Squeaky Stairs: Fix From Above, Below or Through Carpet

fixing squeaky stairs

Last updated: May 1, 2022 at 16:26 pm

There’s something really frustrating about a squeaky stairs. It announces your arrival into a room or corridor, and it can easily wake up a whole household each time you need to pop to the bathroom during the night. With the wrong staircase and the wrong layout, squeaky stairs can be heard from every room.

Luckily, fixing squeaky stairs is a simple DIY task – so you can be running up and down to the bathroom at 2 am in no time at all.

Why Are My Stairs Squeaky?

If your stairs have suddenly started to squeak, you might be wondering why that is. After all, you’ve not done anything differently, so why are the stairs suddenly complaining whenever anybody walks up or down them?

Well, you’ll be pleased to know that it isn’t personal. Stairs just loosen with time and begin to squeak and creak as we walk on them. The noise is created by wood and nails rubbing on one another, or the wooden tread rubbing against the risers. This rubbing is caused by the inevitable loosening of screws over time as well as the contraction and expansion of wood throughout the year.

Your stairs squeaking isn’t generally a cause for concern. It is rare that a squeaky or creaky staircase is on its way out. But whilst it may not be an emergency, it can be really irritating.

Where is the Squeak?

The first step in fixing your squeaky staircase is locating the squeak. How you go about fixing the stairs depends largely on where the noise comes from. The most common places for squeaks to come from on a staircase are

  1. the front of a step where the riser and tread meet
  2. the back of the step where the riser and tread meet
  3. or where the stringer attaches to the tread

To find the squeak in your staircase, get a friend or family member to walk up and down the stairs slowly, stepping on each bit of the tread as they go. You should be able to pinpoint which part of which step is creaking this way.

Also read: How to Stop Squeaky Floorboards for a Quieter Home

How to Fix Squeaky Stairs

The method you should use to fix squeaky stairs depends on where in your staircase the noise is coming from.

Stairs Squeaking at the Back

Tools you may need:

  • Powdered graphite
  • Paper
  • Drill
  • 2-3 inch screws
  • Wood filler
  • Hammer
  • Metal brackets
  • Triangular moulding

If your stair is squeaking at the back, then it is likely an issue with the tread and the riser rubbing together. This can happen for any number of reasons, but luckily it is one of the simplest fixes. All you need to do is slip a piece of paper down the back of the tread, between the tread and the riser.

Then, use a lubricant like talcum powder or powdered graphite to fill the crack between the two bits of wood. This will not stop them from rubbing on one another but will reduce the friction and subsequently muffle the noise.

Use the lubricant all along the back of the tread and push it into the hole using a card or paper. Do not use an oil-based lubricant like WD-40. This can cause the wood to warp, and may result in a dusty, stickiness around the step.

Alternatively, if your stairs are squeaking at the back, it may be because there is some friction or looseness between your stringers and the tread. This can also cause squeaking to occur on one side of the stair or on both sides.

To fix this type of squeak, you will need a drill and two 2–3-inch screws. Make two holes in either side of the stair, asking a helper to stand on the side of the stair you’re drilling to ensure the tread and stringer are as close as possible. Drill the holes at opposing 45-degree angles to ensure that they act as an anchor.

Screw your nails in, ensuring you screw them in past the surface of the tread. You can then hammer them flat or use wood filler to protect people’s feet from the screws.

Another option is to purchase metal brackets and to screw the brackets flush against the riser and the tread. This will help to hold your staircase in one place, preventing it from becoming loose and creaky.

You could also do the same with a small triangular moulding, glueing it into the corner between the riser and the tread. When doing this it is important to consider that there are regulations dictating the minimum length for treads.

Stairs Squeaking at the Front

fixing squeaky stairs

Tools you may need:

  • Drill
  • #8 Screws
  • Wood filler

If your stair squeaks when you step on the front of it, then it is likely caused by friction or looseness between the tread and the riser of the step before it. To fix this, you simply have to tighten the fitting between the trend and the riser.

You can do this by drilling 3 holes in the front of the tread, in line with the riser, and screwing nails into the holes until they are below the surface of the tread. Again, you may want to top these with wood filler to protect people from feeling the new holes as they walk up and down the stairs.

If You Can’t Locate the Squeak

Tools you may need:

  • Glue blocks
  • Wooden blocks
  • Saw
  • Wood glue

Sometimes it seems like the whole step is squeaking each time you step on it. If that’s the case, then you can try all of the previous suggestions. Or, if you have access to the underside of your staircase, you can simply use glue blocks to push the stairs into the right position and prevent any friction.

Glue blocks are small wooden triangles that you can often purchase at hardware stores. Alternatively, you can make them yourself by cutting a 2-inch wooden square in half.

Use wood glue on the two longer sides of the triangles and then, from beneath, push the glue blocks into the right angles created between the risers and treads of your staircase. Then, give the blocks a wiggle to remove any air bubbles and to ensure they are secure.

For Carpeted Stairs

Tools you may need:

  • Screws
  • Squeaky floor repair kit

If you have carpet, you can just remove it temporarily to get to the treads of your stairs. Once removed, you can use any of these solutions to fix your squeaky staircase. This is a better option than trying to drill through your carpet, which can destroy the fabric completely.

On the other hand, however, you can purchase a squeaky floor repair kit that will tighten the tread without damaging your carpet. It does so by sending a snap-off screw through the carpet without damaging it by using a depth control jig and a screw gripper.

Other Ways to Quieten Your Squeaky Stairs

If you’re not able to implement any of these solutions, there are other things you can do that may help you to quieten your squeaky stairs. The first thing to try is to just go through all the screws you can access in your staircase and tighten them with a screwdriver. This is by no means a permanent fix, but if you’re willing to regularly adjust the screws it is a temporary solution!

Another option if you’re looking for more ways to soundproof your stairs is to add carpet. If your stairs are wooden when they do squeak there is much less to muffle the sound, making it much more noticeable.

Adding carpet and possibly even cork to the tops of your stairs can help to absorb the soundwaves created as you walk down your stairs. You can also purchase acoustic underlay to place under your carpet to further reduce the noise created by your stairs.

It is also worth checking that your banister is connected to your stairs fully. They can often come loose and create an awful amount of rattling as people move around the house and up and down the stairs. Securing your banister will help to prevent such noise and increase the safety of your staircase.

If you have squeaky floors and not just stairs, check whether it could be a sign of a structural problem.

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About the Author: AJ

AJ is a self-confessed soundproofing nut. He has written full-time on Quiet Living for the past 3 years, and has a wealth of knowledge about living a quieter life, soundproofing and fixing loud noises.

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