Last Updated on April 21, 2023
If you're looking to upgrade your home's staircase, hardwood stairs are an excellent choice. Not only do they look beautiful, but they're durable and long-lasting. If you're a DIYer, you might be wondering if you can install hardwood stairs yourself. The answer is yes! Removing carpet from stairs and replacing it with wood stair treads is a very doable do-it-yourself project. It only took us a day and a half to remove our carpeting and install new wood stair treads. And in this post, I'm sharing the full tutorial!
* UPDATE: We installed the our DIY hardwood stairs and published the original tutorial for this project in 2015. They still looked perfect when we sold this home in 2020. We were very happy with the quality! *
We did not like our dated staircase covered in beige carpet. It was boring and uninspiring. So we modernized the staircase by ripping out the carpet and installing hardwood stair treads. It only took 1 1/2 days!
I thought installing wood stair treads would be so hard. It was NOT. We have done a lot of DIY projects and home improvement projects over the years. And we've installed our fair share of flooring, including installing new laminate flooring throughout our entire home. Installing these new stair treads was FAR easier than installing flooring, which really surprised me. And it was also much more affordable than hiring it out to the pros (which we did in a previous house and I am still a bit shocked by how much we had to pay for it)!
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How to Remove Carpet and Install Wood Stairs
- Wood treads /hardwood treads(they are sometimes called “retreads”–you can learn more about the exact stair retreads we used below)
- Construction Adhesive
- Nail puller
- Utility knife
- Crow bar
- Circular saw (at a minimum–inexpensive and would get the job done)
- Miter saw (makes it easier)
- Table saw (also makes it easier–this is the table saw we have and love)
- Caulk, painter's tape and touch-up paint (if you don't have leftover paint, you can use these tips to match a paint color that is already on your walls)
- Wood Stain
There are LOTS of stair tread options out there y'all. Sometimes you can even find them inside an actual home improvement store like Home Depot (though usually you have to order them since they don't always stock them).
In the end, we chose theNuStair hardwood stair treads because it's 1) high-quality and 2) all of the materials you need, even the adhesive, are shipped directly to you and that really appealed to us since it would save us lots of time.
And I have to tell you, installing our DIY hardwood stairs moved smoother than ANY of our projects in recent history. I believed the system would work well and would be beautiful, but I honestly did not expect that it would be as simple as it was. We had 95% work done in one weekend. ONE WEEKEND. Really, in 1 1/2 days. It was awesome.
Helpful Installation Video
I highly recommend watching this installation video before you get started. Even if you go with a differentstair retread product, the installation should be very similar.
Time needed: 1 day and 4 hours
It took us 1 1/2 days to rip the carpeting off of our stairs and install new wood stair treads. Read on to learn how we did it.
- Remove your old carpet & tack strips.
The first step is to remove your old carpet and carpet pad. use a utility knife to cut the carpeting into manageable sections. That part wasn't bad. Removing the tack strips and staples was a lot less fun, but it moved relatively quickly. You may need to use pliers to remove any remaining staples or carpet tacks. The entire “demo” step took about 4 man-hours.
- Stain your hardwood stair treads.
The next step was to do a whole lot of staining. You can order pre-finished wood treads, but we chose unfinished red oak so that we could stain it ourselves to match the laminate flooring we have in our home. So, after custom mixing a stain to match our laminate floors, we stained, and stained, and stained. Fortunately, we only had to apply one coat of stain. It dried quickly and we were able to put a coat of water-based polyurethane on before we went to bed that same night.
- Paint the stair risers.
The NuStair retread kit we used also came with stair risers, which is pretty customary. We chose to paint our stair risers black. They come primed, which is awesome because it saved us a step. We had to apply 2 coats of black paint for good coverage, but it moved really quickly. It took about 4 hours to do all the staining/sealing and painting, with both Joe and me working on it.
We let the stain/poly and paint dry overnight and got to work installing the stair treads and risers the next day.
- Trim all of your stair treads and risers to size.
I know it sounds hard to believe, but the installation really could not be more simple. NuStair provides something called a “NuScribe,” which acts like a slide ruler and can be positioned on top of each step, with the edges fitting tightly against the the stair stringers. Once you have a snug fit, you lock down the arms and then remove it from the stair. Then you position it on the NuStair tread, make your marks and your cuts.
- Install the first wood stair tread.
Install the 1st stair tread using a urethane-based adhesive. Secure your 1st pre-finished stair tread by nailing the back edge so that it will be disguised by the riser.
Then install a set of shims (that also come with the kit) using adhesive and nails. Shims behind the stair risers are necessary if you don't want to remove the bullnose from your plywood stairs. The stair nose / bullnose would cause the new tread to sick out too far, but shims behind the risers ensures that problem doesn't occur. You could certainly cut any bullnose off your plywood stairs if you want, but it was much faster (and tidier) to use shims behind the new risers.
Then install the 1st riser with the cut edge facing up and the factory edge against the floor.
You can see how our first stair tread and riser look installed below. You can also see how the shims are installed on stairs 2 and 3.
- Keep installing your wood treads and stair risers until you are done!
Just keep installing your risers and stair treads one at a time until you are finished!
- Install hardwood flooring on your landing (if necessary).
We have a small landing where our staircase turns, so we installed hardwood red oak flooring on it and stained it to match the stair treads after it we finished everything else. We were able to order the small amount of hardwood planks that we needed for this landing from NuStair as well.
- Caulk and touch-up paint as needed.
Once we were totally done installing the new wood treads, we caulked along the edges and touched up the paint on the baseboards and banister/handrail and then we were DONE!
We decided to add a bit of a stylish touch to our new stair risers by numbering them. When we were thinking about what to do in the stairwell, I considered a fun stair runner, but I really wanted to enjoy the clean new look and all of our hard work! So instead I used durable peel and stick vinyl (you could also use a little paint and a stencil).
And you know I couldn't resist adding an eye-catching gallery wall (check out my gallery wall tips) with my inexpensive DIY frames. And we also installed this modern plank wall and painted it one of my favorite blue paint colors to finish off the foyer.
We are so happy with the finished look.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you hire a stair renovation job out, it can be pretty expensive! Generally, the cost of replacing carpeting with wood stairs can range from $3,000 to $5,500. The price will vary from project to project, obviously, depending on whether you have a short set of stairs or a longer staircase. Also whether you have a landing, balusters, and open or closed railings factors into the price.
We have had hardwood stairs professionally installed in a previous home that we owned and I was SHOCKED by how expensive it was. It's been almost 20 years since we did it, so I don't recall the exact price, but the stairs cost more than having hardwoods installed in the entire first floor of the house.
If you install DIY hardwood stairs yourself, it's reduces the expense significantly! The cost for everything we needed was right at $2,000 for all the wood treads, risers, wood for the landing, adhesive, shims and the NuScribe. It is one of the best home improvement projects we've ever tackled, and I know it helped us sell our home quickly when we moved.
If you're willing to put in the time and effort, installing hardwood stairs is a very worthwhile DIY project. By following these steps, you can remove the carpeting from your stairs, finish the wood treads, and install them for a beautiful polished look. While it may take a couple of days, the result will be a stunning addition to your home that will last for years to come!
What do you think? Are you now convinced that you can tackle your own staircase makeover on your own? Seriously, you can do it! If you want more more inspiration, check out these DIY staircase makeover ideas.
You may also enjoy these posts:
- All Stair Posts
- Gorgeous But Cheap Flooring Ideas
- Add Style to Your Stairs: Amazing Runner Ideas
- 16 Ideas for the Perfect Entryway Storage Bench
- How to Install a Stair Runner: A Step-by-Step Guide
- 15 Chic Stair Railing Ideas to Update Your Staircase
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