Installing laminate flooring on stairs requires more attention be paid to details. Every piece of the stair needs to be cut precisely to achieve the best looking flight of stairs. The stairs consist of three basic parts. The tread ( where you step ), the riser ( the vertical rise ) and the stair nose which is the edging on the front of each stair.
When installing laminate on stairs in most cases the stair nose over laps the laminate and this makes the stair nose raised up about 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch. Consider who lives in the home such as small children or elderly folks. This may be a potential tripping hazard.
The process for installing laminate flooring on stairs consists of four basic steps (no pun intended).
1. Preparing the stairs
2. Cutting the over hang off or building the stair out
3. Cutting the individual parts
4. Gluing and nailing the treads, risers and stair noses on
Preparing the stairs
Most likely there will be carpet on the stairs that will need to be removed. The best way to do this is with a pair of pliers. Just grab the carpet with the pliers at the top of the stairs and pull work from the top down until all is removed. Ware gloves when doing this, the staples and tack strip are very sharp.
Next pull the padding off the stairs, most often its stapled down also. Remove any tack strip with a pry bar and a hammer.
Next remove any staples, pulling each one out can be time consuming. A 4 inch scraper (not a putty knife) with a dull blade works good for this. Pound down any nails sticking up. If there are any squeaks in your stairs now is a good time to put some screws in to tighten them up, three inch drywall screws work good for this.
Use the scraper to scrap any paint over spray or clumps of drywall mud off each stair. This will enable the glue to bond to the stairs.
Cutting the over hang off or building the stair out
Some stairs may have an over hang that may need to be cut off. Or you can fill the space underneath with wood, so the top of the stair is a square edge. To cut the over hang off you will need to measure under each end and transfer this measurement to the top on each side. Draw a line across the top of the stair and cut with a circular saw or a saw zaw. You will not be able to always cut all the way to the ends. In this case it can be broke off and chisel any excess wood.
Cutting the individual parts
I found the easiest method to install laminate flooring on stairs is to cut all the parts first and then glue and nail them after wards.
Start by cutting the first riser at the bottom. First cut the width to fit in the opening. The adjoining walls on either side may not be square, so you may need to cut them at a slight angle to avoid gaps.
After you get the riser cut to the correct width you will need to cut the top of the riser to be flush with the tread. Set the riser in place and scribe a line from behind to follow the tread. This can be cut on a table saw. After you cut this set the riser in place and check that it is flush with the tread.
The stair nose will rest on the riser and the tread. Cutting the riser flush will ensure that the stair nose sets level when installed.
As you proceed up the staircase, you will need to cut a riser and then a tread as the risers will need to rest on the treads in order to cut the risers flush with the top of the stair. The installed riser is going to rest on the tread below.
Cutting the treads are pretty much the same as cutting the risers, as far as cutting the sides to make a tight fit. The laminate will be glued so you do not need any expansion gap. You will need to cut the front of the laminate tread so the stair nose over hangs the riser and also over laps the laminate tread. Use a small piece of stair nose as a guide to know where to cut your treads. As you cut each riser and tread number each one for the corresponding stair.
After you have all the risers and treads cut you can either cut the stair noses at this point or install the risers and treads first then cut the stair noses. I prefer to cut the stair noses after I install the treads and risers.
Cutting the stair nose is just a matter of cutting the ends to the correct angle if any.
Gluing and nailing the treads, risers and stair noses on
Use construction adhesive to glue the risers and stair nose on. You can also use it to glue the treads on but I prefer to use a wood adhesive to cover the whole tread. Start at the bottom and apply the construction adhesive to the back of the #1 riser. Next set in place and with a nail gun nail it at the very top 3 across ( I use 15 gauge 2 inch nails). The stair nose will cover these nails at the top. Put 3 more nails across about 3/4 of the way down. These nail holes will be filled in with a matching putty or caulking. Always double check your stair noses to make sure they sit level ( front to back).
Apply the glue or construction adhesive to the next tread up, stop the glue about 2 inches from the front of the stair. This is where the stair nose will be attached. Set the tread into the glue and check the front edge with the small piece of stair nose to make sure it over hangs the riser and covers the edge of the tread. If satisfied nail in the very front where the stair nose will over lap the nails about 4 across ( I use 18 gauge 2 inch nails here). Also nail along the back as close to the riser as possible. The next riser will be installed on top of the riser covering these nails.
With the stair nose cut to the proper size, apply construction adhesive along the 2 inch space on the edge of the stair and the top of the installed riser. Be generous with this glue, you want the stair nose to be glued very good here. Set the stair nose in place and shoot four 2 inch nails in the center of the stair nose. One on each end about 2 inches in and 2 evenly spaced between the ends. Fill any nail holes with putty or caulking.
Continue up the stair case , after you have all the stairs glued and nailed try not to use the stairs any more then you need to. The glue will be set up good in about 24 hours.
Take your time and you will have a beautiful looking stair case.