Stairs go through a lot of abuse on a day-to-day basis. Most people don’t realize how often staircases are used, but through time, they become squeaky.
Fixing squeaky stairs doesn’t always have to be a matter of calling a repair man or getting a brand new staircase put up.
There are some solutions out there that are pretty easy to use that don’t require anything more than some general knowledge of how everything works.
What are the best options to treat a squeaky set of stairs? Go through these methods and see what one works best. Some of them cost next to nothing, while others will be a slightly more costly and time-consuming fix.
1. Lubricant Will Dampen the Squeaks
If it seems like a fairly simple fix, go ahead and try out a lubricant before investing in anything else.
This is especially true if there is a little bit of a crack between the tread and the riser. Lubricants like powdered graphite and talcum powder usually do the best job with typical staircases.
Applying lubricant is pretty straightforward. Put a piece of paper against the back of the tread, and then use a lubricant by putting it across the entire width of the stair.
Try to work the powder into the crack as much as possible so that there’s no excess lubricant. The two wood pieces are still going to rub together, but the powder helps to remove any friction that’s causing squeakiness.
The first thing most people think about with a lubricant is some type of oil-based product. However, there are several reasons to stay away from that with wood stairs.
Not only can oil-based products warp wood, but they can get extra dusty and slippery over time. The powdered options are a much safer way to go for the vast majority of people.
2. Screw Down Into the Treads
Any stairs squeaking in the front probably need to be tightened up between the tread and riser. All it takes in some cases is a few screws to get the job done.
The first step is drilling a few pilot holes across the front of the tread so that it lines up right with the riser.
The screws need to go below the surface of the tread, or it’s going to hurt anyone walking up or down the stairs with bare feet.
Most don’t like the look of screws, so they will use a wood filler to hide them up as much as possible. The squeaking should go away with everything tightened up and fixed properly.
Most people tend to feel confident enough that they can do this on their own, but it can also be outsourced to a handyman for a relatively low amount of money.
3. Nails Into the Riser
Nails shouldn’t be used unless they are going into risers. That means the squeaks are coming from the back side of the tread in most cases.
This is a much more permanent solution compared to using only lubricant, so try this method out if the first one doesn’t do enough.
Just like with the screw method, make a few pilot holes on the side of the tread right up against the wall. Once created, put the nails into the holes at a 45° angle.
Not only will this help tighten the tread to the stringer, but it creates a clamp so that nails won’t start to pull back out of the setup with use.
Exposed nails can cause serious injury to anybody going up or down the stairs without shoes on. Just like with the screws, make sure they are down below the surface of the wood.
Using some wood filler will help to even out everything as well.
4. Examine Squeaky Stairs From Underneath
Not everyone has the luxury of having access to the area underneath a set of stairs. However, for those who do, this makes taking care of squeaks and making the staircase sturdier that much easier.
All that’s needed to do a simple fix with creaky stairs from the underneath location is to use triangular wooden wedges for each step.
Known as glue blocks, they are pretty easy to find in any home-improvement store. There’s also a way to make these without having to purchase them premade.
One of the blocks goes in the center of the step, while the other two go on the opposite edges of each step. Try to make sure that they go up against the stairs without any space that could create air bubbles.
For added security, finish off by putting a few screws into each block. One should go in horizontally right through the riser, while the other ones go vertically through the tread.
5. Muffle the Sound with Carpet or a Rug
If the squeak is very faint and not that big of a deal, there’s always the option of muffling the sound with carpet or a rug.
This comes down to whether or not a person likes the look that adding this provides, but it could be a way to get everything situated the right way.
Some people love the idea of having carpet on stairs, while others will want to go in a different direction.
Carpet indeed tends to be a little bit slippery which could pose some problems, but they are pretty silent overall.
6. How do you fix squeaky stairs without removing carpet?
This kit comes with a tripod device that goes directly over the spot that the screw needs to go into. Put one of the special screws through the carpet and down into both the tread and the riser.
When it’s all said and done, the header screw is sticking out of the carpet. However, the tripod comes in handy in that it snaps off the screw head and leaves everything else underneath the carpet.
That minimizes any exposure and allows people to have a much quieter walking time.
7. Making the Support Railing Safer
Stairs cause squeaking noises in many instances, but the support railing setup also comes into play.
People can use a lot of the same methods that they use for reducing squeaking on the stairs, but keep in mind that this is a bit more delicate.
Think of the banister as more of a guide when walking up and down the stairs rather than a full support system.
Way too many people put their full weight on these setups, and this can instantly compromise them.
Even doing it a few times will loosen up the setup and make it feel like something could go wrong when relying on it.
Due to the amount of stress that a banister goes under, it might be worth fully replacing it for something stronger if there are any issues.
Stairs are likely going to last longer, and since they have more support underneath, they are going to fully break down like a banister could.
Finally, make sure to look at where the balustrades match up with the stairs themselves. There’s always a chance that the squeaking can be coming from this area since they rub up against wood as well.
The same type of treatment works here as it would for the stairs, but it can be a little more fragile in general.
Identifying Where the Squeaks in Stairs are Coming From
Squeaky stairs might be a general term overall, as the noise can come from a variety of locations.
The part of the stairs that get the most wear in tear is usually the most likely culprit, but there are several terms for different parts of a regular staircase.
This is the horizontal surface that gets a lot of wear and tear going up and down the stairs. People walk on the treads daily, and any type of bending or breaks of the treads can cause some squeaking issues.
Risers are the vertical surfaces that are in between treads on a staircase. The risers might seem like they are hidden, but they are the pillars that keep a staircase sturdy.
That means that if they are compromised, they can cause some squeaking of their own that’s a little harder to treat.
Getting an underneath perspective can tell people exactly what might be going on since there is some exposure.
The boards that are on the sides of risers and treads are called stringers. They have a sawtooth shape in most cases, and they are meant to provide additional support.
Some stringers are exposed, while others are hidden inside of drywall. Much like risers, they can cause squeaking issues if they are compromised in any way.
Otherwise known as handrails, a banister can become squeaky if it’s relied on too much going up and down the stairs.
They don’t get nearly as much wear and tear as the actual staircase, but they are built to support a ton of weight in most cases.
Supporting the banister is a set of posts that are referred to as balustrades. They can cause some squeaking issues as well if they are not treated properly.
They usually are a little bit thin, so the chance of them moving around is a bit pretty high.
Testing for Squeaks
The best method to test for some squeaking is to slowly walk up and down the staircase a couple of times.
Try to do so without any other background noise going on so that sound can be identified. It works better if two people are doing the job, as one person can walk while the other person can help identify sounds.
To keep track of everything, put some type of marker on the areas that are creating sound. These need to be looked at later on, and it’s just easier to make marks while walking instead of trying to remember everything.
Now that all the noisy areas are identified, go back to them individually and do some moving around. This will give people a much better opportunity to identify exactly what’s going on.
Sound will tell part of the story, but getting down close and identifying what’s going on will help out as well.
Squeaks can come from all different types of angles, so really take the effort to get as close as possible to see what’s going on.
Throughout history, people have realized that squeaks coming from the front part of a tread usually mean that it’s a little loose from the riser.
If a squeak is coming from the back of a tread, it likely means that it’s loose where it is connected to the stringer.
Why Do Stairs Begin to Squeak?
The only other area of a home that is pretty vulnerable to squeaking is the flooring in multiple rooms. However, some rooms have carpeting on them, so the sound might not be as intense as it is on stairs.
Plenty of people also use carpet on stairs, but going up and down puts extra pressure on the boards.
The squeakiness is usually a bit more apparent when going down the stairs, as gravity will cause people to put a little more pressure on them overall.
A lot of people become numb to the idea of hearing the squeaking when they are going up and down the stairs.
All it takes is for a visitor to come over and pointed out, and it’s hard to get out of the head. No one enjoys the squeakiness of a staircase, but the more vulnerable areas like this are always going to be needing some care once in a while.
Watch this video on fixing squeaking floors, some of the methods can be. applied for stairs as well!
Is it Worth Fixing a Squeaky Stair?
With a lot of the methods being relatively straightforward and inexpensive, it’s worth fixing a squeaky stair before it gets out of hand.
Too many people end up ignoring a very small sound, and it starts to grow as time goes on.
Squeaks might not bother everyone at first, but keep in mind that everyone is more affected by sounds in different ways.
There’s also the thought process of potentially reselling the property at one point. Reducing the squeaks as much as possible will only add value to a home.
If a potential buyer hears last week in, they know that they will need to do additional repairs before they get everything feeling like it’s new.
When is it Time to Replace Creaking Stairs?
Squeaky stairs are a problem, but at what point are they so much of a problem that they need replacing? Every situation is different, but there are some signs that the issues go much further than just some squeaks.
Maybe the biggest sign is if the stair is moving around with each step. If it feels unsteady underneath, it likely needs to be repaired or replaced.
Hiring a professional is usually the best way to go, because they will ensure that it’s not an ongoing problem.
Repairing an entire set of stairs costs a good amount of money, but it might be worth it for those who feel like they are unsafe.
Keep in mind that walking up and down stairs can be very dangerous if something were to go wrong.
There have been scenarios where people have fallen to their death on unsafe stairs, so it’s no joking matter to overlook
Putting in a brand new set of stairs takes time and money, but there are plenty of local companies who will offer the service.
Only extremely handy people should look at replacing stairs themselves and taking care of business. There are too many things that can go wrong with a set of stairs that are avoidable by using professionals.
Most people will agree that squeaky stairs can end up being a pretty annoying problem. Dealing with so many different sounds going on at once can be very problematic for those who just want peace and quiet in their home. It could also indicate that bigger issues are going on with stairs that need to be addressed.
It doesn’t require a person to necessarily be extremely handy to fix a lot of squeaking issues. It’s better to address them early on instead of letting them linger.
The longer they go on, the bigger the issue might end up being. Check stairs periodically to ensure that everything is still working as it should, and squeaks won’t be that big of an issue any longer.
Making repairs to squeaky stairs usually come pretty easy for those who take care of things early on. Stairs have a relatively long shelflife, especially if they’re not abused.
Make sure to check all staircases in a home, and have enough knowledge to call a professional if there needs to be a fix that’s too challenging.