The squeak and creak of a stair in a scary movie or ghost story may add to the mood, but when it comes to a squeaky stair in your own home, all it adds is annoyance and frustration. While squeaky stairs are mostly little more than a pain to listen to, they can also warn of more serious problem such as a stair that has a crack or movement from extremely loose tread or risers.
Most squeaky stairs are not red flags for major problems down the road, but still need to be addressed nonetheless. The sooner you address a small squeak, the sooner you can restore peace and quiet to your stairs.
Since wood absorbs and releases moisture when the weather and humidity changes, hardwood floors and stairs may expand and contract when the humidity rises and falls. Over time, wood will dry and shrink as well. When the joint between the riser and tread aren’t secured together tightly, the creaking and squeaking can begin.
To fix a squeaky stair, you’ll have to decide if you are going to work from under the stairs where the stairway isn’t finished underneath or if you’ll have to fix the squeak from the top of the stairs. There are two advantages to being able to fix a squeaky stair from the bottom; the first is that your repairs are less likely to show, and second, it is often easier to fix a squeaky stair from the bottom.
Ask someone to step on the stairs so you can look for a spot with gaps or loose spots. By doing this, you can see which step has the squeak and needs fixing. Drive or hammer a shim between the riser and the tread. It can be difficult to hammer a wedge in place, so you may need to place another block of wood against the shim and hammer against it in order for the shim to go into place. Once the shim is secure and you can’t hammer it in any further, you can cut off the protruding end of the shim if needed.
It may be necessary to nail or screw a piece of wood up against the riser and the tread if you aren’t able to get a shim in between the tread and the riser. By nailing or screwing a piece of wood, you are securing both the tread and the riser. If it is just the riser that is loose, driving a screw into the back of the riser and through the step below will hold it secure.
When you’re fixing a squeaky stair from the surface of the steps, it may be necessary to pull back any carpeting that may be covering the squeaky stair. You’ll need to drill holes at an angle into both the tread and the riser. To prevent the wood from splitting, drilling pilot holes may be necessary. The screws or nails need to be long enough to reach both the tread and the riser under the drilled holes. You can countersink the screw by placing it below the outside of the tread so it doesn’t stick out. A piece of wood nailed to the underside of the tread can also shore up any squeaks you hear. Once you’ve secured your nails or screws into the riser and tread and both feel secure you can fill in the holes with wood plastic or wood putty.
Prolong the life of your stairs and wood by checking them often for damage or any wear and tear outside of normal use. Taking the time to fix a squeaky stair will ensure that your stairs are secure and not coming loose. Loose boards or stairs can cause nasty injuries if not properly repaired. It’s also imperative that you check for any split treads when fixing a squeaky stair as that could cause an accident as well.