Fixing creaky timber stairs
Just like creaking floorboards, squeaky stairs are usually caused by timbers which have become loose, rubbing together whenever somebody steps on them. Stairs are built from three basic components: the tread, the riser and the stringer (the side piece). Usually it’s a tread rubbing against a riser or stringer that cases squeaks. Treads can become loose because the timber has shrunk or the supporting blocks or nails have loosened. Stopping the movement is the solution to stopping the noise.
First, identify where the noise is coming from. If you can get underneath the staircase, have someone else walk on the offending step. If the noise comes from the spot where the foot meets the tread, concentrate your repair efforts there. If the noise comes from one side when you step in the centre or if it comes from the rear of the tread when you step at the front, the chances are pretty good that the entire tread is moving.
Noise at the front of a step is the most common and easiest to fix. If you’re under the steps the join between step and riser simply needs securing with some timber cleats.
If you CAN get under-stair access
WHAT YOU NEED
- length of 2 x 2 (42 mm x 42 mm) pine for the cleats (the amount of this depends on how many treads you have to fix)
- drill with 6 mm drill bit
- construction adhesive glue
WHAT TO DO
- Cut 100 mm timber cleats from the length of pine.
- Drill a pair of holes through each axis of the block of wood (offsetting the holes so they don’t intersect) and countersink them so the head of the screw doesn’t split your small cleat when it’s screwed into place. To gain maximum tension drill these holes with a 6 mm bit so that the screws can slide clearly through them.
- Glue the block with construction adhesive.
- Screw it to the top of the riser first, leaving a couple of millimetres’ clearance between the top of the block and the underside of the tread. When you screw the block to the tread, this little gap will allow the tread to be pulled down tightly against the riser. Be sure not to use screws that are so long that they break out through the top surfaces.
- Traditionally built stairs will have a set of wedges driven into the housings at the end of each tread. If these are loose they should be removed, sanded and then reinserted with a fresh coating of glue. If the stairs don’t use wedges just repeat the block mounting process.
If you CAN’T get under-stair access
WHAT YOU NEED
In addition to the above, you’ll need some timber plugs to hide the screws. Ready-made timber plugs are available at any hardware store in a variety of sizes; 8 mm should do for this job, plus an 8mm brad point drill. You won’t need the length of timber as you won’t be able to use cleats.
WHAT TO DO
- Start by determining the centre position of the riser in relation to the tread, and draw a pencil line along it.
- Drill the plugholes along this line 100–150 mm apart.
- Use an 8 mm brad point drill to drill the plug holes around 6 mm deep.
- Through the bottom of these holes drill a pilot hole, then drive the screws in.
- Coat the timber plugs with construction adhesive and tap them in to hide the screws.
- Once the glue dries, cut the top of the plug off with a sharp chisel and then sand flush before touching up the finish.