How to Install a Stair Tread & Riser

One of the most complex jobs in home remodeling is building and installing stairways. Not only do building codes need to be satisfied, but renovators must take into account the bio-mechanics of walking up stairs and space allotted to headroom and landings when repairing or building stairways. Once your stringers are in place, it's necessary to correctly calculate the the length and size of the risers and consider the kinds and finishes of stairway treads.

Stairways can be beautiful but require careful planning.
  1. Match your existing materials or choose types of material for new construction. While stair treads are usually constructed of hardwood like oak or maple, stair risers can be either matching hardwood or a softer wood like poplar that can be painted white or another contrasting color.
  2. Measure your riser. For existing construction, use a nail puller and pry bar to remove the existing tread and riser to use as templates. For new construction, the riser should fit flush to the ends and top of the stringer.
  3. Install the new riser using construction adhesive and cement fasteners. The construction adhesive will ensure a solid fit and help fight potential squeaks, while the ridges of the cement fastener will help keep the fasteners from working loose.
  4. Measure the new tread using the existing tread as a template. For new construction, measure the distance from the base of the stringer to the lip and make allowance for the thickness of the riser and the size of the desired overhang. Double check the tread for fit before installing, as any gaps or variances will cause squeaking.
  5. Fasten the tread, again using construction adhesive and concrete fasteners. Treads and risers should fit precisely against the side skirting for a clean, professional look. Stain the tread and paint or stain the riser as desired.

Things You Will Need

  • Hardwood for tread
  • Hard or softwood for riser
  • Construction adhesive and fasteners
  • Paint or stain
  • Nail puller
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar


  • If dimensions permit, use prefab stringers to jump start your stair construction project.


  • Check local building codes before beginning stair construction.

About the Author

David Pepper is a Los Angeles-based writer, teacher and filmmaker. He has been writing since 1990. His publication credits include articles for the "Los Angeles" and "New York Times," fiction for journals like "Ends Meet" and "Zyzzyva," and a computer book for Prentice Hall. Pepper holds a Master of Arts in English literature from the University of Pittsburgh.

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