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How to Repair a Broken Stairway Tread


Stairways in a house often take a lot of abuse. Afterall, they get walked upon by people going up and down them, and applying their full body weight to the wood pieces. Children, especially, gather great joy from hopping up and down on stairs too.

So it’s no wonder that, occasionally, a stairway tread will finally give way. The tread is the flat, rectangular piece of the stairway that you step on. They typically either develop a crack in their wood or get their front lip chipped or broken off.

If this has happened to a tread in your house, you can usually replace the broken piece yourself. Here’s how to complete this project in three steps:

The first step is to remove any carpeting that may be covering the broken tread. If there are any strips of wood molding along the sides, you’ll have to use a flat tipped screwdriver to remove them. Be careful that you don’t split the molding or break it. Also, be careful that you don’t scratch or otherwise damage the riser or the stringer in the stairway.

The second step is to carefully pry the tread up with the flat tipped screwdriver. You goal is to loosen the nails that are holding the tread in place. The tread may be nailed to the riser, or to the stringer, or to both. Once you have loosened the nails enough, you’ll probably need to finish the job by sliding a crowbar in between the space you have created.

Again, carefully lift the tread up and down, and work the crowbar across the front. When you have the piece loosened up, pull it up and out. Remove the nails from the tread and then use a measuring tape to find out how long, wide, and thick the broken tread is. Make sure the replacement tread is the exact same size as the old one! Trust me on this one! I know how important this is from my own personal experience. Long story short- The bottom tread on our stairway broke in half. It not only squeaked, but both pieces of the broken tread also wiggled under your feet whenever weight was put on them.

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A rather scary, unsure feeling! Being that I was in a hurry when I replaced the tread, I used a scrap board I had on hand. The scrap board was a good half inch thicker than the rest of the treads. So, what happened? Not being used to the added height of the stairway tread, my family- myself included- constantly tripped on the replacement tread. (Until I replaced it, that is.)

You might want to find a piece of wood that matches the remaining treads, especially if the wood is just clear coated and not painted or otherwise covered up. If you don’t have a piece of solid scrap wood on hand, you can visit your local lumber yard to obtain one. If needed, you’ll need to trim it down to size by using an electric saw. You’ll probably have to sand down the front lip of the tread too, so it’s rounded down to look like the rest of the treads.

The third step is to dry fit the new tread into place. Make sure that you slide it all the way back against the stringer. Then, hold it firmly in place while you nail it down securely.

Finally, either varnish or clear coat the new tread so it matches the rest of the stairway. Or, you can paint it to match the rest. The choice is yours!