DIY Stair Treads


Although most of us give little thought to where we step when going up a flight of stairs, well-designed stair treads make for a safe and attractive journey. Whether you need a replacement or want the satisfaction of making your own, stair treads can be created in variety of ways that will fit your financial and time budgets.

Replacement Stair Treads

  • Some stair treads are not milled or shaped on the nosing, the part of the stair that extends over the vertical riser. This flat leading edge is quite common on deck stairs. For these types of treads, just measure the old ones and cut lumber to the same dimensions using a table saw. Rather than measuring twice and cutting only once, consider cutting a bit long on the first pass and checking for fit because you can’t correct length after a board is too short.

    Although deck stairs are usually built with two or three boards for each stair tread, stairs inside the house should be made from a single board that is a sturdy hardwood of your choice. If you plan to install carpeting over treads, you can use a router with a ½-inch roundover bit to smooth the top corner of the nosing. This bullnose edge will reduce wear and tear on carpeting over time. Non-carpeted stair treads often have bullnose edges on both top and bottom corners of the nosing. So the board needs to be flipped over to repeat the process with your router. Several passes may be necessary to achieve this rounded edge. An alternate but somewhat less attractive method is to use the router on a piece of wood trim to achieve bullnose edges, attach the piece to the front face of the tread with finishing nails and adhesive, and then fill and sand nail holes.

Creating Stairs Treads From Scratch

  • Creating your own stair treads is similar but involves a bit more planning and measurement. If you decide to build your own stairs, know how deep to make your stair treads. According to the 2006 International Residential Code, stair treads must be no fewer than 10 inches deep. So plan to meet or exceed this measurement for safety reasons. Similarly, the nosing should be between ¾ and 1¼ inches to prevent trips and falls. Tread needs to be at least 1 inch thick. Although you might be tempted to measure for one stair tread and cut all of them to the same size, variations in each step make it important to fit each tread individually. Finally, you can either stain wood and install it or wait until the entire staircase is complete and then apply the finishing touches.

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  • Photo Credit Wooden stairs in highland home image by Zbigniew Nowak from
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