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Stair Repair

Question

One stair in my basement stairs is shorter than the rest by about 1/4". I'm thinking of two solutions, but wanted to see what you say first:

  1. I can put in a landing at the faulty stair, but I think this may create more problems with stair rise, etc.
  2. Pad all the stairs with, say, 7/16" plywood except the short stair which I would only pad with 3/16". I think this sounds right but have a bad feeling it won't work.

What do you think?

Answer

Interesting that you picked up on a 1/4" flaw in height between two stair risers. Actually, the National Building Code allows a tolerance of 1/4" in height between landings in a staircase. I was told by a building inspector once to add a step because I was 1/8" over the maximum stair rise on a two step set of stairs from a garage to a basement. I didn't! Another inspector gave me the final approval without even mentioning the steps.

If you are really unhappy with that riser, try to correct the riser itself. If there is carpet on the stairs, peel off the carpet over that tread and either plane it off 1/8" to 1/4" or remove the tread and cut down the riser a bit on the stair stringer itself.

When you start adding 7/16" to the other treads and 3/16" to the high tread this does create problems. Unless you add 7/16" to the bottom floor and the top floor as well, it will throw your bottom and top risers out. You have to look at the whole picture.

Your landing solution is okay, but it will not change the risers. A stair landing is just a long tread in a set of stairs. The rise is or should be the same between a landing and each adjacent step. However, to change the staircase by adding the landing is a lot of work. I would just fix the stair riser itself on the stringer.

This situation is where I can stress the importance of using stair gauges when laying out a stair stringer to ensure that every rise and run is exactly the same.

Whenever you contemplate changing the height of stair risers, don't forget the top and bottom floors.

Note: After this answer was e-mailed to the questioner, he discovered that the difference in the height of each step varied by as much as 2". Dave's response to this new information was that it was probably best to tear out the old stairs and build new ones.

Dave

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