New Stair Treads (Part I)

I didn’t know what a stair “tread” was until we started this project.

Unfortunately for us, the previous homeowners decide to remove the traditional stair railing and opted for this extremely original jail cell look. When we first removed the carpet, we were psyched that the stairs were in good shape. We neglected to realize that the 16 wood posts were going to leave a ton of holes (2 holes per pole, 32 total) in addition to the holes from the original railing. Holes galore. Thus, we decided to replace the top of the stairs (aka the treads).

Here’s how it went…

(Before & during)

First off, I didn’t even know floor-to-ceiling railings were a look, and contemporary or not, I’m still not convinced they are. Removing these was a very satisfying first step and opened up the space immediately.

Chad loves his Ryobi saw. And using  power tools in general.

This look was mimicked on the top of the stairs as well. So sad.


Once the giant wood railings were removed, Chad took up a stair tread and we headed to Home Depot to scope out replacements. We ended up with these unfinished wood oak treads, which matched the previous ones pretty well and only required minor cuts. You can probably get less expensive wood elsewhere, but this project was advanced enough for us, so one-stop shopping made life easier.

In addition to the treads, we bought nosed returns (another completely new term) to mimic the clean, finished edges that the original stairs had. In the picture above, you can see that the old stairs have the finished edge, but the new stair doesn’t yet.

I’ll admit at one point I got super overwhelmed by this project. I think it was because we needed to buy A SAW (like a real one) to properly cut everything to size. We also setup said saw in one of the bedrooms because it’s too cold to work in the garage and I’m a slightly naive, but cool wife.

Update: After many fights with the fire alarms, the table saw has found a new home in the basement.

Cutting the treads (stairs) and nosed returns (pretty edge) to fit each other was the most challenging part. This was likely work for a carpenter, but we ending up making it work with Chad’s patience and a decent amount of wood filler. That stuff can fix almost anything.

Once everything was cut, Chad used a nail gun to nail down the treads, then nail the nosed returns to the treads. Then we went in with the wood filler.

The original wood filler we bought doesn’t absorb stain, which is important because we’re having the stairs professionally stained with the rest of the hardwood floors throughout the house. Glad Chat caught that. We later found this Mixwax filler that is designed to absorb stain as similar to wood as possible. Disclosure: this stuff hardens EXTREMELY fast, which is a great way to trigger a mini anxiety attack when you’re already stressed.


After a bit of freaking out, we let the wood filler dry, and  I sanded the heck out of it.


Not bad, eh? Major props to Chad for being confident enough that we could do this on our own. I’m lucky he’s so handy and can pretty much figure out any project he wants to. They’ll get stained soon, then we can tackle the railings (eek). Stay tuned!



2 thoughts on “New Stair Treads (Part I)

  1. Diane Cianfarani says:

    First of all, I’m so proud of you guys for learning the “tricks of the trade”! You will appreciate your first home that much more when finished! Second of all, this pic of you is so freakin cute!! We’ll be in RI in April… can’t wait to see your home… oh, and you guys too!!!💞
    Keep us posted… I love this blog!

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