Fix a Wobbly Newel Post – Solving Problems with Older Stairs
Solving Problems with Older Stairs
Stairs need very little in the way of maintenance and a new staircase should function for years without any major problems. Fortunately, when problems do occur they tend to be relatively minor and simple to resolve, and basic maintenance is usually easy to accomplish. A squeaking stair or wobbly handrail is often more of an irritation than a danger, but small problems such as these should be fixed promptly for if left untreated more extensive repairs will be required.
Almost all problems related to stairs can be fixed with a basic set of tools – the hardest part is often finding the problem. Squeaking stairs are caused by two pieces of timber rubbing against each other, so if a tread makes a noise when you step on it then it is almost certainly due to the tread being split or a loose wedge on the underside. When there are several problems with a staircase, try to work systematically, rectifying each one before moving onto the next.
Tips of the trade
Get a helper to walk up and down the stairs while you carefully watch watch and listen for trouble spots.
Tools of the job:
- tape measure & pencil
- cordless drill/driver
- wooden or plastic mixing stick
- rubber mallet
- Split treads are common in older stairs andf the stairs are fitted with carpet a sure sign will be a squeaking tread. They can be easily fixed in two different ways. First remove any floor covering to expose the split.
- If underside of the tread is accessible a patch can be fitted over the split. Cut a piece of 150mm (6in) wide and as long as will comfortably fit between the strings. Coat the piece with wood and it in position. Make sure the are not too long or they will cut through the face of the tread.
- Epoxy is a good alternative when the only access is from above. Scrape out any dust and dirt from the crack then force epoxy into the joint with a wooden or plastic mixing stick. Allow it to harden overnight then sand flush.
Many people are sensitive to the components in epoxy resins. Wear disposable gloves or barrier cream to protect your hands.
Tips of the trade
Mix epoxy resin with some sawdust for a stiffer mix to make trowelling into wider joints easier. The glue has quite a runny consistency and this will also also prevent it from dripping out.
Missing Glue Blocks
Another major cause ofis missing glue blocks. These triangular blocks reinforce the corner joint between the riser and tread and split treads are fitted to the underside of the staircase. Replace any missing blocks by cutting a piece of timber to the correct size. Coat the replacement block with wood glue, then knock it into into the appropriate channel in the string with a hammer, holding it in position with until the glue has set.
Split or Worn Nosing
- To repair a split or worn nosing, use a straightedge to draw a straight line 12mm (9/6in) back from the original line of the front edge. Then cut a 45° splay 10cm (4in) in from each end of the tread down to this line, with a panel saw. Having made these initial cuts, remove the rest of the waste timber using a jigsaw.
- Cut replacement timber, slightly oversize. Glue this in position, holding it with masking tape until the glue dries. When the glue has set, use a block plane and abrasive paper to replicate the original nosing shape.
A gap between tread and string means a loose wedge. Remove the original wedge or cut a new one. Brush wood glue into the groove and tap home.
Wobbly Newel Post
- To tighten a wobbly newel, measure up 50mm (2in) from the base of the newel. Find the centre line and mark where they meet. Drill a 9mm (7/16in) hole 12mm (9/16 in) deep at a 45° angle down to the tread.
- Continue drilling with a 3mm (1/8in) bit from the centre of this hole down as far as the tread. Then insert a 75mm (2-14/16in) number 8 into the hole and firmly tighten it up. Shape up and glue a small timber pellet to fit the 12mm (9/16in) hole and cover the head.
To refix a loose baluster, first detach it from the underside of the handrail by tapping it with a soft mallet and pulling it from the mortise in the tread. Clean off all the old glue and brush on new before renailing it to the underside of the handrail.
Tips of the trade
If the problem requires a repair that involves removing some part of the stair but this cannot be done without extreme difficulty, a good repair can be achieved by squirting epoxy glue into a loose joint with a small syringe.