.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is one thing that is
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  10. These look great! What flooring do you have at the top of the stairs? Carpet or wooden? How does this transition?

  11. Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful
    post. Thank you for supplying this info.
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  12. A great tutorial on installing Hardwood floors. Actually I think you should take the help of experts in when it comes to installation because if you don’t install it perfectly, it will cause you some sort of problem in every second day.

  13. I’m in the restoration business, and we deal with stairs often. I must admit, those stairs look great. One issue to watch for is that those stairs will probably squeak soon. One way to avoid that (if you do end up redoing squeaky steps) would be to use a good quality mastic. Good ones cost under $4 a tube at a hardware store and one tube would cover 2 or 3 treads. It will save you much aggravation.
    Another note: you should ALWAYS replace risers, since they bear the majority of the shear pressure (more so than treads which distribute a compression load). But I digress…
    I love the beautiful stairs, and I wish you much success with all your projects. With your enthusiasm and spirit, there’s nothing you can’t tackle.

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