How to Replace Carpet Stairs with Wood
I explored many options on how to replace carpet stairs with wood, but each option I found was either too expensive &/or did not match the existing hardwood floor in my loft. After a few days of researching and getting the advice of a few friends, I figured out a way to use the same bamboo flooring I used in my loft to replace the carpet on my stairs.
Tools I used:
The links below are the main items I used to replace carpet stairs with wood.
- Stair Measuring Jig
- Table Saw
- Dewalt Trim Router
- 1/2″ roundover bit
- Liquid Nail Adhesive
- Wood Stain
- Wood Stain Sealer
- Cordless Brad Nailer
Mock Stair Tread and Riser
My family and I sold this home not too long after I completed this project and I forgot about it until I saw my before/after pictures of the stairs on my phone.
Luckily, I kept about 40 square feet of the bamboo flooring so I built a stair tread/riser from scrap wood in my shop for demonstration purposes.
The mock stair is 36″ wide, 11″ deep, and 6.75″ high with a 1″ bullnose (the part of the tread that hangs over the riser) which is close to the typical measurement of a stair. I used 6 pieces of the bamboo flooring on the mock stair. Each piece of bamboo flooring is 3.75″ wide and 36″ long.
Price Comparison & Analysis
First, I did a quick price comparison to replace carpet stairs with wood to show you the cost savings of using hardwood floor vs the matching stair treads/risers.
Step 1: Remove Carpet
The first step to replace carpet stairs with wood is to remove the carpet, carpet padding, and other hardware (staples, nails, etc.). Keep in mind, this process can be time consuming, but it is important to get a flat surface that is free of debris.
Use a box cutter to cut the edge of the carpet & padding on each stair. Ultimately, this made it easy to roll-up the carpet and discard it.
A flat head screw driver and a hammer are needed to remove the staples.
Luckily, there was no glue so I didn’t need to sand each step.
Step 2: Remove Bullnose
Determine the length of your bullnose at the end of your stair tread.
Next, use a jig saw or circular saw to trim the bullnose off so that the tread and riser are flush (90 degree angle). If your stairs have a wall on either side, you will not be able to remove the entire bullnose.
Then, trim as much as you can and cut the rest with a hand saw or with a hammer/chisel. This doesn’t need to be perfectly flush – just get it as close as you can. The imperfections will be covered up at a later step.
Step 3: Risers
Gather enough wood for the risers so that it is flush or slightly taller than the stair. It cannot be shorter than the thickness of your flooring. If your flooring is 1/2″ thick, the boards must be within 1/2″ of the top of your tread. In my case, it was 2 boards.
Next, attach the boards together and place the attached boards up against the riser portion of your stair.
If the boards are slightly taller than your tread, you will want to trim off equal amounts off the top and bottom of the boards so that they are flush and the seam (the line where your flooring attaches together) is in the middle. The seam in the middle is optional, but it makes the stairs look more uniform. It is required to make the boards flush or slightly shorter than the top of the tread.
Pay Attention To Measurements
Before you trim the boards, make sure to mark the boards where they need to be cut with a pencil.
Keep in mind, it is very easy to forget which side of the board needs to be cut. You can use a table saw or circular saw with a straight edge to rip the boards. After you cut the boards to size, make sure they fit on the riser.
Also, it is ok for them to be a little short, but not shorter than the thickness of the wood.
TIP: If you are replacing an entire staircase (I presume you will), it is much easier and quicker to complete all the risers (& step 8) before moving to step 4 (treads). This allows you to get into a rhythm instead of completing 1 riser then 1 tread, which are different procedures.
Step 4: Treads
Gather enough wood for the treads so that it extends over the riser the amount that your bullnose needs to be.
I needed a total of 3 boards in my example. If your bullnose is 1″, make sure your boards for your tread hang over your riser at least 1″.
If the hardwood flooring you are using is tongue/groove, take the measure of the tongue/groove at the end of the board because this measurement will need to be added. For example, you want a 1″ bullnose & the groove of the board is 1/4″, make sure you have at least 1 1/4″ of overhang.
Next, make a pencil mark on the end of the board that hangs over the riser.
Then, remove it and trim off the tongue or groove using your table saw or circular saw. Lastly, get a scrap or an extra full-length board and repeat the process again on this board.
The walls on either side of the staircase will most likely not be square to your stairs. Keep this in mind, when measuring the width of your risers/treads. If you plan to use moulding around your stairs, you don’t need to concern yourself with this. If not, you may want to invest in a stair measuring jig. This tool measures the exact angle of the wall & stair and helps you to transfer this measurement to your saw to ensure your stairs fit snugly to the wall.
Step 5: Create Tread Bullnose
Next, Use a 1/2 inch roundover bit & a trim router to roundover the top of each side of the board you just ripped in the previous step. If your boards are 1/4″ thick, use a 1/4″ roundover bit.
Then, I used a router table in this step, but this is not needed. Also, clamping the pieces down and using a router with your hand will work just as well.
Once each board has a roundover, place them together and make sure the boards make a bullnose when put together.
Place the board that goes on the end of the tread and measure the distance from the riser to the end of the roundover with a combination square.
Use this measurement to rip the excess from the other board that was rounded over leaving the side that was rounded over. This piece will be attached to the underside of the top tread to make the bottom part of the bullnose.
TIP: Complete steps 5-7 for each tread before moving to step 8.
Step 6: Attach Bullnose
Remove the top/bottom piece that make up the bullnose from the stair tread and bring it to your garage or workshop. Use wood glue to glue the top/bottom of the bullnose together, clamp the pieces, and let it dry overnight. Make sure the top/bottom pieces do not slide back or forward when tightening the clamps.
Next, remove the clamps and inspect the middle of the bullnose. If there are gaps in the bullnose seam, mix wood glue and saw dust from cutting these boards into a putty-like consistency.
Then, fill the gap with this mixture and let dry for a few hours.
Step 7: Stain & Seal Bullnose
Finally, the last step is to find a suitable wood stain that matches your wood. This step may involve some trial and error to get the color right. You can mix wood stains &/or apply multiple coats to achieved your desired color. Apply the stain and let it dry according to the manufacturers instructions.
Next, apply a sealer to the bullnose with a finish that matches your wood. If your wood has a high gloss finish, use a high-gloss sealer. If your wood has a flat/matte finish, use a flat/matte sealer.
Ultimately, this will help maintain consistency between the bullnose and surface of the wood.
Step 8: Final Assembly
The process to secure the tread/riser are the same. I used liquid nail and applied it liberally to the bare wood on the tread/riser in a wave pattern.
Next, I repeated the pattern in the opposite direction to increase coverage.
Then, I joined the boards together and secured the seam with a piece of painter’s tape that ran perpendicular on the board. I pushed the boards down until I felt a suction and wiggled them in place.
Finally, I nailed them with my brad nailer with 1″ nails. I used 6 brads on the riser and 6 brads on the treads.