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What are Replacement (Retro) Treads?

Retro Replacement Stair Tread

Retro Replacement Stair Tread

Traditional 1" Stair Tread

Traditional 1" Stair Tread

Retro stair treads are solid stair treads with a slightly different shape and a reduced thickness specifically made to replace a carpeted stair with a new hardwood step of a particular specie or color.  The primary advantage of using a Retro replacement tread is the installation.  Since Retro Treads are designed to "cap" an existing stair tread, there is no need to remove the old tread if the existing structure is sound and sturdy.  Also, in many newer homes, the staircase is "pre-fab" or built in a factory and delivered to the jobsite.  Removal of the existing tread in a pre-fab staircase is impossible without completely deconstructing the staircase.

The idea behind the Retro Tread is simple: make a product that can be installed by a homeowner with moderate construction skills and common tools.

Retro replacement stair treads are essentially "caps" that reface as opposed to replace the steps in a stairwell.  Each Retro tread has a 3/4" body that keeps the step height within code.  If you are installing 3/4" hardwood flooring, installing a Retro stair tread actually raises the step height by exactly same amount as your new flooring.  The Retro stair tread also uses a full 1" bullnose along the front edge to give a pleasing visual and simulate a full 1" stair tread once installed.

Replacement Stair Tread
Cross section view of a retro replacement stair tread

What about returns?

Mitered returns on Retro stair treads are handled the exact same way as our solid treads. (See the [Better Bamboo] page for more images on solid returns).  Each return is fully assembled and mitered into the tread.  Each return is also a full 1" thick to give the same appearance as the 1" nose when viewed from the side.  This return creates an edge that rests against the front and side edge of the existing stair tread.

Underside of a return Retro Tread

Notice on this underside view of a Retro tread how the mitered return forms a square that "fits" over the existing step.

Retro Risers?

Retro risers are 1/4" thick instead of the standard 3/4" thick.  The reason for this is twofold:

  • The 1/4" depth reduces the existing tread depth by 1/2" less than a 3/4" riser
  • The 1/4" riser offsets the next step up by a smaller amount than a 3/4" riser

Even though the Retro risers are only 1/4" thick, each riser is still solid wood and is glued and nailed directly to the existing riser.  Because there is an existing riser installed, the Retro riser does not have to be as strong as a solid riser.  The strength will come from the existing riser.  This method allows the installation of species wood on both the tread and riser.

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