How to prevent Squeaky Stairs

By | March 1, 2013

Many of our customers want to know how to fix their squeaky stair treads.  While there are a couple of ways to address this issue, the best think you  can do is prevent squeaky stairs in the first place.  Today, I will try and help you with both possibilities.

Stair treads can squeak whenever there is movement and a wood on wood surface.  The movement of wood against wood creates that squeaking or creaking sound whenever the tread is stepped on.  The problem with fixing the situation is that it is sometimes difficult to determine whether it is the finished treads themselves that are squeaking or the framed rough stair treads beneath them (or both).  Fixing squeaking sub treads will require you to pull up the carpet runner or the false tread cap and screw it securely to the stringers.  It is also possible to drill through the tread cap then secure the sub tread down with a screw and then plug the finish false tread cap.  Of course this will leave a plugged whole in the top of the cap.  Sometimes the stairs can be accessed through the drywall on the under side, where they can be screwed from the stringer upward.  This will require drywall and painting repairs though, but at least it doesn’t leave a plug in the top  of the false tread.

If you have squeaking solid stair treads there are usually only two solutions to the problem.  That is to screw the treads down securely and plug the holes.  If possible you can remove a couple of balusters and screw the tread down where the baluster will cover it.  However this is usually quite difficult since it typically requires removing the handrail as well.  You can also try nailing the tread down with finish nails.  While not as secure as a screw they are far less visible and will sometimes do the job.  Sometimes a shim between the tread and riser will also help to separate the pieces and prevent squeaking.

Preventing squeaking stair treads in the first place is by far the better solution.  If you are lucky enough to be installing the treads in new construction or remodel and have yet to face this problem, then here is how to make sure that you never do.  As I mentioned stair treads squeak when the wood surfaces between moving pieces rub against each other.  This is typically the tread but there is a simple way to prevent this, glue.  In all areas where wood touches wood use a good construction adhesive or wood glue.  Following are the surfaces that need to be glued:

  1. The bottom of sub tread to the stringer below.
  2. The back of the sub tread to the riser behind. (if your stair is constructed with risers behind the treads)
  3. The bottom of the riser to the tread below (if your stair is constructed with risers siting atop the treads)
  4. The top of the riser to the sub tread above.
  5. The bottom of the finished tread cap or solid tread to the stringers or sub tread
  6. The back of the tread cap to the finish riser.
  7. The riser to the sub riser or stringers.
  8. All treads and riser mouldings.

This may seem a little excessive but because of the tendency for stairs to move and start to squeak years down the road, this is the only way to insure they will keep quiet.  Remember use a good construction adhesive anywhere that the wood is not finish grade such as the sub treads and risers.  Use a quality wood glue, such as Titebond Original where the wood surfaces are finish grade such as the moldings.  Then you can simply finish nail or screw the components in place.  A good construction adhesive such as the Loctite PL brand will actually take the place of screws.  You  simply need to apply the adhesive liberally and then nail it to hold until the adhesive dries.  For sub treads, ring shank framing nails add an extra measure of security to prevent movement later on.  These are far faster than screws and with the adhesive will last forever.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us for stair advice, design concepts or installation tricks any time at or 888-390-7245.  Thanks and good luck.