Capping oak steps - need advice - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 138 Old 05-01-2016, 01:17 PM Thread Starter
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Capping oak steps - need advice

I am new to this level of repair work though I have done a fair amount of plumbing and electrical work among other things. I have tools either new or accumulated over the years including a 10" radial arm saw, reciprocating saw, jig saw, various types of sanders, and hand tools. I am open to purchasing other tools as necessary for this and future projects (flooring).

the steps in my home are in need of repair. I started this project with the hope of refinishing them but it would appear they are beyond that. The two alternatives I have found so far that appeal to me are the Cap-A-Tread product from Home Depot and the NuStair product. The Cap-A-Tread is a laminate that simply caps the tread and wraps around the existing bullnose. It's very appealing but there is no support and no samples. It is a mail order only product and I'm uncomfortable with the lack of knowledge anyone at Home Depot has about the product.

The NuStair product is all red oak hardwood an 3/8" or 5/8" thick. It's made from three sections plus an attached scotia bullnose that is designed to overlap the existing bullnose. I prefer the hardwood approach but it means a lot more work as I will explain and then my questions.

The bullnose on my existing treads are 1 3/8" long and the scotia bullnose on the NuStair would add another 1 1/2". That length would cause the bottom tread to protrude beyond the front of the side rail which is problematic. It seems to me that the best way to install these caps is to remove the bullnose. If I do that on the bottom step I would need to do the same on all the steps. An almost 3' overhang would be a tripping hazard on all the steps in any event.

If you got this far, thanks. My questions are:

  • What type of circular saw blade would be best to rip the bullnose? I was looking at a 40 ATB Diablo.
  • What type of blade would be best to crosscut the new treads on the radial arm saw. I was looking at a 60 ATB Diablo
  • I am considering purchasing a table saw for the rip cuts on the new floor (and future flooring jobs) but even if I attempt it using the circular what type of blade would be best. I was also considering the 60 ATB. If I buy a table saw it will probably be a DeWalt DW745 or DWE7480X if I can determine the differences besides the stand.
So my questions are primarily about the best blade types for the current job I am attempting. I am also open to suggestions and any ideas about a better way to approach this.
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post #2 of 138 Old 05-01-2016, 01:31 PM
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Have you considered just ripping the treads and risers out and getting new ones??

The tools don't make the craftsman....
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post #3 of 138 Old 05-01-2016, 01:43 PM Thread Starter
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I do not have the knowledge or experience to attempt a job that involved though I briefly considered it. Your signature is also part of the answer "The tools don't make the craftsman....". I am approaching this in a way I believe I can succeed, but thanks.
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post #4 of 138 Old 05-01-2016, 08:57 PM
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I had never heard about the Cap-A-Tread before. I looked it up and it would work for you but you would need to make sure there was no air behind the front edge. You might have to make some wood trim to nail to the front of the treads that would fit the contour of the inside side of the cap. Then glue it on with some construction adhesive. In my opinion any voids under that front edge and it wouldn't withstand being walked on for ever long.

The NuStair product I'm wondering if you could rip 1 1/2" off the back side to make it fit. I would imagine it's made oversized so each person could fit it to their own stairs.

Either the 40 or 60 tooth blade would do fine to cut the parts. You need to turn them upside down and cut them from the back side so any chipping is on the back side where it doesn't show.

From what I can see you also have the option of refinishing the existing treads. You would just need some paint and varnish remover, a random orbital sander and perhaps a mouse type sander. The risers you could maybe cover with 1/4" plywood.
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post #5 of 138 Old 05-01-2016, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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Steve, The pictures are a poor representation of the condition of the treads. They are water and glue stained and gauged and some of the treads have 40 or so nail holes in them. I have sanded all the treads since the pictures were taken. One of the treads is also split horizontally the length of the tread. I wish the treads were in reasonable enough condition to refinish but I don't see how.

The issue with the NuStair and similar products is not the depth of the tread but the length of the scotia bullnose. Cutting the depth to the proper length is easy but the scotia needs to overhang the original bullnose and that will add 1 1/2" to the already 1 3/8" overhang. That almost 3" overhang is a disaster waiting to happen. The only option I see is to remove the original bullnose and install new thin risers.

As for the Cap-A-Tread, it is designed to fit over the bullnose on the existing treads with the bullnose supporting the Cap-A-Tread. I don't see a support issue there. That, of course, would mean I do not need to remove the existing bullnose because the Cap-A-Tread would only add about 3/8". Thanks for the suggestions.
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post #6 of 138 Old 05-02-2016, 06:41 AM
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It looks like Cap-a-tread is a laminate product made to match laminate flooring. Unless you're doing the floor also, I'm not sure how that's going to look against your original floor.

NuStair looks like it would be a better match for the floor. You could use a circular saw to cut most of the bullnose off the old stairs and finish off the ends with a chisel. I'm not sure how things would work on the top stair. The NuStair tread at the top would sit above the finished floor. If you decide to not put a tread at the top, you'll have a step that's shorter than the rest. Come to think of it, you'll have a step at the bottom that's higher than the rest. Ask, I don't like stairs with attached nosings, I think they will come loose in time.

Are you sure you don't want to have a go at replacing the treads? I'm wondering if the treads sit on top of the stringers, or are inset into the stringers. If they're on top and not captured on the sides, it seems like it would be easier to remove the old treads and get new treads that already have a nosing than it will be to cap the existing ones.

Just a couple of other thoughts. You could fill the holes and paint them. Also, Flooring guys have all sorts of tricks to deal with messed up treads and ways to replace them.

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post #7 of 138 Old 05-02-2016, 10:15 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the suggestions. The Cap-A-Tread is available in many color options and I am planning on using Pergo or a similar product or click connect oak for the main floor of the house at minimum. The color match is certainly an issue but I believe it is not insurmountable whatever I choose. This interests me for the floors. http://www.lowes.com/pd_772288-972-E...000040171&pl=1

The stair treads are set into the stringers as is the the top tread/bullnose. For me that is a show stopper when it comes to replacing them. Also, there is no access to the bottom of the stairs unless I remove the ceiling beneath them. I will not be replacing the top tread or capping it but will sand and stain it to get as close a match as possible to the treads.

I can see the under side of the mid level stairs from the basement. The treads are set into the stringers about 1/2" and supported in the middle with two 2" X 2" X 3" glued blocks on the riser about a foot apart. There are shims below some treads and behind some risers at the stringers and I see no nails except from the riser ends into the tread so I assume glue is the main bonding agent. I am not a carpenter but this looks like a lower quality design.

I agree with your concerns about an attached bullnose but I can't see any other way to go unless it's Cap-A-Tread. The NuStair treads come in 3/8" for top and bottom treads and 5/8" for the main stair treads to minimize the height differential on the top and bottom tread.
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post #8 of 138 Old 05-02-2016, 12:39 PM
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I think if you're planning to use Pergo on the floor, then Cap-A-Tread will work well. It looks like the colors of Cap-A-Tread are direct matches for the Pergo colors.
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post #9 of 138 Old 06-23-2016, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
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Okay, a lot has happened since I started this thread. I purchased a DeWalt DWS709 12" sliding compound miter saw and a DeWalt DWE7480XA table saw. I have also purchased a lot of inexpensive pine boards to help me learn to use the new tools and have come a long way. I decided in the oak capping for the replacement treads but not the NuStair. I chose Stairtek instead because it is available locally and is essentially the same thing. Playing with stains has also been fun.

I have a question about the landing tread. the existing one is set into the stringers and is about 3 inches wide. Behind it are two two inch wide pieces of oak that look like they were nailed down. I have sanded the landing tread down to wood and it looks acceptable enough to be able to refinish. I was also wondering if it would be possible to drive the landing tread out of the stringers if I remove the two two inch pieces of oak behind it. The oak pieces are slightly wider than the staircase and not tongued into the floor as far as I can tell. I would then replace it with a new 5 or 7 inch wide landing tread.

My concerns are:

Is there any real chance I can drive the old landing tread out of the stringers without damaging them?

If I use a new 5 inch landing tread should I be able to set it into the stringers without damaging them? I know if I choose a 7 inch landing tread it will not set into the stringers unless I cut an angle at the top of each stringer channel so the new tread will make the angle I need to set it in place. I really don't want to cut the stringers so I was wondering if anyone knows a way to do this I have not thought of.
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post #10 of 138 Old 06-24-2016, 02:16 PM
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subscribed, this seems like a very interesting thread
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post #11 of 138 Old 06-24-2016, 07:40 PM
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Take a look at the landing tread in the photo, you will see it has a lip on the front that will prevent it from sliding back. You have a mortise stairs where the treads are mortised into the stringers, replacing the treads on that type of stairs will be much harder than an open stringer stairs.
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post #12 of 138 Old 06-24-2016, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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@BigJim thanks for the reply. I took a closer look at the underside of the landing tread and I do not see any lip. There a gap of about 1/8" between the top of the riser and the bottom of the landing tread the width of the tread. There is also a gap of about 1/4" between the riser and the stringer in the right side. There is almost no gap between the riser and the stringer on the left side. These steps look like crap the way they are constructed. I have attached a picture to show the underside right hand corner of the landing tread, riser, and stringer.
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post #13 of 138 Old 06-24-2016, 10:44 PM
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You are right, it looks like someone ripped a tread down and used it for a landing tread. Question, how did they make up for the extra thickness of the ripped tread vs flooring on the landing?

Can you access the under side of the stairs and get a picture or two under there to see if you actually do have a mortise stairs or open stringer. The way you describe the tread and riser it isn't full mortise.

In answer to your orignal question, if there is nothing but the flooring at the landing, then yes removing the flooring, you should be able to drive the landing tread back. Provided there aren't any nails, screws or glue holding it. But having to drive the landing tread back instead of upwards makes me think it is a mortise stairs.

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post #14 of 138 Old 06-25-2016, 10:22 AM Thread Starter
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@BigJim Unfortunately I can not access the under side of the steps but I have attached a picture of the top right of the landing tread. As you can see, there are two cut oak planks about 2 inches deep each abutting the landing tread and oak floor on the upper level. I believe these two planks can be easily removed. Both the landing tread and these planks appear to be nailed in from the top. I actually removed a finishing nail I discovered after some sanding from the middle top of the landing tread. It also appears there is another nail at the end of the landing tread secured to the riser. I can use a reciprocating saw on any nails like this. You can also get a better idea of the mortise from the picture.

The existing landing tread is 3 inches deep and the ones I have seen that are available are 5 inches. I thought if I could get the old one out I could slip a 5 inch one in and use a single 2 inch filler plank. If I use a deeper tread I will need to modify the mortise to accept it as far as I can see. I might have to us an oak tread without a lip if the mortise is too narrow. Is there a trick to joining the landing tread to the existing floor I am not aware of? Remember, I am new to this so any advice on the best way tackle this part of the job is appreciated.
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post #15 of 138 Old 06-25-2016, 01:07 PM
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By your picture it does look like you have a mortise stairs. There are landing treads that have a groove, but you would have to mill the flooring to fit the groove. It would be really hard to get the flooring installed into a groove unless you were installing all the flooring starting at the landing tread.

Most landing treads don't have the groove and just butt the flooring. I agree, you may have to rip a tread or at least fill in behind the lip of the landing tread, depending on how thick the one you have now is. Why don't you just scrape, sand and refinish the landing tread you have now, it is red oak?

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post #16 of 138 Old 06-25-2016, 05:18 PM
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Lots of conversations going on. Have you kept the stair building code in mind concerning tread depth and riser height? If you haven't removed the bull noses yet cut out a notch in the middle of the bullnose with an oscillating multitool plunge blade. Then use a jig saw to cut in both directions to remove the nosing.....when the jig saw hits the skirts use the multitool to finish the nose removal. Probably too late but you could have used the multitool to cut the ends of the treads flush with the stringers. New treads would cover the pieces of old treads that are left in the stringers. Stair treads aren't that hard to do...just require precise cuts to avoid gaps. Based on the fact that you are tool savvy and a hands-on guy you could do it.
With your tools you can rip the new landing tread to whatever width you want.
Also, get yourself an oscillating multitool...you can get one for $15.00 at Harbor Freight. Harbor Freight blades are lousy. Oscillating multitool blades are not inexpensive....Bosch blades are top notch and will fit the HF tool. You can buy a better tool and it has lots of uses.

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post #17 of 138 Old 06-25-2016, 05:57 PM Thread Starter
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@BigJim I tried nudging the existing landing tread but it would not move in the mortise but I can bow the whole tread up easily with a pry bar (except for the ends in the mortise). I also tried removing the pieces behind the tread and they won't budge either. My guess is they're glued as well as nailed. I think the only way to remove the landing tread is to cut it out. I'm not sure I have the confidence for that since this is my first attempt at something like this. I did sand the tread and am definitely considering refinishing it. It does have some deep stains in the grain from the carpet glue but I think it should be okay. If it looks like a disaster I can always start cutting and replace it. Then it will need replacing and no loss if I mess it up :). It looks like it's only about 1/4 inch into the mortise so if I cut it I know I can remove the remaining pieces.

@JIMMIEM I have not looked into the building codes in my area though it did cross my mind. I'm not even sure where to find them. The tread depth should be the same once the new treads are installed but it will raise the steps by 5/8 inch. the top step will be 5/8 inch shorter than the rest of the treads though because the landing tread, even if replaced, will be the same height as the existing floor. I'm not sure that is an issue but there is nothing I can do about it. I am also looking into installing engineered flooring that is 3/8" without underlayment. With underlayment it will be about 1/2 inch so the new treads will be spaced almost the same as the original. I know I can cut the original bullnose but chose not to because the new treads are designed to cover them. I have not done any cutting yet except for practicing with scrap. I have confidence I can make the necessary cuts. The new treads are installed from the bottom starting with the riser then tread and so on. The treads are ripped 1/4 inch shorter than the depth to the existing riser and the new riser is then installed on the tread.
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post #18 of 138 Old 06-25-2016, 07:36 PM
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@BigJim I tried nudging the existing landing tread but it would not move in the mortise but I can bow the whole tread up easily with a pry bar (except for the ends in the mortise). I also tried removing the pieces behind the tread and they won't budge either. My guess is they're glued as well as nailed. I think the only way to remove the landing tread is to cut it out. I'm not sure I have the confidence for that since this is my first attempt at something like this. I did sand the tread and am definitely considering refinishing it. It does have some deep stains in the grain from the carpet glue but I think it should be okay. If it looks like a disaster I can always start cutting and replace it. Then it will need replacing and no loss if I mess it up :). It looks like it's only about 1/4 inch into the mortise so if I cut it I know I can remove the remaining pieces.

@JIMMIEM I have not looked into the building codes in my area though it did cross my mind. I'm not even sure where to find them. The tread depth should be the same once the new treads are installed but it will raise the steps by 5/8 inch. the top step will be 5/8 inch shorter than the rest of the treads though because the landing tread, even if replaced, will be the same height as the existing floor. I'm not sure that is an issue but there is nothing I can do about it. I am also looking into installing engineered flooring that is 3/8" without underlayment. With underlayment it will be about 1/2 inch so the new treads will be spaced almost the same as the original. I know I can cut the original bullnose but chose not to because the new treads are designed to cover them. I have not done any cutting yet except for practicing with scrap. I have confidence I can make the necessary cuts. The new treads are installed from the bottom starting with the riser then tread and so on. The treads are ripped 1/4 inch shorter than the depth to the existing riser and the new riser is then installed on the tread.
There is a national building code for stairs. Also, individual states may have code which is different from the national code. Call the building inspector for the city or town where you live and ask which code to follow. Let us know which one they tell you to follow....we'll point you to the documentation. The codes exist for a reason which is primarily safety so it's important that your stairs are code compliant. When stairs are walked on the walker adjusts their stride to the stair dimensions in 3 strides....if the dimension changes too much i.e. goes out of a code, it will throw the stride off. Worse case scenario....somebody has an accident on your stairs, insurance claim is filed, insurance company checks accident site (your stairs) and finds that they are not code compliant....may deny the insurance claim.
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post #19 of 138 Old 06-25-2016, 07:40 PM Thread Starter
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@JIMMIEM Thanks, that will be the next thing I do. I looked on the township site for the information but got lost in a maze of dizzying babble. I sent them a request for information and may go there tomorrow to see what I can find out.

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post #20 of 138 Old 06-25-2016, 09:12 PM
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@JIMMIEM Thanks, that will be the next thing I do. I looked on the township site for the information but got lost in a maze of dizzying babble. I sent them a request for information and may go there tomorrow to see what I can find out.
Where do you live?
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