Repair Stairs or Replace?

If you have damaged threads, rails, or runners in your stairwell, you will need to repair the stairs or replace them in some cases. There are certain situations where a simple repair is fine and you will find that you will be able to perform many repairs yourself. However, there are some problems with stairs that will require that all or part of the stairway be replaced. This guide will help you determine which problems are best repaired and which ones require the replacement of affected areas or components.

Surface Damage to Treads and Railings

If your stairs only have surface damage to the wood, and there are no large cracks or signs of rot or water damage present, you can usually get away with repairing the damage by filling the small holes, surface cracks, or worn wooden areas with wood putty. You will then need to sand and repaint or re-stain the damaged area to get the finish to match the rest of the wood in your stairs.

When repairing surface damage, it is recommended that you apply a protective coat of polyurethane clear coat over the entire wood surface of your stairs. This will help to prevent further surface damage in the future and also help to prevent rot or water damage in critical areas. If you refinish your wooden stairs, use two or three coats of protectant for the best results.

Partial Replacement Repairs

If your stairs have a few treads that are worn out or have rot or water damage, you may be able to simply replace the affected treads rather than replacing your entire stairway. The same applies if you have a cracked or broken hand railing or balusters. As long as there is no significant damage to many of the treads or more than a few balusters, a partial replacement is advisable and much more affordable than tearing out your stairwell and starting over.

When performing this type of partial replacement repair, you'll want to carefully inspect the runners on the stairs to make sure they have not been damaged. Also, if the top or lower stair treads have been damaged because of rot or water damage, you should consider replacing the newel posts in the affected area as well.

When Total Replacement Is Advisable

If your stairs have significant damage to the runners that have been caused by wood rot, termites, or water damage, you should consider ripping out the entire stairway and replacing it. Although you may be able to save a few pieces of tread lumber, balusters, or even the hand railing, it is advisable that you replace as much of the stairway as possible. If the runners have been damaged, there is a good chance that other wood in the stairwell has been affected as well.

The runners are the most important part when it comes to the strength and stability of your stairway. So, if you have damaged stair runners, trying to repair the runners with wood glue or installing additional supports may not be safe and is not advisable.