General Flooring Knowledge, Hardwood Flooring, Installation

Hardwood Stairs: An Introduction

So, you have finally picked out your new hardwood floor. It’s probably taken a lot of thinking over all the different colours and wood types you can use. But wait, what is that you are missing? It is something you use every day without even realizing it is a part of your flooring. That’s right, it’s your stair treads and risers. Looking at them you are probably thinking, how are those done? it looks so complicated. Putting in hardwood stairs with your flooring doesn’t have to be a scary experience. Here we will walk you through some of the things to think about before installing your hardwood stairs.

Stairs have a few key pieces to the installation process. These are treads, risers, and stair noses. Treads are the horizontal steps that show the biggest area on your stairs. Risers are the vertical backings to your steps.

 Stair Treads

A tread is a full plank of wood with a finished edge on the front. When considering treads, also consider if your stairs are open or enclosed. Open staircases require a tread with a return. The tread with return means there is are finished edges on the side as well as the front.

Stair Risers

Risers are installed on the vertical section of your stairs. There is a trend which involves using mismatched treads and risers. White primed poplar board which you paint any colour to match your woodwork is an excellent option to save some cost while allowing the treads to pop. This way you can have a unique two-tone style. Since risers are not stepped on, they do not see as much traffic as the treads and therefore a softer wood will still last a long time.

Stair Nose


This is technically a transition molding; however, it is also a critical piece which goes into most stair projects. When you install hardwood flooring and wish to transition downstairs the last plank is rounded, and is called a stair nose. This round-edge molding (also known as bullnose) is basically a narrower tread with a groove on the end.

On the landing area, a stair nose is used along with the hardwood flooring to form a square platform for changing directions.

Overall Cost

The overall cost of a full stair project varies greatly – it can range from $3000 to $12,000 (or more), depending on the size of the staircase and the materials selected. This figure includes material and labour. While this seems like a hefty sum the stairs are one of the most labour intensive and difficult parts of a flooring project. Each angle needs to be measured meticulously and fit to perfection. It requires a skilled installer and sometimes even a stair specialist for custom work.

While it is not advised to cut cost on hiring an experienced installer, there are some great options for savings. For risers, you have the option of doing a white primed poplar which is more affordable than most hardwoods, especially exotics. Some installers are capable of using stair nose plus flooring on every step instead of full treads. If you choose to go with this method, please make sure to use long planks whenever possible to reduce the number of seams on your staircase.

You can think of your stairs step by step. Check with your installer to see if they are able to get creative. Stairs are a perfect way of self-expression and an excellent way to customize your project.

Having your stairs dressed up in wood to go along with your nice hardwood floors is a beautiful investment to your home. Not only does it leave a lasting impression it also raises the value of your home. If done right, wood stairs will last centuries. So, don’t let those stairs keep you from stepping into your next project!

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2 thoughts on “Hardwood Stairs: An Introduction

  1. Aaron says:

    Wow this is really insightful, I’ve been wondering for the past few weeks how I’m supposed to match my basement stairs to my 1st floor hardwood!

  2. stephen says:

    Very good information. Thank you for a well written packet on this subject.

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