Stacy Davis
Stacy Davis
  • Tutorial Team
  • Fredericksburg, VA

From Carpet to Wood Stairs Redo - Cheater Version...


You know all of those stair tutorials that are a lot of work... lots of scraping and lots of painting. Well, this is a cheater version (little scraping / little painting) that uses wood caps on top of your existing stairs. They are called Retro Treads and mine were unstained red oak from Lowes.
from carpet to wood stairs redo cheater version, diy, how to, stairs


from carpet to wood stairs redo cheater version, diy, how to, stairs

These required very little effort. If it weren't for the landing, I would have been finished in a weekend.
Retro Treads can be found on the internet. Mine were unstained and I stained them a very dark color. I put three coats of stain on each tread two hours apart for curing.
from carpet to wood stairs redo cheater version, diy, how to, stairs

First , I removed all the carpet. That was the hardest part of the project. There were a million staples. I would peel out a corner and then yank. Then, I came back with a heavy duty pliers and pulled out all the staples. I scraped the stairs a little and vacuumed them. I didn't really spend a lot of time on them unless there was a chunk of spackle that would make a bump. A stair cap covers them completely, no worries about how awful they look. Also the floor adhesive is pretty thick and I applied a generous amount so that also allows for some forgiveness here.
from carpet to wood stairs redo cheater version, diy, how to, stairs

I bought prepainted white mdf boards and cut them down for risers. It came out to around $40. My Retro Tread Caps were $23 a piece. They are really long and I cut about 12 inches off each. I do have a landing and I used one Retro Tread and added enough red oak boards behind it to cover the landing. I put them all together with wood glue, clamped them securely. Then, I installed it as one large piece. Hindsight, that one large piece was heavy and hard to handle by myself.
from carpet to wood stairs redo cheater version, diy, how to, stairs

To adhere the caps to the steps, I used heavy duty flooring adhesive in a giant caulk gun and a nail gun to secure them. First, I put on all the risers, DO NOT DO THIS. It works much better to put on the cap and then the riser sits on the back of the step and helps hold it in place. So in the picture above, all those risers were ripped out and mdf breaks when pried. It wasn't a pretty picture... I do believe I had to buy more... sigh...
from carpet to wood stairs redo cheater version, diy, how to, stairs

This was the stain that I used and I love how it came out. I only used part of this can. A little bit went a long way. Every single time I walk up them, I love them. We were talking of moving and my oldest son said, "What! After you made the mudroom and redid the stairs! Are you kidding?" Well, I am sure there will be projects in the next house as well. :)
from carpet to wood stairs redo cheater version, diy, how to, stairs

Here is a picture of the landing. It consists of a Retrotread and then I glued assorted sizes of red oak boards to the far side of it. I was worried that the boards might stain differently than the Retroread but it was a perfect match.

*** UPDATE *** I get a lot of questions on if my wood steps are slippery and if we have trouble with people falling on them. I really think this involves many factors that are individual to your situation. We lived in Florida at the time I put these steps in our house. Since it is almost always hot there, we didn't have a lot of sock-footed traffic on the stairs. I think that socks on stairs can be dangerous, either wood or carpet. Another factor for us, was the fact that only one bedroom was up these stairs. Pretty much only the teenager that was living up there, traveled up those stairs regularly and myself to clean. In addition, to these factors, my kids were older. All of them teenagers. Now in regard to the stairs themselves, I didn't spend a lot of time sanding these treads. I made sure they wouldn't have any super rough spots but I didn't spend hours sanding them ultra smooth. And those glossy super shiny wood floors you see? These stairs are beautiful but the poly that I planned to add, I never did. So maybe a super shiny poly would have made a difference. ***
from carpet to wood stairs redo cheater version, diy, how to, stairs
In my current house, the wood stairs lead to a carpeted hallway. I like how the previous homeowners transitioned this area. I thought others could use this idea as inspiration.

Have a question about this project?

3 of 50 questions
  • Jennifer M
    on Jun 27, 2018

    This is great information. Did you use any polyurethane on the stairs? If so, did you do it before installing? We have a dog and I am struggling to figure out how I would keep him off the stairs to let polyurethane completely dry and cure.

    • Stacy Davis
      on Jun 28, 2018

      Yes, we did use poly and I have pets, too. I wanted to poly them before I installed but I was worried that when I shot the nails in, it would leave marks that would not be easy to touch up. I think we ended up boarding our animals for 24 hours and doing the poly while they were gone. Hope that help!

  • S
    on Aug 21, 2018

    How do your dogs do on the steps? I have Large and In Charge (15 lbs and 120lbs)

    • Stacy Davis
      on Aug 22, 2018

      I have three large dogs so I can't help you with your 15 lb dog...  Mine are 85 lbs, 90 lbs and 120 lbs Golden Retriever. My 85 lb dog is a mix, she has some (we think) Australian Shepard and Great Pyrenee in her. She has small feet and is graceful and quick and no problems on stairs what so ever. My 120 lb Golden Retriever is kinda clumsy and when she goes down the stairs too fast, she does tend to go falling down to the bottom. Let me tell you the sound of 120 lbs falling down the stairs took years off my life but she never seems to be fazed or hurt by her falls. The only thing hurt seems to be her pride, she always looks adequately embarrassed. My dogs have also experienced several different types of hardwood stairs. The stairs in new homes typically are not as steep as older homes and if there is a landing half way that seems to help my dogs. One of the houses we were in had a carpeted runner and that really helped the dogs but the Golden would occasionally fall even with that. One thing about the runner was that no matter how much we seemed to be good about trimming their nails the runner was plagued with pulls and loops from their nails. Just something to keep in mind if you are a perfectionist and want the runner to look perfect. I hope this helps.

  • Cha34008789
    on Aug 27, 2018

    I have the same carpeted stairs with an over hang. How did you remove the over hang on your stairs?

    • Stacy Davis
      on Aug 27, 2018

      My overhang is still there but when I added the riser it became less noticeable and the caps have an front edge that comes down and pretty much hides the overhang. I worried it might be an issue but once I was done you couldn’t really see it.

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