Hardwood Staircase Installation: Replacing Carpet With Wood Treads Using An Easy-To-Make Template For Pie Steps or Curved Staircases
Last Fall, we tackled the renovation of our home’s foyer. The biggest project was replacing the old carpet on the staircase with hardwood treads and white risers. While it seemed a pretty straight-forward project in the beginning, it ended up being the one project we couldn’t get a contractor to do. No one wanted the job.
The problem? Our staircase is angled and features a “pie step” or curved landing. This created an issue because these “pie steps” could not be outfitted with a standard stair tread. So we figured out how to DIY the job. In doing so, we saved thousands of dollars! Today, I’m showing you how I created a template to create the deeper stair treads that pie step landing required so you can do it yourself!
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When we moved into this house, almost two years ago, we knew immediately that we’d be replacing the carpet running down the stairs. While photos might convey a different look, it was old and super dingy. Then, to make matters even worse, our cats had taken to treating it as a scratching post and it was beginning to shred. It was so bad that we’d actually taped sections back together, using packaging tape! Ahhh… the miracle of selective editing!
Since we’d begun planning to prep the house for resale, we knew that this had to be addressed. After all, the staircase is at the very front of our house and empties into the foyer. This is going to be the first impression a buyer gets when they tour our home. So we needed to make it as impressive as possible!
This is just one of a few other projects we tackled during this renovation. We also installed hardwood throughout the upstairs hallway, added a stair runner, and installed grasscloth wallpaper.
You can see the full project reveal here: Updated Suburban Entryway Reveal
How Standard Stair Treads and Risers Are Installed
The good news is that, unless your entire staircase is curved or spiraled, your modifications are going to be minimal for the majority of this project. You will only need to modify the treads on the steps that are extra deep or angled.
Luckily, there are dozens of tutorials on installing stair treads and risers on standard staircases. I will throw in this information: For this project, I used a very specific stair tread and riser. It’s imperative that you use the same treads and risers for your entire project. For moving forward with this project, a stair and riser kit with a decorative lip or overhang will not work.
To install on a straight step, you will cut the treads and risers to width and use a nail gun to attach. Here’s a video to explain the process for standard (straight) steps: Installing Unfinished Hardwood Stairs. Once they are installed, you will apply caulk, paint, and stain.
That’s the easy part.
There were two tricky parts of this stair installation:
Preparing the staircase base (under the carpet) was a feat in itself. You see, the stair was built with a lipped edge (vs. waterfall). This means that the tread, built of construction lumber, extended approximately one inch past the riser. In order to install a solid hardwood tread over the existing tread, we had to first rip back the overlap.
We did this by using a reciprocating saw to trim the excess inch off the front of each step. Here, you can see my sweet wife and (often unenthusiastic) helper, Christine doing just that.
The second issue goes back to the angled return. Midway up the flight of stairs, the staircase takes a turn of approximately 60 degrees. In order to accommodate a tread on the three affected stairs whose treads are not the same depth on each side. Here’s my solution;
The Easiest Way To Make A Template For Your Stair Treads
Since there’s such an array of angles and necessary cuts for these treads, I opted to create a template for each individual stair tread. The material? Masking tape.
I simply used a length of tape for each side. I taped them directly onto the existing tread base. Then I lifted from the base and applied to the hardwood treads that were prepared for cutting, allowing for a 1” overhand at the front of the tread (curved front).
For the step that required a deeper tread than was standard, I used to treads, glued and binder with biscuits, then placed the template on top and marked my cut lines with a pencil.
My cuts were made with a table saw and a circular saw. Here I am, looking possibly my worst, but cutting the heck outta that wood.
PS. wedged between two saws is my Happy Place.
Once my cuts were made, I installed these treads with framing nails, taking special precaution to secure both of the original pieces in place to avoid shifting. Since I knew I’d be installing a runner, I opted to nail most of the board down the center.
I followed the same technique for all three angled (pie stair) treads.
And then I finished it all off with stain, paint and a permanent runner (which is actually just 3 store-bought runners, trimmed and secured in place with a staple gun).
So there you have it! If you intend to replace your carpeted staircase with hardwoods but your contractors all say it’s too challenging because of a "pie step” or angled return, you can always just do it yourself and save the money!
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