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:
- How to Remodel Carpeted Stairs with Wood RetroTreads
RetroTread remodeling overview, installation options, staining and finishing.
- Carpet to Wood Stairs Remodel – Saw off Old Stair Nosing
Remove the carpet, saw off the old stair noses and sanding the stairs.
- 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.
- RetroTread Stair Remodel – Landing Tread to Carpet Floor Transition
Fitting the final tread under the upstairs door jambs and carpet floor transition moulding.
- 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:
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:
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.
The steps for installing a riser are:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spread the caulk evenly with the plastic spreader.
- The Young Mfg. installation video calls for 80% surface coverage.
- [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.
- 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.
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!
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.
- Next apply a line of adhesive along the inside of the 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:
Stair Landing to Carpet Floor Threshold Moulding Transition
A nice looking transition is needed from the new wood stairs to the 2nd floor carpet:
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:
The RetroTread is 5/8″ thick. The threshold floor moulding will hang 5/16″ above the plywood subfloor:
This results in a 5/16″ gap between the moulding and subfloor to tuck the carpet under the moulding:
The gap under the moulding for the carpet is shown in my earlier mockup:
Dry fitting the threshold moulding. If your carpet is very thick, cut back the underlayment so only the carpet goes under the 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:
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:
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:
The carpet to wood stair landing looks neat and professional:
RetroTread remodeled stairs:
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