How to Fix Squeaking Wood Stairs

Lead Image
  • 1-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 30-100
What You'll Need
Drill bits
8 penny finish nails
Wood putty

Noisy wood stairs are often the result of loose boards rubbing against each other. Although this might provide you with a tried-and-true alarm system, it can develop into a major nuisance down the road. Luckily, repairing a squeaky wood staircase is an easy project that can be finished within a few hours.

Step 1 - Identify The Source Of The Noise

There are quite a few reasons why your wood stairs may be acting up. Between constant use and the natural expansion of wood, stairs will inevitably develop squeaks here and there. These noises usually occur along the tread of the stairs. The treads are the flat pieces you walk on. The tread will loosen over time and make noise if it’s rubbing against the stringer or riser boards. The stringers are located on the sides and middle of the stairs while risers are in-between each tread. Luckily, eliminating the source of the noise is as easy as tightening the problem areas.

Step 2 - Remove Carpet

If your wood stairs are carpeted then you will need to remove the carpet before proceeding. If you have to remove the carpet, then you can use this as an opportunity to tighten everything. A good way to go about this is to screw in the risers firmly to the stringers, which should tighten just about everything. This will help prevent noises from popping up in the future and you can easily cover your work with the carpet.

Step 3 - Working With Old Nails

A winding wood staircase.

In older staircases, loose nails are a common culprit behind annoying squeaks. But simply hammering the old nails down or replacing them with new ones will not do the trick. It may seem like it worked at first, but it won’t be long before the nails work themselves out and the squeaking ramps up again. The best thing to do in these situations is to simply hammer in new nails at different locations.

Step 4 - Drill Pilot Holes

Once you have identified the source of the problem, the tightening process is pretty much the same for both risers and stringers. Start by drilling two pilot holes with a drill bit smaller than the nails you are using. Do not drill the holes straight down as this will make it easier for the nail to work its way out. Instead, drill the holes at 45-degree angles running opposite each other. This will create a wedge when you drive the nail homes and help prevent them from loosening.

Step 5 - Drive The Nails

After the pilot holes are drilled, hammer the nails in place. You want to drive the head of the nails slightly below the surface of the tread board. This will help prevent accidental snags and gives you the freedom of covering the holes if needed. The pilot holes you drilled earlier should guide the nails neatly into place and help prevent any accidental splitting in the wood.

Step 6 - Putty The Nails

A wood staircase in an empty room.

With the nails firmly in place, test the board and make sure the squeak is gone. If you do not hear anything, you can cover the nails with putty for a better look. Just remember to sand the putty smooth and apply necessary stain to match the existing wood color.

Other Tips

Fixing squeaky wood stairs can also be done underneath the structure. If you have access to the area under the stairs, simply use wood shims to tighten things up and screw them into place. If you want to avoid removing the carpet in its entirety, there are kits on the market that fix noisy stairs with the carpet still in place. These devices work by driving a screw through the carpet while keeping the fibers intact. For extra peace of mind, consider gluing the tread to the risers, which should prevent it from squeaking for several years.