As I’ve mentioned in my bathroom floor post, I am trying to get rid of all the carpet in my house.  I am one step closer to that goal now that I have refinished two sets of stairs in my house.  Well, to be really techinical, I was one step closer to that goal a year ago when I actually took the carpet off of the stairs! But now (a year later) I have finally completed refinishing them!

Before I continue, I should clarify that I am not a perfectionist.  I am a “it’s good enough”  kind of person.  If you are a perfectionist, than you probably won’t be pleased with this project.  For me, it is absolutely wonderful!

There are a ton of great tutorials on staining your stairs, so I won’t reinvent the wheel.  However, when I took the carpet off of my stairs, I encountered a problem that I wasn’t expecting; one that I didn’t know how to solve right away.

So, in case you decide to refinish your stairs one day, and you encounter the same problem, let me show you how I dealt with it.

The problem was that there was a large gap between the stair tread and the wall.  Figuring out how to fill in the gap took a lot of thought and asking lots of people for advice.  My dad gave me the best advice, which was to put a thin piece of plywood between the stairs and the runner, then use shims to adjust the width as necessary.

stair gap

This was definitely tricky in some places because there were nails sticking out under the stairs, blocking the plywood from going down as far as I wanted.  There were differences in the distance the stairs were from the wall, etc.  It took a lot of work, but I got it done.


This set of stairs was actually pretty straight forward, because I was able to get one 12 foot length of plywood to go the entire length.  On my front stairs, the wood steps were so uneven (riser or supports under the stairs reaching all the way to the wall, but not the tread), that I couldn’t get the plywood down in one long piece.  Instead I had to piece it together little by little to get the whole thing covered.  That one definitely took longer than this set of stairs.

front view

My intention was to have the plywood be firmly against the curved edged of each tread to create a nice clean look.  The rest of the way around the tread I could fill in with caulking.

I filled the gap between the plywood and wall runner with joint compound and then sanded it down. Because joint compound doesn’t have any give, and stomping up and down stairs creates vibrations, the joint compound cracked a little.  I went over all of the cracks with flexible caulk.  After everything was filled and caulked, I painted it.

finished closeup

Other things to consider when attempting a project like this:

1.  Sanding is time consuming and messy.  Everying, and I mean everything, will be covered with sawdust.

2.  The stair treads under my carpet were not the best quality treads, so they had lots of knots, gouges, etc..   Also, the exposed wood portion that was showing when I had carpet was not indicatative of the quality of the entire tread like I expected.  Instead, the exposed portion was actually dovetailed into the less expensive treads.  You can tell that the tread is not all the same (check out the last picture to see what I mean).

3.  Getting a perfect match to your current hardwoods might be difficult, so be prepared for some variation not only in color, but in grain and wood quality.
Looking down kitchen

I can’t tell you how much I love my new stairs.  They are just so much cleaner than carpet, and I love that when my children track mud into the house, cleaning it up is now a 2 minute job instead of an 2 hour job!

Kitchen stairs

looking down front stairs

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