Ugly Stair Repair

December 11, 2012   //  Posted in: Basement, DIY, Stairwell   //  By: Emily   //  2 responses

It’s odd how some things seem to expire at the same time. Like, how three key lightbulbs in our house burned out within 4 hours of each other on Friday, or how your body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, and facial moisturizer can all happen manage to run out during the same week. Never the hair conditioner though, there’s always too much conditioner.

We were smack dab in the middle of repairing some serious squeaks in our main stairwell when the lower basement step gave way, threatening an abundance of broken ankles and adding just one more thing to our list of common household ailments that needed to be repaired.

Broken lower stair, time for a DIY repair.

The stairs to the basement are constructed oddly. Almost as though they were all made from scrapwood-esque substrate in a butcher block style; they aren’t solid boards all the way across, and if I knew more about hardwoods and stair treads, maybe I’d know the technical name for these steps. The point is, because they’re not a solid piece of wood, over 70 years of use, they’ve started to weaken and separate in areas just like you’d expect any 70-year old to do.

Lacking construct aside, this isn’t to say we should jump on replacing them fully with solid pieces of lumber – they still have plenty of life left in them – we’ll just have to take efforts to repair them when they start to show signs of weakness. In this case, we had to re-connect the loose pieces of wood to form a solid surface, and that started by removing the effected section:

Broken lower stair, time for a DIY repair.

With a prybar, the nail holding that part of the step in place came right out.

Broken lower stair, time for a DIY repair.

There are several ways to approach a repair like this, but we chose to use the biscuit joiner to create a strong connection between these two pieces of wood. When you’re using a joiner to connect two pieces, we’ve found that making marks to indicate where the joint needs to be positioned really helps to make an accurate connection.

Preparing to make cuts using the biscuit joiner.

The holes cut for the biscuits, as you see, will align perfectly when the pencil marks are realigned.

Preparing to reassemble the step using biscuits.

With wood glue in each of the openings, the wooden biscuits were inserted and sandwiched. The strength of jointed connections like these is really remarkable, not only is the connection level if you’re accurate with your joiner cuts, but there’s not even a bounce in the joint to speak of.

Preparing to reassemble the step using biscuits and wood glue.

To resecure this piece of tread to the riser, countersunk screws seemed like the most reliable option long term. If you’re doing this at home anywhere, a good approach is to predrill the location, and then use a countersink drill bit to bore out a bit of the surface. The screw head will fit right into the divot and sit beneath the surface, so you won’t have to worry about it scratching your feet or snagging your socks.

How to countersink a screw.

The repaired stair is a beauty, the most beautiful of all of the ugly staircases if I do say so myself. Note, there’s a missing piece on the second to lowest stair and it was missing when I moved in. It’s a bit of an eyesore, but isn’t enough to weaken the step or trip us up.

Repaired basement stair.

From another angle, voila:

Repaired basement stair.

  • Cait @ Hernando House
    5 years ago - Reply

    I thought I was the only one who always had conditioner left over! Although now my problem is that I’m almost out of conditioner and can’t find the kind I buy. Life is sad.

    I’ve always wondered about the strength of biscuit joints, good to know they’re solid enough for a repair like this!

  • Mollie
    5 years ago - Reply

    I always run out of conditioner first, we should team up.

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