Corridor & hallway by INSPACE

How to do your own staircase maintenance

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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Staircases are exposed to a lot of wear and tear – or rather, walking and running and climbing and jumping, but you get the picture. However, with each little damage done to those surfaces, the chances increase of you or someone else getting hurt while using that staircase, so don’t ignore the teeny tiny warning signs of deterioration. 

Of course something as crucial as this deserves to be taken a look at by a professional, yet if you are quite the experienced DIYer and you’d like to give it a whirl…

Creaking or damaged treads or risers

Treads and risers are usually wedged tightly in position; however, it can happen that the wedges loosen so the stair moves and creaks. Should this be the case in your house, carefully check all the stairs, and carry out any repairs necessary, from below the stairs if possible, or from above if not.

If the treads or risers split, they can be replaced in an open-string staircase. Remove the balusters and the fasteners from the damaged tread or riser (fasteners are under the stairs). Slide out the broken part and use it as a template to cut a new one. Slip the new part into place and replace the fasteners and balusters. We firmly recommend that you ask a professional to help replace treads or risers into a closed-string staircase.

If the nosing of a tread is damaged, it can often be fixed without removing the whole tread. Cut away the damaged area and use it as a template to cut a new section. Then glue and screw the patch in place. This method is very similar to that used for window sills.

Loose-fitting newel post

Just take the loose joint apart, clean it, and install it with glue and screws. Adjust the fit of a modular newel turning into the newel base by using wedges and dowels if required. 

You can also use resin to form a strong joint.

Repairing creaking stairs from below

If a wedge is loose under the squeaking stair, remove it. Use it as a template to cut a new wedge, and apply wood glue to its sides.

Next, you drive the new, glued wedge firmly into place. The wedge needs to fit tightly to prevent any movement in the joint.

Once the wedges are tight, glue a reinforcing block across the joint between the tread and riser.

Drill pilot holes through the block and into the stair, but be careful not to penetrate the outer surface. Lastly, screw the block tightly into place.

Repairing creaking stairs from above

Drill pilot holes through the squeaking or moving tread and into the edge of the riser below. Screw it tightly into the riser. The screw head should be buried slightly into the tread. 

Fill the hole when you have finished. Repeat this along the edge of the riser.

Repairing a broken baluster

Note: this obviously counts for wooden ones, not glass.  

If the baluster is secured into the tread of a step, you might need to remove beading around the step in order to replace the spindle. If lots of spindles are damaged, you can replace the whole balustrade.

Lever up the fillet below the broken baluster with a chisel. Take the broken baluster out and use it as a template to trim a replacement. Replace the fillet and pin it into place using a panel pin. 

Use decorations such as sealant and paint to hide the repair.

Checking your stairs

The treads and risers of a staircase are exposed to the most damage. Even though a lot of problems aren’t that obvious, it is definitely worth checking the condition of old stairs occasionally.

It’s easiest under the stairs to inspect for damages and fixing them, especially if they’re carpeted. Just ask someone to walk up and down the stairs while you check for any movement in the joints underneath. Mark the ones that need attention, then strengthen them using the techniques above. 

Should you not have access to the space under your stairs, you will have to fix them from above. 

See these Clever ways to use under-stairs space.

Will you be doing some personal maintenance on your staircases?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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