How do I Cap Stairs With Hardwood?


Stair caps, known as treads, are the part of the step that rests atop the stair riser. It is the most visible element of any staircase. Many wooden stairs are made from pine, plywood or other wood composite. Hardwood stair treads add warmth and texture to the look of any staircase. In most cases, the new hardwood treads are applied directly over the top of the existing treads and need only be nailed in place to make them permanent.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • 1/2-inch hardwood
  • Table saw
  • Miter Saw
  • Chisel
  • Hammer
  • Finish nail
  • Nail set
  • Bullnose molding
  • Wood filler
  • Random orbit sander
  • Sandpaper
  • Stain
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Rag
  • Clear finish
  • Measure the top of a stair. Typically, all of the stairs in a run will be of the same width and depth. Measure the step from front to back and side to side. Measure only the flat portion, minus any trim surrounding the tread.

  • Cut new treads from 1/2-inch hardwood in your choice of grain. Cut them the same width and depth as the existing tread. Make long cuts on a table saw and end cuts with a miter saw.

  • Remove any trim surrounding the edge of the tread. Use a wood chisel and hammer to pry the trim from the edge of the stair tread. This will typically leave a square 3/4-inch thick edge on the face and sides of the treads.

  • Position the new treads on top of the stair caps with the edges flush with the original tread. Nail each in place using one finish nail in each corner of the tread. Set the nail heads slightly below the surface with a nail set and hammer. Fill the nail holes with a solvent-based wood filler of the appropriate color.

  • Cut 1 1/4-inch bullnose molding in the same grain as your new treads to fit the face and sides of the tread. Miter the corners of the bullnose at a 45 degree angle, one right and one left for each face piece and one right and one left side piece for each tread.

  • Nail the bullnose molding to the edge of the tread with one finish nail every 8 to 10 inches. Set the nails below the surface as for the treads and fill the holes with wood filler. Allow the filler to harden and sand the top and edges of the treads with 150 grit paper and a random orbit sander.

  • Apply stain to the top and edges of the treads in your choice of color. Use a soft bristle brush and long, straight strokes to apply the stain in line with the grain. Wipe the excess from the treads with a soft rag.

  • Allow the stain to dry according to the label instructions. Apply at least three coats of clear finish rated for flooring. Allow the finish to dry according to the label instructions between coats. Allow at least 24 hours before resuming traffic on the stairs.

Related Searches


  • "Building Stairs"; Andy Engel; 2007
  • "Trim Carpentry"; Clayton DeKorne; 2008
  • Photo Credit hardwood floor image by sumos from
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