The anatomy of a staircase.
There are lots of reasons why you don't want your stairs to squeak. It announces to the entire family, for one, when you're heading down to the kitchen in the dark for a midnight snack. Not to mention the fact that it can be a bit spooky in the dark. So unless you rely on your stairs to let you know about tardy teenagers coming home past their curfew, you probably find the squeaking a constant irritation.

It takes dozens of separate pieces to build a hardwood staircase. Stairs are made up of treads and risers — the flat steps and vertical kick plates you can see — as well as stringers, the saw-tooth pieces of wood that support the stairs from underneath.

With all the wooden parts, it's pretty much inevitable that stairs will eventually start to squeak. Unlike our own ever-tightening joints, age tends to bring looseness in stairs. This causes the wooden treads to rub against the risers and stringers, and all of it to grind against the nails and screws that hold it all together. In addition to simply being walked on, seasonal contractions and expansions of the wood further contribute to the loosening of the joints. It can all add up to a heck of a racket. Stairs that were constructed with glue in addition to nails and screws — less common the older your house is — generally are less prone to squeaking, but wear and time do tend to take their toll.

So what do you do to beat the squeak? Most of the time it really isn't a difficult problem to fix. The noise doesn't mean your stairs are necessarily about to fall down; they just need tightening up.

There are some repairs that involve fastening wood blocks or brackets from underneath, which is good on the one hand because your fix will be invisible. But not everyone has access to the underside of their stairs, and in most cases, tightening on the topside will do the trick.

First you need to identify where exactly within the step the noise is coming from. Most likely, either the tread is knocking or rubbing against the riser board, the tread has come loose from one or more of its stringers, or both. You'll need to test each step that squeaks and repair it individually by refastening the tread to its underlying structure at the source of the squeak.

Ask TOH users about Stairs

Contribute to This Story Below