You Want to Install Hardwood on Stairs?

Installed Hardwood on Stairs

“Can I install hardwood on stairs?”, said the hopeful customer. My brother Jason and I hear this occasionally, and it always causes us to shiver. Once, many, many years ago, while still young, thin, and energetic cubs, we accepted a customer’s request to install hardwood on their steps. Notice that young, thin, and energetic are not joined by my most valued adjective, smart. More on that later.

Hardwood on Stairs Commitment – Mistake #1

Ok, we decided we could do that. Can’t be that bad, huh?

This is a Single Day Project, Right? – Mistake #2

We priced it as a day’s work (mistake #2) and scheduled the job. So it took 14 stair noses at $40 each. We only needed 2 boxes of wood. With labor, it should come out under $1000 (mistake #3).

Hardwood on Stairs is Cheap Right? – Mistake #3

And it did get finished for under $1000. Did we make any money? Sadly, no. We came to this conclusion halfway through the second day. And we were not close to being done.

Looking Forward to a Beautiful Finish? – Mistake #4

So how did it look when completed? Horrible. Because we were cutting individual boards on each step, we had to trim it (#4). And while the variation in color looked good on the floor, it was a bit much for individual steps.

Choose Premade Stair Treads

Now we can talk about the proper way to do stair treads. Buy premade stair treads! Stair treads have the nosing built in, so it looks much better and is a lot less wasteful.

Also, treads are made from a high grade of wood, so the color is consistent. This also helps your stain to better match your floor.

Will Your Risers Match?

Many people like their risers to be stained to match the treads, while still others prefer the contrast of a painted riser. There is no question the contrasting risers pop! Another option is to use a naturally finished riser with a darker stained tread.

Treads come in widths from 36” up to whatever you need, typically in 6” increments. Our most popular size is a 48” tread. Make sure you measure each step, as there may be a slight variation in size.

Stair Tread Widths with a Return

While most steps are closed, or boxed, on each end, some are open on one or both ends. In this case, a tread with a return is needed. This is a tread that is finished on one end just like the front, or nose. The return usually hangs over the edge of the step by a couple of inches. Be careful to order enough tread; I had a customer order 36” treads with the return once, instead of 36” plus a return. They were short, and he wasn’t happy.

Wooden Stair Treads Average Cost

Stair treads are available in all domestic species such as Red Oak, Maple, and Hickory, and can also be ordered in the exotics. While the domestic treads will start at $30 or so, longer length, returns, and prefinished will run the price up. If you are paying a contractor to do the job, expect to pay $100-150 per step.

I hope I have been able to shed a bit of light on using stair treads. If I can be of any more help, please do not hesitate to contact me.