Dealing with a Squeaking Staircase
Dealing with Squeaking Stairs
Irrespective of the quality of their construction, there will inevitably come a time when the treads of a staircase will start to squeak. The main causes of squeaking stairs are simply general wear and tear, coupled with the natural shrinkage and movement of timber, which means that sooner or later almost every staircase made from timber will develop squeaks.
In most cases the best results are obtained if as many of the repairs at possible are made from underneath the stairs. While this is the ideal scenario it is not always a practical option, however many effective smaller repairs can still be carried out from the front. Several different repairs can often be employed to deal with the exact same problem, and most of the options available are demonstrated on these pages. In many cases, this is annoying rather than anything to worry over and by spending a little time you should be able to eradicate just about every squeak.
Tools for the Job:
- cordless drill/driver
- wood chisel
Tips of the Trade
It may help to identify where repairs are needed, if someone else walks slowly up and down the stairs whilst you watch and listen to each step in turn. If you have a cupboard under the stairs you may also be able to find open joints by standing inside with the light off to spot any chinks of light filtering in from outside.
Loose Tread – Nailing
One of the simplest of all repairs, which is ideal if you are unable to gain access to under the stairs, is to nail down through the tread into the riser below. Be careful that thedo not come through the front of the riser spoiling the appearance. The nails will have better grip if they are inserted in dovetail fashion as shown.
Loose Tread – Screwing
A better method for fixing down a loose tread, again without needing to access under the stairs, is with a row ofrather than nails. You will first need to drill holes level with the riser just through the surface of the tread and then insert the screws. Use 38mm (1-7/16in) no. 8 screws and make sure that any heads are countersunk below the surface of the tread. For the ultimate finish use a sink and matching plug cutter. The special drill bit drills the correct size of pilot hole for the and cuts a straight counter-bore which sits below the surface. Pellets are then cut from matching timber, glued over the screw head and trimmed off flush.
A gap between the upper surface of the tread and the string indicates a loose or missing wedge. If loose, remove the wedge from under the stairs, clean off the old, brush on and reposition. If missing or damaged cut a new one from then and reposition.
To strengthen the joint between an open string and tread, cut a block of wood 35mm (1-6/16in) square and the width of the tread. Access under the stairs and, at the back of the step in question, screw the wood block into the corner at the joint between tread and string. First coat the block with glue and drill holes for 50mm (2in) no. 8 screws. If you can, get a helper to stand on the tread from above to close up the gap between block and step as you drive the screws home.
Loose Riser Joint
Gluing on a section of a quadrant can sometimes reinforce a loose riser joint at the back of the tread. If the stairs are exposed you may want to give each tread the same treatment to match.
You may be able to prise open a joint with a wood chisel and inject. Clamp the joint until the glue has set. This is effective combined with other repairs, such as replacing glue blocks.
Where to Insert Wedges
Driving in small slip wedges coated with glue is an effective method for tightening joints between tread and riser. Make the wedges about 50mm (1-1/4in) long tapering from about 5mm (3/16in) down to nothing. After the glue has dried use a sharp chisel to trim off the end of any protruding wedges.