Creaking stairs are a nuisance and may also be an early sign of wear and tear in your staircase. If you’re reasonably good with your hands and have the appropriate tools, you should be able to fix the creak yourself without too much difficulty.
The first step (ha, ha) is to determine whether you can work on the stairs from underneath. If you can, you’ll be able to achieve a better repair. But in many homes (particularly more modern builds) the underside of the stairs is concealed by a soffit panel. If this can’t be removed easily (for instance, if it’s plasterboard rather than a wooden board held in place by screws) then you’ll find it much easier to work from above. We’ll look at this method first.
Nosings (the bits of the tread which stick out beyond the risers) are generally attached to the risers by tongue-and-groove joints. More rarely, the riser is housed into the tread underside, or the two are simply butted together and held by nails or screws. Whichever way they’re held together, from time to time the nosing can work loose.
If you’re working from above, the cure’s relatively simple. You’ll need some 1½” (38mm) countersunk screws, some PVA wood adhesive, a drill and a screwdriver.
Drill pilot holes for the screws through the tread, making sure to do so directly above the centre of the riser. Squeeze some PVA into each of the holes and jiggle the joint about as best you can, to make sure that the glue works its way into the joint. Then screw the tread and the riser tightly together.
If you can’t hide the holes with a stair carpet, you’ll need to add an extra step to the process. Using a drill bit wider than the head of the screws, drill a counterbore hole just deep enough to put the screw heads below the surface when they’re screwed into place. You can then plug the holes with matching wood – small sections of dowel are ideal for the purpose.
Loose riser joints
These are more tricky as you can’t pull the joints together using screws – although we’ve seen some pretty shoddy looking attempts to do just that…
The best you can do is probably to glue a section of triangular softwood moulding into the angle between riser and tread, which will help hold the two together. However, you’ll only be able to do this if the flat surface of the tread from the edge of the moulding to the nosing remains no smaller than 220mm (8¾”) – any less, and you’ll fall foul of Building Regulations.
The wider the moulding section the better, as that will add the maximum strength to the joint. But make sure you cut it a little less wide than the stair carpet so that it’s hidden. (If you don’t have a stair carpet, then you may want to add mouldings to each step to give a uniform appearance.)
If you are able to work from underneath the stairs, you’ll find more on how to do that on this page.