Squeaky stairs in any house can drive you nuts! If not, you wouldn’t be googling “how to fix creaky stairs”, right? The good news is that there are many easy ways to fix a squeaking, creaking staircase without tearing things apart and calling your carpenter. Any homeowner can do it themselves! Keep that extra money to paint your stairs and make them look brand new again.
You’ve already seen it and heard it in so many scary movies: a stair creaks in the middle of the night, startling the homeowner into nervous wakefulness. In reality, though, creaky stairs are a common problem. There are many reasons why you don’t want your stairs to squeak. The most important one? It announces to the entire family when you’re heading down to the kitchen in the dark for a midnight snack! You can now save the hassle and money of calling an expert and repair your noisy staircase yourself. All you need to do is to follow our instructions for a quiet result!
Table of Contents
- Find the squeak
- Method 1: Dampen the squeak with lubricant
- Method 2: Screw down the loose threads
- Method 3: Nail into the risers
- Method 4: Fix squeaky stairs from underneath
- Method 5: Use a special tool for silencing the squeak on carpeted stairs
- Method 6: Replace worn or missing wedges
- Method 7: Use a “moulding” or “quadrant”
Find the squeak
While you wonder how to fix squeaky stairs, you first need to find where the squeak is coming from. Its location could also dictate the type of repair you do. Below is all you need to know to begin with your DIY project.
The parts of a staircase
- Treads: the horizontal surfaces where you put your feet.
- Risers: the vertical surfaces in between the treads.
- Stringers: the sawtooth-shaped boards running up the sides of the risers and treads to provide support.
- Bannisters: the handrails running the length of the staircase.
- Balustrades: the posts that support the bannisters.
How to identify the cause of creaking stairs
Climb your stairs slowly and note the steps that have squeaks and where it is coming from exactly. To remember them, mark each with a sticky note or masking tape. Then, stand in each squeaky step’ middle and rock front-to-back and side-to-side to determine if the noise is coming from the back, the side or the front of the tread.
Typically, if the squeak comes from the tread’s front, this means it has come loose from its riser. A squeak from the side or the back of the tread means it’s loose at the stringer. Once you’ve determined the squeak’s site, consider these 7 repair methods to stop it–or at least quiet it down.
Method 1: Dampen the squeak with lubricant
An easy way to silence a creak coming from the tread’s back or sides is by filling the crack between the tread and the riser above it using a lubricant like talcum powder or powdered graphite. To do so:
- Squeeze a piece of paper against the back of the tread.
- Pour a bit of powder onto the paper across the entire stair width.
- With your finger, a stiff paintbrush, or a tightly twisted piece of cloth, put the powder as deeply as possible into the crack between the riser and the tread.
Method 2: Screw down the loose threads
If the stair is screeching at the front, tighten up the fitting between the riser and the tread with a few screws. You can find these at any home improvement centre. To get rid of squeaking stairs using this method, you should:
- Drill 3 evenly spaced pilot holes across the tread’s front where it lines up with its riser.
- Drill in the 3 screws, making sure to sink them a bit below the surface of the tread.
- Once you’ll have the screws in place, hide the screw heads and fill in the slight indentations, using a bit of appropriately coloured wood filler.
- Sand the rough top of the wood plug until it is flush with the top of the tread.
Method 3: Nail into the risers
Suppose you want a more permanent solution than a lubricant when the squeak issues from the back or the side of the tread, consider nailing the tread firmly into the stringer using 8d or 10d nails (which are 6.350cm to 7.620cm in length). To do so:
- Make 2 small pilot holes on the tread’s side near the wall; you should have them spaced about 5cm apart from each other and drill them at opposing 45-degree angles.
- Repeat to create 2 more small pilot holes on the tread’s side near the balustrade.
- Drive the nails into the pilot holes, directing them at a 45-degree angle.
- Ensure the nails’ heads don’t poke up above the surface of the wood where they could injure someone’s foot. Using a few extra taps of the hammer should flatten them out.
- You may also want to hide the repaired spots by covering them with a dab of wood filler or putty.
Method 4: Fix squeaky stairs from underneath
For the sturdiest results, you can silence squeaks from the underside of the stairs. Of course, that can only happen if your interior staircase allows easy access to the area underneath the stairs. Here’s all you need to do:
- For each squeaky step, you’ll need 3 small triangular wooden wedges or shims, known as glue blocks. You can find these at your local home improvement store.
- Apply wood glue to the 2 shorter sides of each glue block.
- Press the blocks firmly into the right angle created by the meeting of the tread and the riser.
- Position 1 block in the step’s centre and the other 2 at the step’s opposite edges.
- Give each glue block a wiggle as you position it to push out any air bubbles. Using a sharp chisel, slice off the bulk of the protruding wood plug.
- Once you’ve glued the blocks into place, drive 2 countersunk screws into each block to secure them further. Have one screw running horizontally into the riser and the other one running vertically into the tread.
Method 5: Use a special tool for silencing the squeak on carpeted stairs
When you want to repair your squeaking stairs, but you don’t plan on replacing the carpeting, you’ll probably want to avoid removing it. However, you should know that driving screws through carpeting can rip carpet fibres, catch the drill bit, or even make holes in the carpet. So, you’ll want a drill tool specifically made for this purpose to get the job done without ruining your property.
- Use your kit to drill 3 screws into the front of the tread where it joins the riser, as mentioned in method 2 above.
- With the carpet drill kit, you should first position the included tripod device over the spot where you want to install your screw and insert the drill bit of the kit into your drill.
- Position 1 of the special screws in the bit’s end, and then drive the screw through the carpet and down into the riser and tread.
- The screw’s head will still be sticking out of the carpet when you finish. Use the tripod to snap off the screw’s head, leaving the remainder safely hidden beneath the carpet where it can’t hurt anyone’s feet.
Method 6: Replace worn or missing wedges
Most staircases contain securing wedges for the risers and treads. They are used to butt the treads and risers against the housed string’s mortises so that no gaps are visible between the strings, treads and risers. Unfortunately, they can slip or become damaged over time and extensive use of the staircase. And, of course, this can lead to screeching. Here’s how to fix this problem:
- Inspect the staircase’s rear. If you find any worn or loose wedges, gently chip out the old ones with a chisel.
- Coat with glue the new replacement wedges.
- Use a mallet to drive the new wedges into place.
- Before fitting your new wedges, inject some adhesive into the mortise for the tread or riser to bond with the glue in the mortise and provide extra grip.
Method 7: Use a “moulding” or “quadrant”
If you find a loose riser or tread, you can also glue on a “moulding” or quadrant”. You may glue the length of moulding either at the top of the riser, its bottom, or both. We recommend you pin the moulding to both the tread and the riser.
This method is a more aesthetically pleasing alternative to nailing or screwing the risers and treads together, but it requires more precision work. If the staircase has no carpets, we recommend adding these mouldings to all of the stairs and not just the squeaky ones for aesthetic reasons.
Stairs become loose over time, and from time to time, you’re left with squeaky noises. The good news is that this is nothing you can’t solve! This is a simple repair you can complete yourself in a very little amount of time. Keep in mind that you may need to combine some of the above methods if you want to eliminate screeching treads completely. Once you get rid of the annoying squeak, you can enjoy the silence you created with your repair. You can now sneak down for that late-night snack without waking the whole family!