How to Install Wood Stairs

July 13, 2015

Have you ever wondered how to install wood stairs yourself? We did it and couldn't believe how easy this makeover was! Goodbye old carpet, hello gorgeous wood staircase.

how to install wood stairs


Y'all–I haven't been this excited about a project in a LONG time!  If you follow my blog regularly, you already read this post about our plan for an awesome DIY staircase renovation using the NuStair system.  Well folks, the project is now completely finished and it was even easier than I expected it to be.  The full reveal will be coming later this week, so stay tuned!

But, let me share with you what I learned about how to install wood stairs and how our installation went.  Remember, this is what we started with.  Boring, beige carpet.

how to install wood stairs before picture

how to install wood stairs before picture
I am not even going to attempt to provide a detailed tutorial on how to install new stair treads with the NuStair system because for once, I DON'T HAVE TO!  The NuStair instructions and videos cannot be improved upon.  The installation instructions are idiot proof, especially if you read them and watch this video.

Plus, all of the materials you need, even the adhesive, are shipped directly to you.  Seriously, this DIY project 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.

We started by ripping out the old carpet and carpet pad.  That part wasn't bad.  Removing the tack strips and staples was a lot less fun, but it moved relatively quickly.  The entire “demo” step took about 4 man hours.

removing carpet from stairs

removing carpet from stairs

removing carpet from stairs

Next up was a whole lot of staining.  You can order prefinished treads–NuStair carries a large variety of colors and species including Red Oak, White Oak, Maple, Hickory, Walnut, Brazilian Cherry, American Cherry.  You can check out all of the stair tread colors and species here.   We chose unfinished Red Oak so that we can stain it ourselves to match the laminate flooring we have been replacing the carpeting with.  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.

staining wood stairs

We also painted the stair risers.  They come primed, which is awesome!  We opted for black stair risers, which required a couple of coats for good coverage, but it moved really quickly.  It took about 4 hours to do all the staining/top coating and painting, with both Joe and me working on it.

Wood stair risers

We let the stain/poly and paint dry overnight and got to work installing the stair treads and risers the next day.  It 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 and install it.  The NuScribe looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 4.11.28 PM

The basic installation process is this:

  1. Trim all stair parts to size.
  2. Install 1st prefinished stair tread using a urethane based adhesive.
  3. Secure 1st prefinished stair tread.   Nail the back edge which will be disguised by the riser.
  4. Install 1st set of shims using adhesive and nails.
  5. Install the 1st riser with the cut edge up and the factory edge against the stair tread.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 until you are done!  (If you have a small landing like we do, you will install regular hardwood planks on the landing–they can be included in what you order from NuStair)!

DIY wood stairs

DIY wood stairs

close up of saw

how to install wood stairs

how to install wood stairs

how to install wood stairs

And here is a fun animated image so you can see our progress, step-by-step!  We completed the entire installation in 1 day!  We started around 9:30 am and were done with the last step before dinner.  Not bad at all.  Frankly, it's one of the easier DIY projects we have tackled, which was SHOCKING to both of us!

how to install wood stairs

After the stairs were installed, we had a small amount of touch up painting and caulking to do.  We are finally all done and it looks GORGEOUS!  But this was such a LONG post, I can't share the reveal with you now.  Be sure to check back tomorrow to see all THE BIG REVEAL!  I'll give you a hint–we added a gallery wall and a little detail to the stair risers :)

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received free product from NuStair to complete my project.   The opinions are completely my own based on my AMAZING experience with the NuStair system!  

Now we have stairs we love! Before you head out and get started, be sure to check out my FREE design guides that will help you help you design spaces you absolutely love! Subscribe now and you will receive a password so that you can access everything in one convenient digital library. Click here to subscribe


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  1. Lynn says:

    I know you said that you custom mixed stains but do you know what stain colors you used. Love the stairs!!

  2. Stephanie says:

    I was just curious, what did you do on the landing part and how did you
    Finish it ? Thanks!

    • Tasha A. says:

      Hi Stephanie! We ultimately ripped the carpet out of the hallway, so we installed a wood landing strip at the top and then butted our new laminate floors right up to it.

  3. Christina in FL says:

    Tasha, this is a magnificent “WOW!!”

  4. lynn q says:

    You did a wonderful job and it looks professionally done, may I ask how expensive is this project???

    • Tasha A. says:

      Hi Lynn! Thank you. The retail cost for our project was right around $2,000. It’s definitely an investment, but still far less than hiring the job out. I hope that helps!

  5. Meagan G says:

    Hi! My fiance and I recently gutted an 80 year old farmhouse and have been lovingly making it our own. I love a good renovation and I seriously love to see people doing something so different from the standard! Would you share the black you used to paint your risers? Thanks so much!

    • Tasha A. says:

      Thanks so much, Meagan! I cannot recall the name of the paint off the top of my head and we are out of town right now, but I will do my best to look when we return so that I can respond!

  6. Elisabeth says:

    Your stairs look great! We ripped up our carpet over a year ago, removed the nails and most of the staples, but couldn’t get a good bit out. How did you remove staples?

    • Tasha A. says:

      Thanks so much, Elisabeth! Removing the staples is the WORST! For stubborn staples, we use a small, flathead screwdriver to squeeze under it and pry it up a bit. Then we use nippers (here is a link to what I am talking about: to grab them and pull them up. I hope that helps!

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