Things You'll Need
Hand or power planer
Hand or power sander
Drill with bits
Wood plugs or wood putty
Carpet knife and square
Thick pile carpet or runner
Carpet tack strip
1/2-inch carpet staples
Heavy duty staple gun
A set of noisy stairs can sorely test the day-sleepers and tiny babies in your household. Although absolute soundproofing would require enclosure of the staircase and coverage of walls and ceilings with expensive acoustical materials, the noise levels on many interior stairways can be lowered without expensive major reconstruction. Especially in old houses where wood has dried out, pull up and reinstall creaky treads. Dampen impact noise with one of three types of carpeting, depending on your needs and budget.
Fix Creaks and Squeaks
Locate squeaky steps and pull the treads -- the horizontal boards that you step on -- to inspect for cracks or separations. The front of the tread sits flat atop a riser -- the board that rises from one tread to the next -- and the back should sit snugly against the next riser. Plane off excess wood or insert shims to fill gaps.
Apply thin beads of construction adhesive to the edges of stringers, riser and back edge of the tread before laying the tread back down. The adhesive will form a flexible seal between the wood surfaces that will deaden any creaks.
Attach treads to the stringers and riser with deck screws instead of nails, which can slip. Run screws through shims and trim off the ends. Drill pilot holes -- starter holes of smaller diameter than the screws. Countersink the screws into the wood and glue wood buttons on top or fill the indentations with wood putty.
Install carpet treads where you want wood stair treads and risers to show. Affix double-sided carpet tape to the back of individual tread-sized carpet sections and lay them on the treads. Staple or tack the corners down for added security.
Put in stair runners to cover the tread and riser of the stairs. Beginning at the bottom, staple the runner across the base of each riser and under the nose of the tread above it. Stretch the runner back into the corner between the back of the tread and base of the next riser and staple to both the tread and riser. Add decorative rods to runners for a traditional look.
Apply tack strips across the bottom of the riser and across the top just under the lip of the tread for wall-to-wall stair carpeting. Anchor a third strip on the tread in front of the riser base. Cut squares of carpet that cover one step each. Working from the bottom step up, tack carpet cut to size across the back of the tread, over the front of the tread, and onto the strip at the bottom of the riser. As you work, tuck the edges in along the sides and secure them with heavy-duty 1/2-inch staples. As you finish each step, conceal the edges by pushing them between the tack strips along the intersection of the back of the tread and base of the riser with a carpet tool -- a heavy, wide spatula used by carpet layers.
When carpeting, measure your stairway carefully and scribe the steps with a pencil to guide placement of runners or carpet treads. Keep the use of carpet pad to a minimum by covering the tread only. Cut the pad 2 inches narrower than your carpet or runner. Wall-to-wall stair carpeting requires tools and patience to get right. If you want the silence that it offers, compare the cost of having a professional install your carpeting with the time it may take you to acquire the skill to stretch, tuck and staple it so it looks like one continuous piece. Deck screws have a waterproof surface that gives them extra “grab” on the wood. Turn carpeting upside down to cut through the backing for a clean edge.
Never use loose pile or shag carpeting on stairs. Cut carpet ends and pieces on hard surfaces to avoid damaging wood or carpet.