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Residential Stair Installation And Remodeling

Common Questions

I watched your video online regarding the install of retro stair treads and risers. The video is excellent, but I do have 5 questions:

  1. I only have a circular saw and sabre saw. The video shows a sliding mitre saw and a table saw. Can I do this job with what I have or do I need to rent a table and mitre saw? It's a fairly simple job and half the stairs do not require risers.
  2. If it's OK to use my circular saw, do I rip the stair tread face down? Will it mark, damage or splinter the new retro tread?
  3. If it's OK to use my circular saw, do I cut the stair tread length face up, as in the video?
  4. I also do not have a nail gun as was used in the video. Do I need to rent one or can I use a hammer (carefully, of course) and finishing nails or
  5. Can I use only the recommended adhesive and dispense with the finishing nails?

To answer your questions:

1- The saws used in the video definitely make life easier. They're not required, but will reduce some headache when cutting. You could actually use a manual miter box to cut the left and right edges of the treads with better accuracy than a circular saw. Both saws will cut the tread, but they may be difficult to achieve an accurate miter. Cutting the tread to depth with a circular saw is fine but you'll probably want to set up some sort of fence or jig to accurately guide the cut - simply clamping a scrap board on the tread to guide the saw works wonders. We've found that nearly all staircases are out of square so expect to cut the ends of the treads somewhere around 5-degrees +- (that's very difficult freehand with a circular saw but not impossible).

2 & 3- We always recommend cutting the treads with the finish side towards the blade, regardless of whether you're rip cutting (lengthwise) or cross-cutting (front to back). This minimizes chipping or wood tear-outs from less-than-sharp blades and saw binding. The finish on the treads is really durable but if your saw is rusted or has other sharp points on the bottom guide, it could still scratch the new tread. If the bottom of your saw isn't smooth, cover the area where your saw travels with painters tape and then cut through it. If the saw's in good condition; you shouldn't have a problem with scratching unless you really press down on it and dig it into the tread.

4 & 5 - We really can't tell you it's OK not to use any nails. We can say that we have had people tell us they just used adhesive & installed them just fine. The nails help with two things: First they provide an additional layer of security if the glue was to ever fail or release from the sub-tread (basically the tread would become loose & squeak before it came off so you'd have a little warning - again, we haven't heard about it happening & the glue is supposed to be there for life but just in case). Second, the nails help secure the treads in place during installation. The adhesive is thick stuff and if it grabs the tread before you have it exactly where you want it, it'll want to stay in that place instead of being nice and square where you want it. If you nail them, you can walk on them as soon as you have it in - adding weight makes sure the tread is firmly seated in the glue. The nails can certainly be nailed in by hand, but again, the compressor is a time saver and countersinks the nails in one trigger pull. We actually have a number of contractors who only nail by hand because you can be more precise but it takes significantly longer.

The bottom line is the equipment you use really doesn't matter as long as the product is secure and aesthetically pleasing. We've found the different saws, nailers, and other items to quicken the installation, but they're by no means the only way to install your new treads.