Stair Repair — part three

A handyman project to fix a broken staircase in an old house with pictures and advice



In a house built in 1860, the fifth stair bent forwards at a weird angle. On closer inspection, there were cracks on the support boards on the right side supporting other stairs. This project details a step-by-step (!) handyman project to fix the flaw — to repair the stair — complete with pictures and advice and pointers. Hiring a professional carpenter might cost several thousand dollars so it’s worth it to do it ourselves. I’ll share handyman tips and ideas.

This is the third and last part. To go to the previous part, click Stair repair — part two
To go to the beginning, click Stair Repair

Fitting one of the risers is hard. There are no grabholds. So I attach a temporary rectangular board so I can maneuver it.

The stairs are going back in. But there’s a sturdy structure underneath so it won’t fall down.

I use metal plates to attach stairs to risers. Plus I screw both risers and stairs to the jungle gym structure underneath. Nothing will show when carpet hides everything.

The carpet padding looks worn. So I remove them.

But the stairs are STILL NOT FLAT. Stair #4 bends backwards; #5 bends forwards. I buy wedge-shaped shingles at the store. I glue them on top of each stair to de-slope the slopes (#4 forwards, #5 backwards). Then I glue metal plates on top, screw them in.

This fixes the sloping problem.

I add metal braces to shore up the cracked beam. I use many small screws to prevent further weakening. I’ll paint over these plates later.

Still, the left side of stair #5 has a crack. I’ll put wood wedges in here, glue them, and break them off, then later I’ll put putty to hide it, then paint over it. It’s not a key supporting piece any more.

I put a board lying flat on the stairs to try to see if there is any unevenness. It’s looking fairly good now.

I attach new carpet padding with glue and screws (to go through metal) and staples. New carpet tack-strips go where the old ones went. It’s all set for the carpet to be rolled back. It doesn’t look totally straight but it’s much better than before, particularly in the center.

Next, I reattach the carpet, working one riser at a time, then the stair, and so forth, using staples.

It’s back together again. It’s possible to climb to the second floor without taking an unexpected elevator trip to the basement.

There’s a gap between the banister and the beam. I attach the banister with long screws and hide the screw heads by drilling wider holes near the surface. I’ll spackle and paint (or stain) later.

It’s done!

I flag down a passing dogwalker to snap a photo of me. Aren’t I beeeeYOUteeFULL? Hey, where are you going? And hey, that’s my camera!

One more tip: kneepads.

This is the end of the document. I will try to improve it. I appreciate comments and suggestions. It is a work-in-progress as of October 19, 2010.

This is the third and last part. To go to the previous part (#2), click Stair Repair — part two
To start at the beginning (#1), click Stair Repair

Other handyman projects: