You know that saying “This Old House!” You tip-toe down the steps late at night, trying your best to be quiet. You walk forward, and the staircase starts to scream. It sounds like a horror movie waking up the household.
Stopping, you think about what is causing these squeaky stairs. There are different reasons it can happen, and if you only rely on hearing your teenagers entering the home, it can become annoying. The fact is a stairwell comprises dozens of bits of hardwood with treads and risers.
You have vertical kick plates in the flat steps with stringers, saw-tooth pieces, and wood to support it underneath.
Why Does My Stairwell Squeak?
As in any home, the stairwell can start to make a noise as it consists of different plank parts. With age, they begin to loosen and cause the tread to rub against the risers and stringers. All the grinding against the nail and screw wears out. Walking on it with the expansion of seasonal contraction loosens the timber of the joints.
This ends up in making a big racket. If the steps are connected with glue, you often do not find this taking place but can wear out. So what should you do? Most of the time, fixing the problems is not difficult and does not mean your stairwells will come tumbling down. Sometimes it only needs tightening up, and with our detailed instructions here, you can repair the annoying noise.
Identify Where The Noise is Coming From
To fix a set of noisy steps involves fastening brackets or lumber squares and is done from underneath. On the one hand, it is good but can be invisible. However, you may not have access to the bottom, and sometimes tightening from the top does the trick. Yet, before you can do this, you need to test each of the squeaking steps.
You might find a tread knocking against the riser board or that it came loose. Sometimes more than one stringer came loose or both. Moreover, to do the job, it helps if you have a person assisting you. Furthermore, you need to fix each one individually by refastening supports to the underlying structure where it squeaks.
How To Fix Squeaky Stairs from Above
When fixing squeaky stairs from the top, it’s an easy process. You will need materials such as screws to fasten the threads by screwing them down to the riser. You might need three screws on one thread. You will need to use a drill to create guide holes through the thread in line with the riser. We recommend you use No. 8 countersunk screws.
Make sure it is countersunk below the tread surface using a countersink bit. You might find some of the screws have a ribbed head that cuts its own countersink. If you do not have carpet over it, use a colored wood filler to conceal it. Or you can use a Plug Cutter and Screwsink to disguise it. Here is what you need to do:
Get a block of wood the same color and grain as the tread and use the plug cutter to make a wooden plug the same diameter as your screwsink.
- Now cut it out using a chisel to form it.
- Take the screw digger to make a guide hole for the screw thread in the top of the riser.
- Screw the countersunk screw into the top of the tread and through into the riser, according to WONKEE DONKEE.
- Once secured, cover up the hole with the plug and cover the base/sides of the block with bonding.
- Please make sure that it’s aligned with the grain of the plug and tread. Leave to dry, and use a sharp edge to slice the bulk of the stopper and sandpaper.
However, if you have MDF hardware, you need to approach it a bit differently. You do not need the pre-drilled pilot holes when using the specially made fasteners. The MDF fasteners need no holes as it does not split as the secret lies in the serrated thread to cut clean through the wedge not causing it to bulge.
Other Extra Carpenter Methods
- Nailing the loose treads – it is one of the most straightforward fixes to use two nails or more hits into the middle of the edge where it meets with the riser. You insert the nails into the dovetail for improved grip but need to take care not to split or pierce the edge of the riser.
- Molding or Quadrant – if you find a loose riser or tread, you can stick it using a quadrant or cornice. You can adjust the embellishment at the top, bottom, or both of the risers to adhere. However, pin it to both the structures when repairing. If the stair is not carpeted, use it on all the steps for an excellent finish.
So if you do not have access to the underside, these tips can help, or you can check this amazing video out to help:
How To Fix Squeaky Stairs from Underneath
If the rear is accessible, there are more effective ways to solve the problem.
#1 Using Glue-Blocks
To strengthen the joints, glue blocks can solve the issue. These have a triangle shape and are made of wood. You can make them by sawing a square shim in half and drilling small openings at the right angle to each other. Place them near each corner, with one in the center on a wide staircase where the tread assembles at the top of the riser. You do this by:
- Applying some PVA glue to the blocks and moving it back/forth to remove air pockets.
- Place it in position and use screws to tighten it.
- If there is a person that can help get them to stand on the tread while you do this.
Alternatively, use string blocks with a rectangular shape and adhere them to the corners of the stairwell to keep the treads tight to the strings for added strength. They work the same but are only used to repair the step ends to the strings. You use fasteners at a right angle to each other. One pair is boring into the bottom while the other goes into the string using the glue method.
#2 Missing or Worn Wedges
If your stairwell is in a string system, the likeness is that it has wedges and is placed when constructed—the wedge they use to butt the riser/treads against the mortises to prevent gaps. With time and use, they slip or damage leading to your creaking sound. You spot it when there is a gap between the tread/riser and string mortise. Inspect the back of the steps and remove the damaged wedges using a chisel. Inject adhesive into the mortise and coat it while using a mallet to drive it into place.
How to Fix Squeaky Stairs Through Carpet
If you have carpeting, the most obvious thing is removing the rug before fixing the creaks. But there is another way to fix the problem without removing the carpet. You can check online for a special squeaky floor repair kit to help tighten the treads without damaging the floor.
The kit has a unique design that sends a snap-off screw through the mat without causing damage to the fibers. You can start with the repair one you find the squeak and drive the scored screw through the center of a controlled jig down through the mat tread into the stringer/riser nearest to the creaking sound.
It stops the nail right below the surface. A screw gripper on the one side rocks the screw back and forth until it snaps off.
We hope the simple steps mentioned help you to finally sneak down for a late-night snack without waking up everybody in the home. If you are not sure how to repair your creaky steps, check out the provided videos for help.