Pull out the toolbox and get to work on the staircase to stop creaks, squeaks and wobbles
Use these DIY tips and tricks to get your staircase back in working order. Image: Shutterstock
The staircase is often the grand centrepiece of a home and it’s certainly the most complicated piece of carpentry.
Stairs see a lot of heavy traffic and keeping them looking good requires little more than regular dusting, cleaning and vacuuming.
To keep them in good repair, here are a few easy carpentry techniques for balustrades and steps that can save you the cost of calling a tradie.
Stop squeaking stairs
If you have a squeaky stair that needs silencing, sprinkle talcum powder into the seam at the back between the tread and the riser.
You’ll need to apply it again when the powder works its way out of the joint. Powdered graphite also works or just scrape the lead of a pencil.
An easy way to quiet a squeak is to apply a thin bead of sealant under the step nosing, to cushion the joint where the tread meets the riser. Do this from the top on uncarpeted stairs.
After applying the sealant, run a plastic spoon or your finger, wearing a rubber glove, along it to remove the excess and push the sealant into the squeaky joint. Clean up any excess as directed on the packet before it dries.
If you can get to the steps from the underside, seal the joints of the squeaky step from there as well using sealant or polyurethane foam filler.
To stop steps creaking, secure an angle bracket to the riser, leaving a gap between the bracket and tread. Run a bead of adhesive between the tread and riser, then screw the bracket to the tread, closing the joint tightly in the process. Cover the steps with carpet to hide the angle bracket.
Replace a baluster
If a baluster is so damaged that you can’t fix it, you need to replace it. Some balusters are held in place by a moulding that runs along the side of the stairs. Prise off the moulding with a chisel to pull out the baluster. If the baluster is nailed in place, drive the nails all the way through the baluster and into the tread or railing with a hammer and nail punch then slowly ease it out. When there’s no visible way to remove a baluster, there’s no way you’ll be able to put it back in either and it’s time to call a carpenter.
Fix loose wedges
Some staircases have timber wedges or shims underneath, which hold the treads and risers tight in the stringers. If the shims work loose over time, the steps can start to flex and will creak as you walk up and down them.To fix loose wedges or shims, squeeze a little PVA adhesive onto
the tips and tap back into place.
Reinforce Stairs with Timber Blocks
To reinforce steps to stop them creaking and moving you can secure timber blocks beneath the stairs where tread meets riser. Drill pilot holes for the screws in each block. Apply adhesive to the adjacent faces of the block.
Position the glued faces of the block against the tread and riser, then secure it with screws.
TIP Make sure the screws are short enough to not protrude through the steps themselves.
Fix loose nails
Most balusters are fixed to the handrail with nails, hammered in at an angle to go through the baluster and into the underside of the rail.
When a nail is loose the baluster feels freer. Pull out the nail with pincers, replacing it with a longer and thicker nail. If you can’t remove the nail, hammer in a new one next to it.
Fillets of timber are also used between balusters to hold them in place. The balusters sit in a groove in the underside of the handrail and the fillets fill the gaps between each one. If a fillet drops out, nail it back in position or use a replacement that’s cut to fit. Don’t use adhesive, in case you need to remove the balusters later.