How to Replace Carpet Stairs With Hardwood

Jeremy Hoffpauir
by Jeremy Hoffpauir
8 Materials
2 Days
I explored many options on how to replace carpet stairs with wood, but each option I found was either too expensive &/or did not match the existing hardwood floor in my loft. After a few days of researching and getting the advice of a few friends, I figured out a way to use the same bamboo flooring I used in my loft to replace the carpet on my stairs.
Price Comparison & Analysis
I did a quick price comparison to replace carpet stairs with wood to show you the cost savings of using hardwood floor vs the matching stair treads/risers.
Stair Size:
Width: 36"
Tread: 10” minimum depth
Risers: 7” high, no more than 7 3/4”

Stair Size:
Stair Tread (48”x11”) = 3.67 square feet
Stair Riser (48”x7”) = 2.33 square feet
Total Square feet = 6 square feet

Hardwood Floor Price
Price per Square foot = $1.99
Price per stair (tread & riser) = $11.94
Price per stair (tread & riser) with waste = $18.21
Waste = 2 feet per board @ 5 boards per stair (tread & riser)

Hardwood Stair Tread and Riser Price
Price for Stair Tread ONLY: 69.99
Price for Stair Riser ONLY: 34.99
Price per stair (tread and riser) = $105.00

Here is a video explaining the process of how to replace carpet stairs with hardwood. Please consider   and visiting my website for more projects and other fun stuff.
Mock Stair
My family and I sold this home not too long after I completed this project and I forgot about it until I saw my before/after pictures of the stairs on my phone.  Luckily, I kept about 40 square feet of the bamboo flooring so I built a stair tread/riser from scrap wood in my shop for demonstration purposes.  The mock stair is 36" wide, 11" deep, and 6.75" high with a 1" bullnose (the part of the tread that hangs over the riser) which is close to the typical measurement of a stair.  I used 6 pieces of the bamboo flooring on the mock stair.  Each piece of bamboo flooring is 3.75" wide and 36" long.
Remove Carpet
Remove Carpet
The first step to replace carpet stairs with wood is to remove the carpet, carpet padding, and other hardware (staples, nails, etc.).  This process can be time consuming, but it is important to get a flat surface that is free of debris.  I used a box cutter to cut the edge of the carpet & padding on each stair.  This made it easy to roll-up the carpet and discard it.  I used a flat head screw driver and a hammer to remove the staples.  Luckily, there was no glue so I didn't need to sand each step.
Remove Bullnose
Remove Bullnose from Treads
Determine the length of your bullnose at the end of your stair tread.  Next, use a jig saw or circular saw to trim the bullnose off so that the tread and riser are flush (90 degree angle).  If your stairs have a wall on either side, you will not be able to remove the entire bullnose.  Trim as much as you can and cut the rest with a hand saw or with a hammer/chisel.  This doesn't need to be perfectly flush - just get it as close as you can.  The imperfections will be covered up at a later step.
Create Risers
Gather enough wood for the risers so that it is flush or slightly taller than the stair.  It cannot be shorter than the thickness of your flooring.  If your flooring is 1/2" thick, the boards must be within 1/2" of the top of your tread.  In my case, it was 2 boards.  Attach the boards together and place the attached boards up against the riser portion of your stair.
If the boards are slightly taller than your tread, you will want to trim off equal amounts off the top and bottom of the boards so that they are flush and the seam (the line where your flooring attaches together) is in the middle.  The seam in the middle is optional, but it makes the stairs look more uniform.  It is required to make the boards flush or slightly shorter than the top of the tread.
Before you trim the boards, make sure to mark the boards where they need to be cut with a pencil.  It is very easy to forget which side of the board needs to be cut.  You can use a table saw or circular saw with a straight edge to rip the boards.  After you cut the boards to size, make sure they fit on the riser.  It is ok for them to be a little short, but not shorter than the thickness of the wood.
TIP:  If you are replacing an entire staircase (I presume you will), it is much easier and quicker to complete all the risers (& step 8) before moving to step 4 (treads).  This allows you to get into a rhythm instead of completing 1 riser then 1 tread, which are different procedures.

Tread Bullnose
Create Tread Bullnose
Use a 1/2 inch roundover bit & a trim router to roundover the top of each side of the board you just ripped in the previous step.  If your boards are 1/4" thick, use a 1/4" roundover bit.  I used a router table in this step, but this is not needed.  Clamping the pieces down and using a router with your hand will work just as well.
Once each board has a roundover, place them together and make sure the boards make a bullnose when put together.
Place the board that goes on the end of the tread and measure the distance from the riser to the end of the roundover with a combination square.
Use this measurement to rip the excess from the other board that was rounded over leaving the side that was rounded over.  This piece will be attached to the underside of the top tread to make the bottom part of the bullnose.
TIP:  Complete previous 3 steps for each tread before proceeding. This speeds the process up dramatically.
Glue bullnose
Attach Bullnose
Remove the top/bottom piece that make up the bullnose from the stair tread and bring it to your garage or workshop.  Use wood glue to glue the top/bottom of the bullnose together, clamp the pieces, and let it dry overnight.  Make sure the top/bottom pieces do not slide back or forward when tightening the clamps.
Remove the clamps and inspect the middle of the bullnose.  If there are gaps in the bullnose seam, mix wood glue and saw dust from cutting these boards into a putty-like consistency.  Fill the gap with this mixture and let dry for a few hours.
Stain Bullnose
Stain and Seal Bullnose
The last step is to find a suitable wood stain that matches your wood.  This step may involve some trial and error to get the color right.  You can mix wood stains &/or apply multiple coats to achieved your desired color.  Apply the stain and let it dry according to the manufacturers instructions.
After the stain has dried, apply a sealer to the bullnose with a finish that matches your wood.  If your wood has a high gloss finish, use a high-gloss sealer.  If your wood has a flat/matte finish, use a flat/matte sealer.  This will help maintain consistency between the bullnose and surface of the wood.  I used this wood sealer on my project.
Secure Tread and Riser
The process to secure the tread/riser are the same.  I used liquid nail and applied it liberally to the bare wood on the tread/riser in a wave pattern.  
Next, I repeated the pattern in the opposite direction to increase coverage.  
Then, I joined the boards together and secured the seam with a piece of painter's tape that ran perpendicular on the board.  I pushed the boards down until I felt a suction and wiggled them in place.  
Finally, I nailed them with my brad nailer with 1" nails.  I used 6 brads on the riser and 6 brads on the treads.
Before Picture
Before and After Picture
Final Before and After Picture
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Jeremy Hoffpauir
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