New slab on existing treads?

Q: I am looking at replacing my carpet covered stair treads with the oak slab treads. The existing treads are 1 1/2″ thick pine. Can I remove the treads and risers and replace with new? If I place the new treads on top of the existing ones the stair steps will not be the same height on the top and bottom steps. Should I use a thinner, 1/2″ or 3/4″ thick tread with a 1″ lip?

Also how difficult is it to remove the existing treads and risers? I am an experienced woodworker so I can make any type of tread I need to.

A: You are correct that putting a new slab on top of the existing treads will put the bottom and top treads, possibly out of code, with the bottom one being higher and the top lower. I am a floor refinisher/installer. Not a staircase expert. However, if you have access to the rear of the staircase, you should be able to remove the treads, which should be held in place with wedges. The typical thickness of slabs now, I think, is 1 1/8, which would leave a gap in the slot which is in the stringer. I guess you could get any thickness made if the price is no object.

Glue solid oak treads onto existing fir treads

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: I want a hardwood look on my stairs. Currently, they are carpeted and the treads beneath are 3/4 inch construction grade fir as are the risers. I cannot easily remove the treads as they are heavily boxed in on either side and I cannot access the rear of the staircase without major demolition. So, I cannot easily install the set of 36″ x 10″ solid oak or chipboard with oak veneer top replacement treads I wanted.

My idea now is to place a 1/4″ solid oak veneer (carefully cut from a solid oak sheet) on the treads glued down over the existing fir treads. Then glue and brad nail a solid oak 1″ half round as a nosing. Once in place, I would stain and finish. The risers I would either veneer as well or paint out white.

Do you foresee any problems with this idea? Any suggestions are most welcome.

A: This is what you can do. The existing tread lip will need to be trimmed back on each tread, to be flush with the riser beneath it. Then you can install a solid slab tread, which is about 1 1/16 thick. You can put veneer on the risers, and that will hide the part of the tread that overhangs, the lip, where you cut it off.

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Can I put oak slabs over the existing stair tread?

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: I am having a new 2 story house built. I am installing oak hardwood flooring on the main and upper level. I want to install oak on the stair treads and paint the risers. I am told by the builder that the treads have to be glued in. I would assume removing them and replacing them with oak slabs would be a fun job.

Can I simply put oak slabs over the existing tread? Keeping in mind that the height would be increased to the same height as the hardwood flooring at the top and bottom.

Also, do I have to cut off the outer lip if I go with a thin stair nosing? If I do have to cut it off, how would you recommend I do it?

A: I have refaced a number of staircases with hardwood flooring, including both treads and risers. All things considered, however, any others I do will be with the slab treads instead. The price for materials is nearly the same, but with the slabs, it doesn’t look so “busy”.

I hope your staircase has boxed in treads, with a stringer on each side, rather than having spindles on each tread. In that case, you would have to remove the spindles for sure. And if the staircase is winding, probably half the treads would have to be custom made.

So, if we are dealing with boxed stairs, you probably have plywood or construction grade pine treads presently. Yes, the outer edge of the tread should be cut back flush with the edge of the riser. So, you will take about 1 1/2″ off the outside edge of each tread. You can cut along the edge of the stringer, at the end of each tread with a hand saw. Then you can measure back from the edge whatever distance it is, we will say 1 1/2″.

Make a straight line from end to end. Now you have a choice of cutting off the outside edge using a handsaw (painfully slow), a circular saw, jig saw or reciprocating saw. It may help to have each. The circular saw is fast, but will only get you to within about 5 inches of the end of the tread. The rest can be finished with the jigsaw or reciprocating. Slabs come in standard sizes of 9 1/4 or 10 1/4, and pick your length: 36″, 42″, 48″.

You can apply a good quality wood/carpenters glue to the existing unfinished tread, or use a heavy mastic. Bostik’s Best is an excellent urethane adhesive who’s bond is described as tenacious. It is a very aggressive adhesive which I am learning to appreciate. And it never becomes brittle. Tack a few nails in to hold it and the glue will do the rest.

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