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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Good afternoon.

I am attempting my first staircase in our new home and am in need of some advice. The wood I am using for the treads is assumed to be sweetgum. It was reclaimed from a gentleman who passed and had it in his barn for decades. After cutting the boards to stair length and running them through the planer, I am at a thickness of 1.5". One side of several of the boards is significantly more beautiful than the other. Unfortunately it is on the pith side of the board. What are the chances of installing several of the stair treads bark side down to reveal the more beautiful side of the wood, or am I setting myself up for a future disaster?

Thanks for any help in advance!

Brett
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think it would be fine. I always use the better looking side in my projects.
Without any cupping or warping issues? I should mention that I hope/plan to not put any screws or nails in the top, but rather blind fasten it and glue it (can of worms) for appearance sake.
 

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I think if you're using solid one piece treads, the possibility of cupping is going to exist no matter which side is up/down.

Maybe mill your treads within 1/8" of finished and then let them sit for a week or so & see what they do. What part of the country are you in? Humidity is a consideration.

I'm by no means an expert either. I'd have to think though that your best defense against warping would be solid joinery. Rabbet the back edge of the tread into the stringers. Also rabbet the risers into the top of the tread below and the bottom of the tread above, and glue everything.
 

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I think 1 1/2" is a bit much for stair treads. I normaly make them 1 1/8" to 1 1/4" thick. That would give you some more wiggle room for surfacing.
 

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good advice above

If the boards were planed evenly off both side to get the 1-1/2" dimension they will have a better chance of remaining stable. I would look at the ends to see if there is a potential for cup with large arcing grain or growth rings.
Questions:
Will the stairs be made as a unit then installed?
Will the stringers be located at the ends of the treads or spaced in?
It is an open design with no risers? Usually the thicker treads are used in an open stair design....
Is the location in a "conditioned" space or humid environment?
What are the stringers made from?
Can you use thin metal 90 degree angle plates to attach the treads to the stringers?

You have a photo of the structure so far? :blink:
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Okay, here are some pictures of what I am working on.

I live in Kansas so humidity is a consideration. Both sides of the boards have been planed down. I was thinking of thicker stairs to match the look of the cedar beams in the house and the thick cedar hand rail I plan on making.

The staircase will be made piece by piece since I don't plan on replacing the 2x12 stringers. The risers will be walnut 3/4".

I'm not sure what you mean by "Will the stringers be located at the ends of the treads or spaced in?"

The stairs will be leading from the main level of the house to the basement. Both will be climate controlled.

I like your idea to use "L" brackets. I was thinking of using a Kreg jig to secure the treads from the under side.

As always, thanks for any advice/suggestions.

Brett
 

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no access from behind the stringers...

This would mean all the attachments have to be from the front.... no blind screws or other fasteners...right?

If that's the case I would make each tread and riser separately with the riser rabbeted in on the top of tread at the rear and dadoed in on the front of the tread on the bottom. This will lock the tread in place. A finishing nail or 2 into the riser to the stringers can be covered and won't show if done with care. Liquid Nails or other gap filling adhesive can be used for attaching the wood to the risers and to itself. Not an easy project to accomplish without visible fastners and no rear access. :no:
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The preference is to not fasten the tread from the top, but I am not against putting some finish nails in the riser. The treads are reclaimed material and have some holes from previous nails which we are okay with. We would just prefer not to add any more holes if it can be avoided. Another issue is that the minimum width on one of the treads is 11 1/4" versus nearly 12 on most of the remaining. My risers are currently 3/4" and the stringer measures 10". If I push that tread against the stringer and rabbet the riser into the tread, that only leaves 1/2" for an overhang on the front of the stair. I was hoping for at least 1" but was willing to settle for 3/4".

As for not having access, we were just discussing taking the sheet rock down if needed. It would certainly simplify things.

The main thing is to get it right, but we are also on a time frame, so it's possible I might have gotten in over my head. Seems like so many variables that need to be solved before starting and that doesn't even include setting the top stair nose to match the floor so I can start laying the hardwood floors.:huh:
 

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One thing at a time. Before tearing into this any further I'd figure the project through as thoroughly as possible. Develop your battle strategy in as much detail as you can; the extra time now will pay dividends against the length of the build.

You could pick up 1/4" by planing the risers down to 1/2" thick. And I think 3/4" overhang is plenty personally. Unless you're going to use a molding under the nose of the tread, then you'll need a bit more.

As for the stair nosing, install the treads & risers first. Your nosing should overhang the last riser. Pretty simple as long as you're working in the right sequence.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I certainly have not rushed through this. I've been waiting for the workers to get out of here for the last 6 months so I can start the stairs and floors. It seems as if every time I look at it I see a different starting point. To further complicate things, the floor boards at the top of the stairs are running 66 feet with no break. It is imperative to get the top stair and the floor boards parallel or I could end up with a pie wedge for a floor board against the living room wall and a serpentine floor. Right now I am finishing the treads and risers with tung oil and I will see what the weekend brings. I'm not one to give up, but I'd rather admit my weaknesses than screw up thousands of dollars worth of flooring. Every day brings a new perspective.
 

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Without any cupping or warping issues? I should mention that I hope/plan to not put any screws or nails in the top, but rather blind fasten it and glue it (can of worms) for appearance sake.
Why do you think that after all of these years the wood would suddenly want to cup or warp?

G
 

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Why do you think that after all of these years the wood would suddenly want to cup or warp?

G
i would think it may because it was stored in a barn (presumed to be unheated or cooled) and brought into a house - two different climates. jmho.

you will have some acces at the bottom of the risers to nail or screw the risers into the back of the treads.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
i would think it may because it was stored in a barn (presumed to be unheated or cooled) and brought into a house - two different climates. jmho.

you will have some acces at the bottom of the risers to nail or screw the risers into the baclk of the treads.
That is just what I was thinking. 2 weeks in a new climate perhaps will not be enough for the wood to acclimate. I'm just trying to avoid squeaks and ripples 2 years down the road.

I will likely remove the sheet rock under the stairs for access.
 

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Douglas here & owner of CheapStairParts.com

We have sold treads for years and have seen this same issue brought up a few times.

I talked to one of the installers here and he said he would not go bark side down. He would take that 1.5 down to maybe 1.1 or 1.2 so some of the better looking wood is visible. (Just be careful because of it's interlocking grain, sometimes planing it can cause tears/rips).

He said bark side down combined with the adhesive "could" cause some deterioration over the years, resulting in the squeaking you are worried about.


We have also seen plenty of cases where customers would buy the wood parts, store them in a garage for months or weeks, then immediately install them in a cooled house, only to see warping develop.

Sweetgum warps badly during initial drying, you have to ask yourself how dry you think that barn was during those years.
 

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Looking at your pictures, at the top of the stairs, is there a complete header under the beam or joist where the stringers connect. It looks like the stringers are nailed at the very top third to solid wood but the bottom 2/3s of the stringers are nailed only into the OSB board. If that is the case you will need to install a header so all of the stringer rests and is fastened to solid wood, not just OSB board. If I am wrong just overlook my comment.:smile:
 

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The preference is to not fasten the tread from the top, but I am not against putting some finish nails in the riser. The treads are reclaimed material and have some holes from previous nails which we are okay with. We would just prefer not to add any more holes if it can be avoided. Another issue is that the minimum width on one of the treads is 11 1/4" versus nearly 12 on most of the remaining. My risers are currently 3/4" and the stringer measures 10". If I push that tread against the stringer and rabbet the riser into the tread, that only leaves 1/2" for an overhang on the front of the stair. I was hoping for at least 1" but was willing to settle for 3/4".

As for not having access, we were just discussing taking the sheet rock down if needed. It would certainly simplify things.

The main thing is to get it right, but we are also on a time frame, so it's possible I might have gotten in over my head. Seems like so many variables that need to be solved before starting and that doesn't even include setting the top stair nose to match the floor so I can start laying the hardwood floors.:huh:
typicall, i install the risers first, even with the top of the stringer horizon. then push the (lower) tread against the riser, and glue/nail/screw form the back of the riser into the back of the tread. in other words the riser is behind the tread, not on top. with this method, you will have 1 1/4" overhang. this method also gives support at the back of the tread.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
jiju1943:

You are correct. Good eye. Seems this project just got more involved. Stair treads are now at 1.25" and look fantastic.

TimPa:

That is what I was hoping to do. Now that the sheetrock has to come down that will simplify things a bunch.
 
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