Indeed, squeaky staircases are among the most annoying household inconveniences. They are loud, perhaps embarrassing, and might induce worry. They indicate that the subfloor is becoming partially detached from the floor joists. The creaking sound is caused by the rubbing of wood.
If your carpeted or wooden stairs creak or squeak whenever you use them, you may silence them using one of the following easy yet efficient solutions. It’s important to note that there are different approaches for carpeted and non-carpeted staircases.
If your carpeted staircases are creaking, you can fix the problem without removing the carpet. Simply locate the nearby floor joist and drive a nail or screw through the carpet into the joist. You will need a hammer and some nails for this activity.
Tools and Materials Required
- 2-in. screws
- Knee pads
- 4-1/2-in. screws
- Pry bar
- Cordless drill
- Subfloor adhesive
- 2-1/2-in. screws
What Causes Creaking Stairs?
Your staircase consists primarily of wooden components:
- The tread is the wooden surface on which we step.
- The risers are the vertical wood slats that sit in front of each tread.
- The stringer is the sawtooth-like wooden strip that spans the length of the stairway on both ends and sometimes in the center.
With time, the fasteners holding the panels together loosen, or the wooden components warp, causing the parts to brush against one other and generate a creaking sound.
Squeaks from the front: If the stair creaks, if you step anywhere on the front tread, reattaching the tread to the riser where they meet will typically resolve the issue. Whether reattaching the tread to the riser or refastening one or more stringers, the process is substantially the same.
Creaks on the back: In contrast, if the stairs squeak elsewhere, such as on one side or at the back, you will likely need to access the stringers. There are usually three stringers—one on every side and one or more going down the middle, depending on how broad the steps are. Each stringer is typically between 1 ½ inches and two inches thick.
1. Identify the Source of the Squeak
Before attempting to repair a creaky wooden stair, you must identify the source of the noise. Also, the creak location will determine the sort of repair you perform. When you slowly ascend your stairs, mark each with adhesive tape to track which steps creak and where they are coming from. The next step is to discover where the noise originates by standing in the center of each noisy step and rocking back and forth.
Usually, if the squeak emanates from the rear of a step, it has become detached from its riser. The step’s stringer will likely lose if the squeak originates from either side.
A riser is a lateral space between each step, while a stringer is a board linked to each riser on either side of the staircase. The sawtooth-shaped stringer holds the stairs together and provides stability. After identifying the source of the squeak, it is time to choose a repair strategy.
2. Check for Wobbly Nails and Fix Them
Sometimes the cause of a squeaky stair could be as simple as loose nails.vOver time, a nail’s hole in your stair may widen due to use, and this may cause the stair to be squeaky. Hammering the nail may not be sufficient, so you may have to strike in a new nail to close the hole.
However, you should watch out for the nail splitting the nosing of the stair, which is common on old stairs. You can also nail two nails apart at 45 degrees on the tread next to the wall. This method ensures the treads are tightened to the stringer. However, you should be careful not to let the nails poke out as this could easily be dangerous.
Another reason for a squeaky stair is a loose stair tread. Due to continued use, the treads material may shrink or wear out, causing the tread and the riser to rub together, producing a squeaky noise.
Therefore, one way of fixing it is by using screws to secure them together. The first step is drilling a hole to the riser through the tread using countersunk screws.
Once you have securely screwed them in place, choose an appropriate wood filler to cover the heads of the screws. Ensure the wood filler is colored appropriately; otherwise, you are going to have an awkward looking tread.
Wood fillers are appropriate if the stairs are not covered by a carpet. You can also design your own disguise using the available tools at homes such as plug cutters, chisel, and a screw sink.
The process is much easy, so you won’t need to involve a professional.A man-made disguise involves rooting out the wood where you intend to drill the screws.
The wood plug that you pull out should be of the same size as the screw head.
The wood plug’s purpose is to cover the screws head giving it the perfect disguise.
3. Place Glue Blocks to Fix the Stair from Underneath
Sometimes the cause of the squeaky noise may be coming from underneath the stairs.
A quick way to fix them is by placing glue blocks beneath them
If you don’t want to buy glue blocks like Fugitive Glue Blocks, you can easily make one by cutting wooden cubes into triangular pieces.
Apply wood glue on the side of the triangular pieces before attaching them at the point where the tread meets the riser. Also, ensure you place one piece of the block at the center. Then drive screws or nails to strengthen the blocks in place.
4. Use a Lubricant
A lubricant is also a useful product when you are thinking of how to fix a squeaky stair. The sides of the tread may rub against the riser creating friction, which may cause the stair to squeak.
So, the best way to prevent that is by rubbing a lubricant such as powdered graphite on both the tread and riser.
The steps on applying the lubricant are pretty easy, and you won’t even have to involve a professional. Simply use a piece of cloth or brush to work the powdered graphite on the area where the tread meets the riser.
Ensure the lubricant reaches the whole area; otherwise, the squeaking won’t stop. It is advisable to use powdered graphite instead of an oil-based lubricant because oil makes it easy for things to stick on it.
5. Get an Appropriate Tool for a Carpeted Stair
If you have a carpeted stair, then you know how hard it is to fix a squeaky stair with a carpet, especially with the normal tools.However, with the help of certain tools, you can easily fix it. Tools such as Squeak No More Kit are designed to fix such a problem.
All you need to do is make holes, approximately three at the point where the tread meets the riser. The three holes should be equal in size and that they should be lower than the tread to prevent the screws from sticking out.
Since you are drilling through a carpet, you need to use the drill kit. This involves attaching the screws on the drill bit before driving it through the carpet. Once through, use the tripod to snap the head of the screw so that the remaining body part is carefully tucked beneath.
6. Make Use of a Moulding or Quadrant
Sometimes the cause of the squeaky sound could be from a loose tread and riser.
So, the best thing to do is fix them. However, unlike the other method of nailing the tread, you can use a more appealingly method like using molding or quadrant.
The method is preferred for stairs with nor carpets. One of the viable options is to glue them on the molding or quadrant. Depending on the size of the riser, you could either glue them at the top, bottom, or even both. Professionals always advise on pinning on both the riser and tread for effectiveness.
7. Replace the Wedges
The squeaky stair could be fixed by simply replacing the wedges that are worn out or missing due to aging or excess use.
The wedges prevent the gaps that are formed when treads meet with the riser and strings. In other words, they help disguise the gaps. The wedges also provide support to risers.
You will notice a damaged wedge when you spot a hole/ gap on the area between riser and tread. Ensure you thoroughly inspect the stairs to ensure you know the wedges that need to be repaired and those that need to be replaced.
If the wedges are damaged, you will need to purchase new ones and fix them. You can even call a professional to help you fix the work if it is too much.
Fixing them is quite easy, just apply an adhesive in the side of the wedge which you intend to join on the tread. Ensure you have coated it well before attaching it to avoid future problems.
Creaks on Carpeted Floors
Fixing a squeaky carpeted stair without stripping off the carpet is still possible. Go online or at home improvement stores for specialized creaky floor repair kits, which will help you tighten treads without causing damage to the completed floor.
This kit allows a snap-off screw to penetrate carpet fibers without destroying them. By jumping up and down on every step, locate the squeak. Then, insert the precisely scored screw into the stringer/riser closest to the squeak by driving it through the depth control jig’s center, the cushioned tread, and the tread.
The jig will stop the screw head just below the surface of the tread. Using the screw gripper on one side of the jig, rock the screw back and forth repeatedly until the extra length breaks off.
Meet Mike O’Connor, (a DIY enthusiast), living in Cincinnati, a city ranked as the noisiest in the USA.
As a work from home dad, I have a first hand experience of how noise can truly affect your well being.
Soundproofing isn’t something that should be taken as a hobby, it should be a skill that every homeowner should be equipped with.
Most of the work documented on this blog comes from purely first hand experience, and the products recommended work as indicated.