When the stairs in your home squeak, crack, or start making annoying noises, it can be very irritating. It is not only a nuisance for you as the homeowner but loud stairs can be annoying to the individuals who visit your home as well. While fixing creaky stairs can seem like a big undertaking, it is actually quite simple and can be done whether your stairs are covered in wood or with carpet. The key is being able to pinpoint the exact location of the problem. Here’s how to fix stair squeaks quickly and easily so that you can eliminate the problem.
Recognizing the Three Parts of Your Stairs
Before you can actually fix your squeaking stairs, you need to understand and to be able to identify the different parts of your stairs. There are three main components to the average staircase:
- Treads- The tread is the horizontal platform that you actually step on.
- Risers- The riser is the vertical wood piece that rises from the back of the tread. You see the front of the riser when you look at your stairs face on.
- Stringers- This is the frame built to support your treads and risers. There are about three on each standard set of stairs, one on each side and one down the middle.
As you go through identifying the problem with your stairs and ultimately fixing the squeaks and creaks, you will need to know what these parts are so you can fix and check different areas of your stairs.
Start by Locating the Squeak
The more precise you can while locating squeaks and creaks in your stairs the better. Start walking up and down your stairs. At every tread take several steps across the width of the treat until you locate the squeaks. You need to test the entire area, side to side and front to back. When you find a squeak, mark it as precisely as you can.
In most situations, the squeak from your stairs is actually a gap that is starting to grow between sections of the stairs and a very precise spot. Many times, this gap will start to cause the nails or screws to rub against one another and grow loose. This is why you need to be as specific as you can with where the noise is coming from as the problem area may be very small and specific.
This also means that the area where you are looking for a problem is one of the intersecting points between the risers, treads, and stringers. Located the treads and stringers with the naked eye is very simple. If you have access to the underside of your stairs, you can also easily located the stringer that way. You will see long pieces of wood running vertically along the back side of your staircase. Typically, these pieces of wood are around 2 inches thick.
If you cannot get to the back of your staircase, you can locate the stringer by listening to them. Gentle tap the treat with your hammer and listen for a difference in noises when one area sounds duller than the rest, there is a stringer running below your staircase. This is easier with a partner.
Knowing all the intersecting points in your stairs will make it much easier to pinpoint the exact problem. Once you have found a squeak, make sure that you mark that point on the stairs before moving on to the next section.
Fixing Squeaks from Behind the Stairs
Now that you have pinpointed the problem areas in your stairs, it is time to start with repairs. If you are able to access your stairs from underneath, this is the easiest way to repair your problem. Again, if you have a partner, it will be easier for you to work from the underbelly of your stairs and have someone else be your eyes so you can more easily pinpoint your problem.
Fixing Squeaks Along the Seam Between the Tread and Riser
If you step on your stairs and hear a squeak right along the seam between the treat and riser, you are likely dealing with a gap. Go behind the stairs and look for gaps in the area where you are hearing squeaks. Worm a thin edge of the shim or a wedge, in between the gap and use a hammer to put the shim firmly in place.
Don’t drive the shim in too hard, or try to press it into an area where there isn’t already an existing gap. It will actually make the problem worse. You can also use some carpenters glue on either side of the wedge to make sure it stays in place. If you have a longer gap, then you can use a construction adhesive to fill in the gap. This type of adhesive is great for areas of the home that are exposed to a lot of moisture. Make sure that you really push the adhesive into the spot while you’re doing the repairs.
You can also use carpenter’s glue, which is great for wood-on-wood repairs. Once you have placed the adhesive into the gap, put a heavy object on the tread and allow the glue to dry completely, it will allow for a more flush finish.
Adding Tread Support
If you notice that the stringer under your stairs that is supposed to be supporting the area near your squeaks, has lost its original shape due to warping or even everyday wear-and-tear, you can add additional support for your tread. Simply cut a piece of wood to the proper length and use your construction adhesive to position the wood in place. Attempt to keep it a similar width as the existing stringer. Once the wood is in place with the adhesive, nail the board into the surrounding stringers or risers.
Fixing the Squeaks from On Top of the Stairs
There are also ways to fix squeaks from on top of the stairs with solutions that don’t require you to go under your existing staircase.
Applying Lubricant on Wood Stairs
If you are dealing with wood stairs and notice that each stair is made with multiple wooden boards, which is common in hardwood stairs, then you may be dealing with a lubrication issue. Many times, squeaks happen because there are two pieces of wood actually rubbing against each other. You can easily rub the lubricant in between the wood pieces with a clean cloth. Look for a powdered soapstone or graphite lubricant or use talcum powder for the best results.
Nailing in the Gaps on Wooden Stairs
If you have very specific areas in the stairs that squeak that aren’t along the seam between the riser and the tread, chances are you have gaps forming. The good news is, you can fix these with standard 8 or 10-penny finish nails.
- Start by placing two heavy objects on either side of the squeaking area. This will help make sure that the tread and the rise are touching each other as close as possible.
- Mark two spots on the tread to drill holes in, making sure the nails won’t intersect when you drill them in at a 45-degree angle. The angle is very important.
- Use a drill bit to create a hole.
- Hammer in the nails until they go right below the surface of the tread.
- Cover the nails with wood putty and fill in the dents.
- Sand and dry until the repaired area looks flush with the existing wood stairs.
Fixing Squeaks in Carpeted Stairs
If you have to fix squeaks in carpeted stairs, the best way to do it is to remove the carpets entirely and replace them. With this in mind, you may want to line up the projects with when you are planning on replacing the carpet stairs anyway. If this isn’t possible, you can get a carpet screwing repair kit at your local home improvement store.
These kits are designed to help you screw through carpets and will come with screws, bits, and a tripod that will help you evenly and easily screw through a carpeted area. Here’s how you use it:
- Set the tripod onto the treat where you notice the squeaky.
- Place a screw into the hole at the center of the tripod.
- Drill the screw through the center of the hole, so it goes through the carpet and tread and into either the stringer or riser, depending on where the gap is.
- Remove the tripod. When you do, the screw head will be sticking out of the carpet. This screw cap is actually removable so it will come off.
- The end of the tripod will have a screw gripper on it. Take the gripper and pry off the removable top as you would with a bottle opener and the repair is finished.
These screws are meant to be almost invisible once they are screwed into the carpet, and while you may see a small imperfection where the screw went in, they are hardly noticeable especially in textured carpets.