How do you finish stairs that look like this??

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I started pulling up carpet on our stairs, and I was hoping to just sand, paint, and install a runner. But, the wood isn't pieced together like I thought it would be. There are pretty big gaps between boards, and they aren't cut all the same length. I really want to avoid putting carpet back down and trying to save money on installing hardwood. Any ideas on what I should do?

q how do you finish stairs that look like this
q how do you finish stairs that look like this
  18 answers
  • Whoever built these stairs intended them to be covered with carpet. You could try filling (with wood - for the big gaps - and wood filler), sanding, and painting them, otherwise, you'll need to install new treads and risers. That would be expensive. The painting option wouldn't be as expensive, but labor-intensive. The easiest alternative would be cover them again with carpet, which I know you don't want to do.

    Good luck, I hope you find a solution that works for you and please share the project with us when it's done. I'd love to see it!

  • FrugalFamilyTimes.com FrugalFamilyTimes.com on Nov 14, 2021

    It looks like your stairs are just plywood that was made to always be covered with carpet. You need to cover the steps with wood treads. Here’s how to do that: https://www.frugalfamilytimes.com/2020/02/stair-makeover-how-to-install-wood-treads-over-plywood-steps/

  • Janice Janice on Nov 14, 2021

    Wow! Ann is right on track with her thoughts and advice. I hope you find a solution that you like. If you plan to stay in the home long-term, it might be worth it to you to redo the staircase with nice hardwood treads, though labor intensive. Good luck to you.

  • Tuula - Color Me Thrifty Tuula - Color Me Thrifty on Nov 14, 2021

    Those definitely look like basic builder's stairs, which are meant as a base for a covering like carpet. You could patch what needs to be patched, and fill what needs to be filled, and then prime and paint. That would take some time and a lot of elbow grease, but may be doable depending on what the rest of the stairs look like and whether you think you'd be happy with the outcome. I would try fixing up one stair and see what you think, and then decide from there.

  • Cheryl A Cheryl A on Nov 14, 2021

    you could buy wood to make new stairs or get someone like a handyman to do them for you- looks like a lot of repairs and the person who built those stairs was hiding the flaws with carpet...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOcPPO4LRfI

  • We have the same issue. Ugh. I want to finish them, but it's basically a do-over. We have carpet now and looks like we'll be recovering them with carpet again. I was thinking about adding some molding to pretty ours up and then paint them, but it's a lot of work. However, with a little creativity and some power tools it could be done. Good luck!

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Nov 14, 2021

    I would uncover all the stairs and see what there is that you have to deal with, all the way to the top. From there make a decision to re-carpet or not. The treads and risers are the problem as you've seen, uneven and rough. You could spend a lot of time patching, sanding and then painting ultimately being unhappy with the results. Cheap carpet as a runner might be a temporary solution until you can get the hardwood. What happened to the drywall on the side? Just curious.

    • Emily Emily on Nov 14, 2021

      The stairs were built out to the side on the bottom two steps. So, we took it out. We need to patch the floor and replace the railing which we weren't planning on doing, but it is way more functional and open so it will be worth it once it is done.

  • Vimarhonor Vimarhonor on Nov 14, 2021

    Hello. It looks like they are designed to be carpeted. Do you want to install hardwood? Moor information could be helpful on the final look that you wish to achieve. As it looks now —-it looks like they need to be re-carpeted.

  • William William on Nov 14, 2021

    Construction grade lumber meant to be carpeted.


    https://www.hometalk.com/diy/staircases/stunning-stairs-make-over-35327344


    https://www.hometalk.com/diy/paint/rooms/stairs-renovation-15035155


    https://www.hometalk.com/diy/staircases/how-i-made-my-basement-steps-look-like-a-million-bucks-44419848

  • Mogie Mogie on Nov 14, 2021

    Not sure but this might be a big help.

    How to install new treads and risers on your old stairs. Beginners DIY

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ-2gRuoNdM

  • Emily Emily on Nov 14, 2021

    Thank you for the advice! I'm going to finish taking the carpet out and talk to the flooring people who are fixing the rest of the house before making the final decision. I think taking the risers off, cutting them to make it flush with wall, and adding decorative trim to cover the holes before painting might work. It is going to be a lot of work so I don't know yet. I'll give an update after I decide.

  • Dee Dee on Nov 14, 2021

    I think those stairs need to be replaced. They can be dangerous if you try to piece meal them together. Here is a web site that will give you the instructions. Good luckhttps://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/skills-and-know-how/carpentry-and-woodworking/how-to-replace-staircase-treads

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Nov 14, 2021

    Clad the side of the stairs with timber panelling or use faux brick or other designs in board form.

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Nov 15, 2021

    I would replace the runners and possible the risers. To save money, you may be able to remove, trim, and re-install correctly. This seems a bit unsafe to me. You could paint the boards with a floor paint for cost savings as well.

  • Betsy Betsy on Nov 15, 2021

    Hello Emily: Your idea of talking to the people who are already there working is a good one. If you are going to re-carpet them, you can get some discontinued carpeting or remnants. If you didn't have any problem with the stairs before, then you really shouldn't have any now.


    Good luck

  • Michelle Leslie Michelle Leslie on Nov 17, 2021

    Hi Emily, I would start by using a handsaw (or jigsaw if it fits in that space) to trim the boards neatly. Once that's done and depending on your budget, perhaps you can cut some hardboard or MDF for the sides to hide the big gaps. Use wallpaper or paint to disguise the MDF

  • Emily Emily on Nov 20, 2021

    We decided to put down carpet to avoid fussing with it too much because we need to replace the railing which is way more expensive than we thought it was going to be. Plus, carpet will be a little safer with kids.

  • Annie Annie on Nov 30, 2021

    They were built to be covered with carpet, in that I mean, the builder didn't bother finessing any part, because it would be covered anyway.

    In order for them to look good bare, you should look at replacing the treads and also the risers. You can buy premade treads if your staircase is not a custom width.

    Check at Home Depot and they can help you.