Stair redo method

Q: We are interested in having oak treads installed on our existing (carpeted) staircase, then installing a carpet runner up the middle of the new treads. I obtained two bids. The first company stated that after removing the existing pine tread nosing, they would then mortise the stringers above the existing treads, into which the new oak tread would be installed (they said there would be a small gap in stringer above tread that would need to be caulked/puttied and painted).

They said they would install quarter round molding along the back of the tread where it meets bottom of riser. The second company said the they would simply customer cut and fit the new oak tread and that there would be no need for the molding in the back (or puttying on the sides). They did say they would install a piece of molding underneath the new oak nosing (no mention of this by first company). They also said they would install a thin piece of poplar over the existing risers so they could be painted (where they will be exposed on the outsides of the runner) to match the stringers. This second company said they didn’t even know what kind of tool could make the mortise cut into the stringers, which the first company said they would do. Both companies are reputable (first one installed our hardwood floor originally). Any thoughts? Also, since our stringers are currently painted white, do you agree that the risers should be painted to match rather than have oak installed over them?

A: I tend to agree with company #2, who will install poplar veneer on the risers and install a cove mold under the tread overhang. It doesn’t have to be poplar. You could ask for oak to match the treads. The advantage to this, as opposed to painting the risers is there is no risk of chipping of the coating. Of course, all the overhang of the treads will need to be cut off, flush with the riser below it.