Silencing squeaky stairs

By The Old House Web

This procedure includes guidance on silencing squeaky wood stairtreads. Several methods are described.

Squeaks in a stair tread sometimes develop asa result of building settlement, poor original construction, shrinking or warpage in wood,or use and abuse over time.


  1. Butt Joint - A square joint between two members where the contact surfaces are cut at right angles to the faces of the pieces; the pieces fit squarely against each other and are not lapped.
  2. Rabbet Joint - An edge joint formed by fitting together boards having a longitudinal channel, groove or recess cut out of the edge or face of the member.
  3. Tongue and Groove Joint - A joint formed by inserting the tongue of one member into the corresponding groove of another member.

The Goal:

For the stair covering and structure to be considered in good condition, any settlement inthe building structure must be controlled. Also, the treads and newel must be rigid,the connections between all parts must be tight and sound, and all trim pieces must bepresent, undamaged, and adhered properly.

Materials You'll Need:

A. 8d nails

B. Wood filler

C. No. 8 wood screw

D. Paraffin or soap

E. Wood dowel to plug screw holes

F. Wood glue

G. Hardwood wedges

H. Prefabricated metal shelf bracket

I. 2x stock for blocking

Equipment and Tools You'll Need:

A. Hammer

B. Driving block - small block of wood to aid in hammering wedge inplace.

C. Drill with a variety of bits

D. Nailset

E. Screwdriver

F. Sandpaper

G. Knife for determining joint type

H. Knife to cut off wedge excess

Doing the Job:

NOTE: The silencing of squeaky treads is sometimes a two person job. The followingis a series of repair procedures organized by levelof difficult and quality of repair, inascending order.

A. Nailing tread:

1. Locate source of squeak on tread.

2. While other person stands on the tread, drill two 3/32" pilot holes atopposing angles over squeak and drive in two 8d nails.

3. Sink nails with nailset and fill holes.

B. Screwing tread:

1. Locate source of squeak on tread; screw will be placed at tread/riserconnection near squeak.

2. Drill 3/32" pilot hole through tread into riser and 11/64"shank hole into tread.

3. Apply paraffin or soap to 2-1/2" No.8 wood screw to ease turningand install.

4. Countersink screw and fill hole with glue-soaked dowel of same woodspecies. Sand dowel level with tread surface.

C. Wedging from above:

Determine joint type by removing cove moulding under tread at riser and carefullyinserting a knife at joint. NOTE: THE JOINT TYPE WILLDETERMINE THE DIRECTION OF THE WEDGES. SEE ABOVE FOR DEFINITIONS OF JOINTS.

1. Insert glue-soaked, sharply tapered wedge following path of knife. Drive the wedge in hard using a hammer and driving block. NOTE: DRIVE WEDGE IN ONLY ENOUGH TO STOP SQUEAK; OTHERWISE TREAD WILL BOW.

2. Using a utility knife, cut off excess wedge flush with surface andcover by replacing moulding. If joint repaired was at rear of tread, shoe mouldingcould be installed to cover.

D. Wedging from below:

If access to underside of stair is possible, tighten existing wedges and add new wedgeswhere needed.

E. Bracketing from below:

Install metal shelf brackets to underside of tread and inside of riser. Install withscrews shorter than depth of wood.

F. Glue blocks from below:

1. Use woodblocks, 1-1/2" square and 3" long. Coat two sides of block with glue and press into place at underside of tread/riserjoint.

2. Attach block to tread and riser with nails or screws. If previouslyinstalled blocks exist, remove them, clean surface of tread and riser to bare wood,and reinstall clean blocks or new.

Source: U.S. General Services Administration Historic Preservation TechnicalProcedures

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