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Widening Stairway Treads?

My boyfriend and I live in an old house with a very narrow stairway and treads that aren't long enough to actually get your whole foot on them. To make matters worse, one of the treads is broken, with the whole outside edge pushed down to the stair below, leaving almost nowhere to step. We've had multiple people, including me, place their foot wrong and go tumbling down them, but we're a bit intimidated by both the potential cost and labor that might await us. There is old carpet covering the stairs, so while we know that one tread is broken, there's no telling what else might be awaiting us.

We have some experience with home improvement and carpentry, so my question is, how difficult would it be, assuming the rest of the stairs are sound when we pull the carpet up, to go in and fix the one stair, and widen all the treads to accommodate modern feet and stop the falls? Is it just a matter of retrofitting the current setup, or is it more a matter of ripping out the entire staircase and starting from scratch?

Re: Widening Stairway Treads?

Unfortunately there would be zero gain from widening each tread. What you hypothetically gain when you put down the first wider tread, you lose as soon as you install the next tread. This is easy to demonstrate to yourself with a drawing on a piece of paper.

The only way to effectively create a more negotiable staircase would be to start from scratch by tearing out the old and then installing a whole new set of stairhorses and treads.

Now for the kicker - the new set of stairs will be, of necessity, longer than the orignal set. So.....you have to have the accumulated additonal space available for that at the bottom of the stairscase. If you do, then this stair re-do becomes fesible without further structural changes and accomodations. If that extra space is not currently available, then things get far more complicated and labor intensive.

Available headroom also comes into play when building a staircase. If the current ceiling is too close to accomodate the change in the stair layout, then more changes will need to occur. (The more you alter the stairs toward being "flatter"/not as steep.......the closer any given tread gets to the ceiling. This is also easy to demonstrate to yourself with a drawing.)

A potential alternative to moving walls or ceilings in order to acquire a gentler stair rise would be to install a spiral staircase.

Or......it may be possible to replace a straight staircase with one that is divided into two runs, having a 90 degree turn (or similar) at a landing halfway up or so. Can't see your current house layout so don't know if this is feasible either.

Re: Widening Stairway Treads?

Well, the stairs already do that 90-degree thing, with a wider landing at the junction. There is also a platform at the bottom that's about 3 times the width of the current treads, which isn't really necessary to have there. I haven't actually measured the stairs yet (this post was prompted by me sliding down the stupid things and bruising my tailbone this morning, which was sort of my "that's it!" moment) but I'd estimate that the treads are around 5 inches wide at this point. If I could even get them out to 7, that would be an improvement. There is a potential headroom issue now that you mention it -- right now no one has any problems getting through, but would 2 more inches per stair be a reasonable exchange, or would it likely just take us from one headache to another?

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