The noise produced by loosened and treads or stairs can drive you up the wall. The squeaks and creaks can cause wild imaginations, especially at night, when you should be enjoying a good night’s sleep. More likely, your roommate is in search of a midnight snack, but your mind has a way of thinking the worst.
Separating stairs is a common problem with old houses. Maybe you just moved into a 1920s home, and your neighbor can tell when you are going upstairs. So in this article we will learn how to fix stairs that are separating.
Some of your friends may recommend putting a veneer on the riser. Well, a thin piece of wood and fits the gap perfectly, maybe a stopgap solution. Eventually, you will need to fix the stairs once and for all.
That is especially so if the risers are loosening further and wedges grow weaker. The stairs will come loose, and hiding the gap with a piece of wood will not do much.
Of course, nobody should have to live through the nightmare, given that it is a problem that you can fix by yourself. So how do you go about fixing stairs that are separating?
If it seems a bit complicated, you are always free to call a carpenter.
Identify the area where the problem is
The first step is usually to identify where the problem is by walking and looking closely at every step. Check for any signs of gaps or loose steps and mark a wall next to it if you find a problem. You can as well write the step number on a piece of paper or book.
Unfortunately, taking out the paneling or plaster to reach the problematic areas is vital. Remove the covers under the stairs and the wall sheathing. Plaster and drywall will disintegrate, and you will need to replace it after you’re done fixing everything. If there is wood wall framing, get rid of it as well.
Mostly, the 2 by 4s going up to the ceiling must also be removed. The good news is that the repairs will not seem daunting once you remove the stair innards and the cover.
Dealing with the stringers
The diagonal members of the stairs connecting the risers and treads are the stringers.
Usually, the risers and treads loosen when the stringers spread apart. In particular cases, they even pull out of the housing. This scenario is not common in closed stairwells or where the stairs are between walls.
But why do the stringers spread apart?
There are various reasons for this happening, and among them is wall movement. Poor original workmanship and repairs can also be a major cause.
However, it is possible to pull them together again.
Pulling stringers together. step by step
Before you can close the gaps, clean them of all debris, such as sprinters, glue, and paint chips, among others. Clean the holes on the top side and underneath the stairs as well.
To thoroughly flush out the debris, use compressed air from a hair-dryer or other similar machine. You’re going to need threaded couplings, 3/8″ threaded rod, and carriage bolts.
On a block of hardwood, drill a 3/8″ hole and a hole sufficiently large for the carriage bolt head on the backside of the hardwood. Calculate the length of the bolts and threaded rod using the width of the original stairs.
Make sure there is enough room for tightening the couplings. The rod should go to the countersunk bolt through the block before attaching it to the stringer. Use screws and polyurethane glue for this attachment.
Next, attach the block and bolt on the other side of the stringer and make sure they are concealed. They should not penetrate to the visible side.
Tightening the bolts and rods will require at least two people to do it successfully. One individual will guide the risers and stairs into the housings while the other will tighten them into the couplings. Get an adjustable wrench or vice grips to twist the rods.
However, remember to hold the coupler nut in place while doing this. You can use a hammer if you find it necessary. Just make sure you have the right width of stairs.
Well, it may take some time before you can finally tighten the loosened members.
Getting Rid of the Squeaks
The stairs and treads are held in place by wedges, not by nails. If you look closely beneath the stairs, you might see wedges that are falling off or loose. This is where most of the squeaking may be coming from.
You can reuse the wedges if they seem tight enough. Clean them off and apply a layer of polyurethane glue. Finally, hammer the wedges into place, and the irritating noise should go away. If replacing the wedges is inevitable, find those that fit precisely. They should be of similar size and shape as the originals.
Hammer them into place, and use a thin nail to ensure that it is secure. Alternatively, you can drive screws into the stringer through the block. You don’t want to go back fixing the same thing after a couple of months. If the link between the riser and the tread is loose, drill a pilot hole and screw them together.
You can squeeze some carpenter’s glue along the joints and gaps under the stairs. Mainly, a couple of nails, screws, and carpenter’s glue will pretty much do the trick.
Make sure that you have gotten rid of as many squeaks as possible before you can replace the ceiling—test by jumping and walking on the stairs. Reattach the trim and the sheathing to complete the project.
Reattaching the Stairs to the Wall
The final step is to reattach the stairwell that has pulled apart from the wall. A few lag bolts should be sufficient for this task.
However, it can prove an uphill task if the wall has moved out of plumb or is bowed.
You will need to strengthen the stringer-to-studs link by shimming between the stringer and studs.
Attach the lug bolts and caulk any cracks and remaining spaces. And thats how to fix stairs that are separating.