Squeaky stairs in an old house can drive you nuts! Otherwise you wouldn’t be Googling “how to fix squeaky stairs”, right?
Fortunately, there are easy ways to fix a squeaking, creaking staircase without tearing things apart and calling a carpenter. You can do it yourself with some basic tools and save the money and the hassle.
Find the Squeak
Before you can fix a squeaky wooden stair, you’ll need to find where the squeak is coming from. The location of the squeak may also dictate the type of repair you do. Slowly climb your stairs and note which steps have squeaks and where the squeak is coming from exactly, marking each with masking tape or a sticky note. Then, stand in the middle of each squeaky step and rock front-to-back and side-to-side to determine if the noise is coming from the side, the back, or the front.
Typically, if the squeak comes from the back of a step, this means it is loose from its riser. If the squeak comes from either side, it usually means the step is loose at its stringer.
A riser is the vertical space between each step, and the stringer is the board on each side of the staircase that is attached to each riser. The stringer, which is saw-toothed shaped, keeps the staircase together and adds support.
Once you know where the squeak is coming from it’s time to pick your repair method. I’ve got four ways below that should cover almost any repair you may need for your squeaky stairs so let’s get to it.
#1 Lubricate the Joint
For a squeak that is located near the back or side of the step you can muffle the sound by using a dry lubricant such as talcum powder, powdered graphite, or even baby powder to fill the space between the riser and the tread below it. The tread is the flat surface on the step where you put your foot. Do not use an oil-based lubricant, which can cause the wood to warp or cause the step to be slippery.
To put the lubricant in the crack, pour the powder into the crack all the way across the back of the tread. Then, work the powder as deeply as possible using a finger or old paintbrush. This technique won’t stop the tread and riser from moving against each other, but it will remove the friction that is causing the squeak. If the noise comes back, you may have to add more powder to the crack.
#2 Trim Screws
If the step is squeaking from the front, use screws to tighten up the connector between the riser and tread. Use trimhead screws for this purpose, which can be found at any hardware store and have a smaller head than regular screws and are easier to hide.
Drill three pilot holes that are evenly spaced across the front section of the tread where it meets the riser. Insert the screws and drill them in to where the heads are below the tread’s surface to prevent foot injuries.
After you have drilled the screws in so they are low enough not to cause an injury to an unsuspecting bare foot, you can fill the indentations with wood filler to hide the screw heads. You will want to select a color that appropriately matches the wood on your stairs, but there are plenty of colors to choose from, so this should not be a concern.
#3 Nail it Down
To fix squeaks that originate from the sides or back of the step, you can nail the tread into the stringers on both sides of the staircase. Using 2″ finish nails by hand or a pneumatic nailer drive them at 45-degree angles away from each other (one angled toward the step above and one angled toward the step below).
Repeat this process on the same tread where it meets the balustrade (the side away from the wall). Make sure to set the nails below the surface using something like a spring set. If you prefer, you can then fill the indentations with a wood filler that matches the color of your stairs.
#4 Install Glue Blocks
If you can access your staircase from the underside, you can use triangular glue blocks for the sturdiest repair. Simply cut a two-inch wooden cube across the diagonal. Put some wood glue on the shorter side of each triangle and press the block into the right angle where the tread meets the riser.
Place one glue block in the center of the stair and one on each end of the tread for best results. Be sure to press firmly to ensure all air bubbles are removed from the wood glue. After the glue has dried, drive two screws into each block. One should be horizontal into the riser and the other should be vertical into the tread.
Stairs naturally become loose over time, and you’re left with squeaky stairs from time to time, but now it’s nothing you can’t solve. Luckily, this is a simple repair that you can complete yourself in a very little amount of time. Once you get rid of the squeak, you can enjoy the silence that your repair created!
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.