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Stair tread leveling issue

Removed carpet from stairs and planning on installing Young's RetroTread from Lowes over bare wood stair case. Many issues with these stairs because of how they were built. I have a very small budget so rebuilding the entire stair case is out of the question. Just have to get creative. Which I have done for the most part. However, existing bare frame wood steps are not level but rather pitched down almost a 1/4inch. They were not built the typical way a stair case was built. Whomever built them used a ton of nails and brackets. Shimming the bare wood steps or beating them straight is kind of out of the question. When I install the oak RetroTreads over the bare wood, I would like to find a way to make them level. Shimming in between the bare framming wood tread and the new overlay oak treads seems like the best idea so far but the only shims out there are the 1-2inch wide shims. It would take hundreds to do this job. Is there any way I can create 41inch wide shims with limited tools? Or can I find them somewhere? Or does anyone have another idea of how I can level the steps while installing the new oak treads over the existing bare wood steps?


Re: Stair tread leveling issue

There are hard plastic, horseshoe shaped, flat shims used for manufactured flooring, tiling, installing glass, installing cabinets...

You can get 1000 1/32" or 1/16" shims for about $25.

Re: Stair tread leveling issue

If the slope is consistent across a whole tread you can rip marrow shims as wide as the tread of different thickness and go form thick to thin as needed to make the area flat and level. This will need a table saw. Start by making shims at the narrowest thickness then set the fence to slightly wider and so on until you have cut enough shims for the entire job. Be careful with using table saws- IMHO they are the most dangerous of tools. And be careful setting the fence for the narrowest shims as any blade wobble or warp will cause it to contact the rip fence. Those narrow pieces will also want to 'walk' back into the blade so if you can have a helper pull them through on the outfeed side.

Set the shims in place and draw a line where they will go, then glue them down with a polyurethane adhesive. Tack them so they don't move and fill in any void areas with a bead of adhesive at least as tall as the shimming and with a thin bead on the shims. Apply the new tread on top of this being certain it's pressed down to the shimming everywhere well, then nail it.

Personally I would worry about the non-standard construction of the original stair. It might be OK but without seeing it I cannot recommend leaving it as-is. I would prefer to see properly made and properly installed stringers instead of something cobbled together. It does no good to beautify something that is going to fall apart later on. If that happens your limited budget will be buying new treads again along with the stringers which you should have out in now. New stringers won't cost much and can be set level so that you have little to no shimming to do and likely can be sistered to the existing ones making the install go easy and fast.

Better to do it once and do it right!


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