Replacing Stair Risers

Lead Image
  • 16-40 hours
  • Advanced
  • 200-1,000
What You'll Need
Orbital saw
Replacement wood
Wood glue
Putty knife
Tape measure
Safety goggles

A staircase can often be taken for granted, which makes it easy to assume that defects in the stair risers will never arise. However, you will find that normal use of the stairs can cause wear and tear that makes it necessary for them to be replaced.

Step 1 – Plan

Start planning how you intend to complete the process by first examining the staircase. Take the opportunity to consider the manner in which the stairs are constructed so that you can determine whether the banister needs to be removed. Locate the joins where the wood pieces meet each other. In most cases, you will need to begin at the top when removing the risers and work your way down.

Step 2 – Disassembly

The next step necessary to replace stair risers is to remove the existing ones. This can be done with a hammer and chisel by positioning the point of the chisel in the joint between the treads and the stair risers. You will find that the riser is often fitted slightly behind the lip of the tread. Accordingly, it will be necessary to lift the tread to enable the riser to be removed. If it proves stiff, use the claw of the hammer to pull it free.

Step 3 – Organize

Once each riser is free, number it in order using a pencil mark on the rear. This will help you to ensure that the replacement risers are returned to the correct place.

Step 4 – Cut Replacements

Once they have been removed and organized, use the old stair risers as templates for the new ones. Place them on the wood and draw around trace around them using a pencil. In the event that any of the risers have suffered from warping or any other damage that affects the shape, measure the recess it came from and use this to create the new riser. Use an orbital saw to cut out each replacement one at a time so that they can be numbered correctly. After they have been cut, there may be some sharp and jagged edges that will need to be tidied with sandpaper. If the wood does not match the tread or you are seeking to create a contrasting design, the risers can be stained or painted at this stage and left to dry before proceeding.

Step 5 – Install

Beginning at the bottom of the staircase, dry-fit the stair riser using the correct one in accordance with the numbered system. Position it by hand to ensure that it can be properly aligned and undertake any necessary rectification work. Proceed by applying a little wood glue to the inner edges before pressing it into place, using a cloth to wipe away any excess glue. Once the glue has dried, follow this up by hammering in nails to secure the riser further. Follow this process for the remainder of the staircase.