How to Fix Creaky Stairs

LESLIE: Tony in Virginia is on the line with some creaky stairs. Tell us what’s going on.

TONY: Well, I’ve got a 55-year-old ranch house and this time, before we change the carpet, I’d like to try and get some of the creaks out of the stairs that go to the basement.


TONY: And on each step, I’ve put seven 2-inch screws where the – around where the finishing nails were. And then on the back plate, I put six screws. And some of the squeak is definitely better but they’re still very squeaky.

TOM: So, what kind of staircase is it? Is it – do you know your stairs? Is this what’s called a “box stair,” where you have a wide stringer on the side of it that goes all the way down to the basement?

TONY: Correct.

TOM: And so can you get to that face? So could we screw through the stringer, into the edges of the treads to get rid of creaky stairs?

TONY: Boy, that would be tough because it’s a crawlspace. It’s possible but it would be almost heroic to get to that spot.

TOM: OK, I hear you. So here is a way to fix creaky stairs – and you’re going to carpet this, so we really don’t care how pretty this repair that I’m about to tell you to do is, because it’ll be covered by carpet.

But where the treads go into the stringers, what you can do there is on a 45-degree angle, you can pilot first some small holes. And then drive the screws at an angle through the tread, catching as much of the tread meat as you dare and then going through the back of the tread and then into the stringer itself. Because probably where the tread pulls in and out of the stringer is where you’re getting most of your squeak. I’m going to imagine that what you screwed down right now is the attachment between the tread and the risers, because those are more accessible. But we want you to actually – to secure the tread into the stringers on both sides.

So do that sort of by nailing – not nailing but screwing at a 45-degree angle, piloting first. But not with a big pilot: just enough to kind of keep the screw straight. And that will pull the tread down into the stringer and hopefully lock it in place. That plus what you’ve already done, Tony, I think is the best that you can do. You know, wood stairs have a lot of parts to them and they do move as you walk up and down. They will squeak. But if you try to secure those loose treads before you carpet them, I think it’ll make a big difference, OK?

TONY: Thank you very much.

TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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