Carpet to Wood Stair Remodel: How to Install RetroTreads and Risers

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Carpet to Wood Stair Remodel: How to install RetroTreads and Risers using polyurethane construction adhesive and brad nails, then finishing the stair landing to carpet floor transition.

Table of Contents

This is a multi-part series:

  1. How to Remodel Carpeted Stairs with Wood RetroTreads
    RetroTread remodeling overview, installation options, staining and finishing.
  2. Carpet to Wood Stairs Remodel – Saw off Old Stair Nosing
    Remove the carpet, saw off the old stair noses and sanding the stairs.
  3. Carpet Stair Remodel – Measure and Saw Wood RetroTreads
    Stair tread template/gauge tool, miter and table saw work, dry fitting the new treads and risers.
  4. RetroTread Stair Remodel – Landing Tread to Carpet Floor Transition
    Fitting the final tread under the upstairs door jambs and carpet floor transition moulding.
  5. Carpet to Wood Stair Remodel: How to Install RetroTreads and Risers (you are here)
    Install the new treads and riser with polyurethane construction adhesive and brad nails.

Carpet to Wood Stair Remodel: How to Install RetroTreads and Risers

Stained & finished treads and risers are dry fitted to ensure the work will go smoothly:

Young RetroTread Install - Dry Fitting

Young RetroTread Install – Dry Fitting

The treads are installed per the following diagram. The risers rest on the treads to conceal a 1/4″ expansion gap and the brad nail heads:

Young RetroTread Carpet Stair Remodel - Option 3 New Treads & Sawn Risers

Young RetroTread Carpet Stair Remodel – Option 3 New Treads & Sawn Risers

Tools and materials to install RetroTreads:

  • Portable air compressor to power the brad nailer.
  • Brad nail gun.
  • 1 1/2″ brad nails.
  • Loctite PL Premium polyurethane construction adhesive.
  • Caulk gun
  • 4 inch wide plastic spreader.
    Typically used for Bondo auto-body filler. It’s cheap and disposable.
  • Water spray bottle.
  • Small towel or rag.
  • Paper towels

Young Mfg. RetroTread and Riser Installation Steps

Install the bottom riser, followed by a tread and repeat working your way up the stairs. The stairs must be clean and free of dust.

Carpet to Wood Stair Remodel - RetroTread Installation

Carpet to Wood Stair Remodel – RetroTread Installation

The steps for installing a riser are:

  1. Verify the sequence number previously written on back of the riser matches the stair step.
    e.g. Riser #1 for stair step #1, riser #2 for step #2, etc. because each riser was cut to fit a unique old stair step.
  2. Make sure the riser is oriented upward.
    At this point I marked a “T” for Top on the top edge of the riser. Why? Because my riser sequence # will be covered with construction adhesive and it’s easy to flip it upside down when moving the piece from the dining room table to the stairs.
  3. Apply a 3/8″ thick line of Loctite PL Premium construction adhesive to the old stair tread.
    • I covered the dining room table with a drop cloth and placed the riser on it before applying the adhesive. It was much more comfortable working while standing up versus squatting on the stairs.
  4. Spread the caulk evenly with the plastic spreader.
  5. [Optional] Mist the old stair riser with water using the spray bottle. Wipe off the excess with an old rag. Misting ensures a good cure because Loctite PL Premium is a water activated polyurethane. It’s Winter and the humidity is low with the furnace running and a bonding failure would be very hard to fix. My treads and risers are rock solid with no squeaks, so misting didn’t hurt.
  6. Press the new riser firmly against the old stair riser, then tack it in place with brad nails to prevent movement. The brad nails also provide a clamping force while the adhesive cures.
    • Set three (3) brad nails along the top of the riser where they will be concealed by RetroTread nose.
    • Drive a brad nail in the bottom corners.
Young Mfg Plain Riser Install - Apply Loctite PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive

Young Mfg Plain Riser Install – Apply Loctite PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive

Heavy Duty Caulk Gun

A heavy duty high-thrust ratio caulk gun is highly recommended because the Loctite PL Premium adhesive is very viscous and was hard to pump with my old economy gun. I had blisters on both thumbs when I was done. Afterwards, I bought a Newborn 250 Super Smooth revolving frame caulk gun with an 18 to 1 thrust ratio from Amazon.com. An 18:1 thrust ratio makes it easy to pump the construction adhesive compared to the 3:1 ratio for my old gun. The Newborn 250 generates so much force I was able to blow out a plug of cured caulk in the nozzle. My old gun couldn’t do that!

Newborn 250 Super Smooth Rod Revolving Frame Caulking Gun

Newborn 250 Super Smooth Rod Revolving Frame Caulking Gun

RetroTread Installation

RetroTreads installation is very similar to a riser:

  • [Optional] Spray a fine water mist on the old tread and wipe down with the rag.
  • Apply polyurethane construction adhesive to the old stair tread and spread evenly.
Young RetroTread Install - Apply Loctite PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive

Young RetroTread Install – Apply Loctite PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive

  • Next apply a line of adhesive along the inside of the tread nose:
Young RetroTread - Apply Construction Adhesive inside Tread Nose

Young RetroTread – Apply Construction Adhesive inside Tread Nose

  • Press the RetroTread firmly on the old tread and back against the new riser.
    Feel along the tread nose to verify it’s flush against the face of the riser to ensure it’s fully seated.
  • Set brad nails in the four corners of the RetroTread.
    I also put a brad nail in a darker wood grain line near the center of the tread for additional clamping. The dark wood grain makes the recessed nail head almost invisible.

A scrap riser block is helpful for gauging where to the place the brad nails for concealment until you’re practiced. Note the optional 1/4″ inch expansion gap between the tread and the old riser:

Young RetroTread Installation - Riser Block to place Brad Nails

Young RetroTread Installation – Riser Block to place Brad Nails

Stair Landing to Carpet Floor Threshold Moulding Transition

A nice looking transition is needed from the new wood stairs to the 2nd floor carpet:

Young RetroTread Installation - Carpet Fitting at Stair Landing

Young RetroTread Installation – Carpet Fitting at Stair Landing

The wood stair to carpet transition can be accomplished in several ways. I stapled the carpet to the plywood subfloor and covered it with oak threshold floor moulding. It’s simpler compared to a carpet tack strip and fussing with the carpet:

Oak Threshold Floor Moulding for Top Stair Tread to Carpet Transition

Oak Threshold Floor Moulding for Top Stair Tread to Carpet Transition

The RetroTread is 5/8″ thick. The threshold floor moulding will hang 5/16″ above the plywood subfloor:

Oak Threshold Moulding for Young RetroTread at Top Stair Landing

Oak Threshold Moulding for Young RetroTread at Top Stair Landing

This results in a 5/16″ gap between the moulding and subfloor to tuck the carpet under the moulding:

RetroTread - Top Stair Landing to Carpet Transition Moulding Diagram

RetroTread – Top Stair Landing to Carpet Transition Moulding Diagram

The gap under the moulding for the carpet is shown in my earlier mockup:

RetroTread Stair Landing Fitting at Door Jamb using Cardboard Template

RetroTread Stair Landing Fitting at Door Jamb using Cardboard Template

Dry fitting the threshold moulding. If your carpet is very thick, cut back the underlayment so only the carpet goes under the moulding:

Young RetroTread - Dry Fit Stair Landing Tread to Carpet Threshold Moulding

Young RetroTread – Dry Fit Stair Landing Tread to Carpet Threshold Moulding

The carpet is trimmed back with scissors so it’s even with the stair landing tread. Just eyeball it as precision isn’t needed here:

Trim Carpet Edge flush with Top Stair Landing Tread

Trim Carpet Edge flush with Top Stair Landing Tread

The edge of the carpet is stapled to the subfloor with 1/2″ staples spaced every 3 inches, then slide threshold moulding on the RetroTread. The moulding covers the staples and carpet edge:

Staple Carpet Edge to Subfloor then Set Threshold Moulding over Carpet

Staple Carpet Edge to Subfloor then Set Threshold Moulding over Carpet

Fasten the moulding with three 1 1/2″ brad nails to the RetroTread – left, right and center. I plan to replace the upstairs carpet with wood flooring so three nails won’t make it too difficult to remove the moulding. A section of moulding is used as a guide to set the nails:

Young RetroTread Stair Landing - Fasten Threshold Moulding with Brad Nails

Young RetroTread Stair Landing – Fasten Threshold Moulding with Brad Nails

The carpet to wood stair landing looks neat and professional:

Young RetroTread Installation - Stair Landing to Carpet Floor Transition Moulding

Young RetroTread Installation – Stair Landing to Carpet Floor Transition Moulding

RetroTread remodeled stairs:

Carpet Stair Remodel with Young Mfg RetroTreads

Carpet Stair Remodel with Young Mfg RetroTreads

Best,

Bob Jackson

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