Handyman Help: Staircase Maintenance

woman in wheelchair near staircase speaking with younger womanStaircases are exposed to weight and constant usage over time. It’s not surprising that staircases can eventually start to creak, crack, or even break permanently. Staircase maintenance should be done regularly to check on minor problems. These problems are best addressed right away to prevent the problem(s) from worsening. Many issues may not be obvious to the naked eye. Getting under the stairs is the easiest way to inspect and fix potential damage – especially on stairs that are carpeted.

Have a helper walk up and down the staircase while checking for movement in the joints underneath. Mark any stairs that need attention. Address problem stairs using the techniques below.

Materials and tools needed for staircase maintenance can be purchased at EquipSupply.com. These items include wood glue, block(s) of wood, panel pins, wedges, a pin hammer, circular saw, and carpenter’s square.

Creaking or Damaged Treads or Risers: Treads and risers are tightly positioned, typically. The wedges can loosen, causing the stair to move and creak. Carry out repairs of this sort from below the stairs, if possible.  If treads or risers split, they can be replaced in an open-string staircase by removing the balusters and fasteners from the damaged tread or riser. Slide out the broken part and use it as a template to cut a new part, slip the new part into place, and replace the fasteners and balusters.

Repairing Creaking Stairs from Below: If a wedge is loose under the noisy stair, remove it and use as a template to cut a new wedge. Apply wood glue to the sides and position it firmly into place. The wedge must fit tightly to prevent movement in the joint. Once tight, glue a reinforcing block across the joint between the tread and riser. Secure the block by drilling pilot holes through the block and into the stair, but be careful not to accidentally penetrate the outer surface.

Repairing a Broken Baluster: On a closed-string staircase, lever up the fillet below the broken baluster using a chisel. Use this part as a template to trim a replacement. Replace the fillet and pin it into place using a panel pin. Decorate, if desired, to hide the repair.