Need Advice: Replace Carpet around Banisters with Wood

betty2012November 18, 2012

Hi all,

I need advice. I have carpeted stairs that have carpet around the banisters. How can I replace the carpet with wood without having to tear down the banisters? Is it even possible? Any instructions or creation ideas are welcome. Thanks!!!

Here is a little more info. We like to replace the whole house with hardwood. Underneath our carpet is not hardwood so we cannot just tear out the carpet and refinish the floor.

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Here is picture of how our stairs look like...

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 1:21PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Yes, you'll have to remove the spindles. And the treads. And reconstruct all of it in your desired hardwood in order to keep the correct height for the rise/run and to install the treads. A darned expensive undertaking that you really won't ever see any financial return on for the money spent. So this has to be something that you really really WANT.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 3:24PM
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Why would they have to take off the treads? If they have carpet at the bottom and plan to put in hardwood, that raises each tread by the same as the floor, and should solve the problem of rise/run?

(I am not a floor person, so I am asking a genuine question --to learn. I've thought of doing something similar/and or putting in wood end caps).

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 3:58PM
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Carpeted stairs in many houses were built with rough framing lumber(least expensive) since they will be covered.

Rough framing lumber is 1&1/2" thick, wooden exposed stair treads are usually 1&1/8" thick. That 3/8" does not sound like much, but it is the maximum difference allowed by code between any riser height in a stairway. And most rough stair cases are outside that measurement when built---as that is seldom checked.

The real problem is muscle memory. Stairs are so regulated, by the age of 8 or so, we have developed a muscle memory of raising our feet 7" +- a half inch when ascending stairs.

An easy illustration of that is the phenomenom of tripping up the stairs when a much shorter/taller step is encountered. Or the more dangerous falling an inch or so when coming down stairs or the knee jolt when the step is too short.

Added to all that is the probability the bottom step tread was built shorter than the 7" because the carpet/pad were 1" or so thick. That impacts the top step---since the difference between risers is a max 3/8"---leaving the possibility of the top riser being almost 8".

So, simply removing the carpet and pad usually creates a huge problem in making the now wooden treaded stairs safe.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 12:51AM
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Thanks for taking the time to reply to my cry for help!

Wow... this seems very complicated. We were actually just planning on replacing the carpet with 8-12 mm laminate on top of what we have. I thought our main problem was just having to figure out how to cover the carpeted part around the banister without having to take the railing out.

Is there really no way of getting around that?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 11:02AM
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No there really is no way of getting around that and having a serviceable and proper set of stairs.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 12:21PM
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May I hijack just a bit?
So, I know I have a pressed chip type board under my carpet (my carpet is not well-attached on the stairs, which to me actually argues against safety at the moment).

So, it would seem I do not have framing lumber under.

Now, assuming I don't care if I need to take my banister apart, how difficult/complicated would be using something like this on the banister side (and carpeting the rest)? What I don't like about my current stairs is how dated the wrap-around carpet makes the space look.

Here is a link that might be useful: false tread end

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 12:46PM
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if you have hardwood in the rest of the house you may well have hardwood under that carpet on the stairs. You never know.

Perhaps not for a main floor staircase, but we sanded and stained our basement utility wood steps and they look awesome. We ended up putting a carpet runner down the middle of the stairs after all that because we didn't want the kids slipping on the wood but I love that look of wood that peeks out on the sides.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 1:35PM
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Here is another. Seems like something like this should work, even for the OP. Why wouldn't it? (I might need a diagram...)

Here is a link that might be useful: retrofit wood stair treads

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 2:44PM
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That systems works great if you raise the first and second floor levels of your house 1/2".

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 5:45PM
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That systems works great if you raise the first and second floor levels of your house 1/2".

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 5:47PM
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So, as long as they put wood in on the main floor, and the hallway/landing area at the top of the stairs, they could do something like this.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 7:40PM
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You would have a 1/2" reducer strip at every door opening where the raised flooring stopped. I suspect it would cost considerably more than rebuilding the treads.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 7:44AM
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Well you could put it in around the spindles, but will have to make some very precise cuts. You could notch the pieces around the spindle and make sure the joint between two boards are somewhere between the edges of the spindle for easier cutting. You would need to be very careful in the cut so it is a very tight fit.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 3:53PM
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Even if the OP decides to just drop the laminate in on top of the (assumed) rough lumber treads, how is she addressing the edges? The nosing on the treads and the side at the spindle will have raw, exposed edges of 8-12mm laminate.

I'm thinking that she's got to take off the spindles and railing, regardless. And once that's done, it makes sense to go ahead and replace the treads. The risers might be paintable if in decent framing lumber. But if its all chipboard, I'm not so sure.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 6:50AM
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Hi. I am replacing carpet on stairs and have the same issue of having carpet around the spindles. Appears we have the same staircase. Did u get the issue resolved and how? Did u have to remove the spindles? Please advise. Thank you

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 10:06AM
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None of this is a DIY project so why worry about the difficulty? The only issue is what a carpenter would charge. You might be surprised how quickly this project could be done.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 2:22PM
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hi everyone,
thanks for all the input. @susen, no, i have not resolved it yet... still stumped...

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 11:14PM
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We DIY-ed our stair replacement. Here's the before:

We ripped out the carpet and found cheap pine treads and risers. We also removed the railing and ballusters.

We removed the treads and risers and, using the same stringers, installed stained treads and painted risers. We installed a new newel post, banister, and ballusters, and getting the ballusters right on the sloping banister was the biggest pain.

We added some trim and here's the finished product:

We put a nosing on the edge of the top floor that the upstairs carpet butts into.

I researched directions on installing iron balusters and they all assume you're keeping an existing banister. They said to take a saw to the wood balusters, leaving the banister in place. Then use the existing holes (which are lined up properly) and epoxy in new balusters. You'd remove the carpet and replace the treads as needed before putting the balusters in. And you make sure the holes on the underside of the banister have some extra depth so you put the top of the baluster into the banister, push it up so the bottom of the baluster clears the tread, swing the bottom into the hole in the tread, and when it's lowered down the top is still sufficiently inserted into the banister.

Not a project for the faint of heart, as there are lots of things to get right. But definitely doable.

1 Like    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 10:45PM
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Well done! It looks great!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 11:01PM
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