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

Stacy Davis
by Stacy Davis
6 Materials
5 Days

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 off your existing stairs. They are called Retro Treads and mine were unstained red oak from Lowes. Check out my step-by-step tutorial so that you can redo your own stairs with minimal work and maximum effect!

DIY Wood Stairs

Tools and Materials

  • Duraseal quick coat 2 hour antique brown stain
  • Retrofit tread kit with riser
  • Floor adhesive
  • Floor adhesive caulking gun
  • Finishing nails
  • Finishing nailer
Wood Stair Treads

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.

Remove the Carpet
Remove the Carpet

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 was pretty thick and I applied a generous amount so that also allowed for some forgiveness here.

Add Risers
Add Risers

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 and clamped them securely. Then, I installed it as one large piece. In hindsight, that one large piece was heavy and hard to handle by myself, so maybe find someone to help out for this step.

Adhere Caps to Steps
Adhere the Caps to the Steps

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...


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. :)

The Finished Product

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. ***

Carpeted 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.

Resources for this project:
Duraseal quick coat 2 hour antique brown stain
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Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 57 questions
  • Carolina Bradford Carolina Bradford on Jul 17, 2019

    Our interior stairway has steps that are much too high for us. 10" high and very steep. Maybe fine when we were in our 20's but not now! We're retired, hubby is disabled veteran, what is the least expensive way to redo these stairs in a safe way? keep in mind, I'll (wife) be doing most of the work, so please go easy on me! by the way, our stairway going down into the cellar is the same, as is the stairway going up into the 2nd story of our garage. We need lots of work.

  • Tufbrk2 Tufbrk2 on Oct 30, 2020

    If I want to use the scenic stick-ons where the risers are do you think I could just put them over the existing stair risers or is it better to add the risers and then the stick-ons?

  • Bernadette Bernadette on Apr 25, 2021

    Yes I will try this. I have already ripped out the carpet. Do I have to use stair caps. Could I just paint the stairs as is?

Join the conversation
2 of 324 comments
  • Antonettakowalewski Antonettakowalewski on Apr 16, 2018

    You can use woodprix, it has the best handbooks and ready instructions. You can learn much from them and make it yourself.

  • Michelle Michelle on Mar 28, 2023

    Great Idea! I was wondering how to make a change on basement stairs. they are carpeted and I don't know what is underneath. Looking forward to trying this