Installing Laminate Floors on Stairs

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If you have stairs in your home, you may be wondering how to match them with your beautiful laminate floors. We’re here to answer your questions about installing laminate flooring, such as Swiss Krono USA’s Designer Floor Planks, on stairs.

What are the challenges to installing laminate flooring on a staircase?
The depth of most stair treads (the part you actually put your foot on) is 11 inches. Because the width of most laminate-flooring planks is a little over 7 inches, you’ll have to piece two planks together to cover the entire tread surface. To make the process easier, we recommend gluing two planks together the night before (while engaging the locking system, of course), doing enough to cover all the treads of the staircase. That way you’re making one cut per tread — not attempting to match up two separately cut plank pieces precisely.

Is there any other way to avoid piecing laminate planks together on a stair tread?
Yes, some retailers may offer one-piece laminate stair-tread surfaces that combine the stair nose (or “bull nose,” the rounded, leading edge of the tread) with entire tread surface. This makes it simple and less risky to mess up installation.

What about safety considerations regarding laminate-flooring installation on stairs?
Stair accidents can be dangerous. For example, if the stair nose is improperly installed and someone puts weight on it and it gives way … well, you get the picture. Local building codes supersede anything we tell our customers, so always follow them. Also, don’t attempt to install laminate flooring on stairs unless you’re at the upper end of the skill level or you’re a professional installer. Stairs are tricky and not only can be frustrating to install if you’re not properly skilled and equipped.

Any advice on special tools or equipment needed to install laminate flooring on a staircase?
Installing laminate flooring on stairs is definitely one time you won’t use do it as a floating-floor system, so don’t use underlayment.You will need to glue and screw (or nail) the laminate down to the stairs themselves. The glue should be a Liquid Nails® or construction-type glue dispensed from a glue gun. To ensure a stronger grip by the adhesive to the back of the laminate-flooring plank, we recommend scratching the back surface of the plank with either a knife, screwdriver or a PaperTiger® scoring tool normally used to help remove wallpaper.

There’s another benefit to using a fairly liberal amount of construction adhesive when installing the stair nose that may not have occurred to you: In older homes, it’s not uncommon for wooden step treads to be worn down in the middle. The glue will actually level-out that slight dip in the middle of the leading edge of the step for a more stable installation. Don’t use glue alone, though — once glue is in place, we recommend drilling pilot holes and using screws, then using filler to hide the screws. Some people will recommend using a nail gun. Just make sure the nails you use are ribbed for better holding power. You can rent nail guns and chop saws (that’s another nice tool to use that helps you make very precise cuts) in case you don’t have these handy.

Where can someone learn more about installing laminate flooring on stairs?
There are lots of “how to” videos and articles on the web, but be careful. We’ve watched many of them, and they might not be what we’d recommend for Swiss Krono laminate flooring.

1. Installing The Tread Edge Piece

Measure the exposed edge of the tread and cut a piece of laminate to fit. Apply a bead of construction adhesive to the back of the piece, then press it into place and hold it for a few minutes to let it bond.

2. Installing The Top Nosing

Measure and cut the nosing to fit the space. Apply a bead of adhesive to the subfloor, not the nosing. Position the nosing (the tapered end overlaps the flooring) and hold it until the adhesive sets.

3. Marking for Nosing Screws

Starting from the edge of the nosing, measure and mark for one screw every 9 inches. Space holes evenly and center them on the part of the nosing that is glued to the subfloor.

4. Drilling Pilot Holes

Put a wide strip of clear plastic tape over the nosing. With a combination bit, drill countersink holes for 1 1/4-inch No. 6 wood screws. Screw down the nosing. Leave the tape in place until after you’ve hidden the screws with putty (Step 10).

5. Gluing Tread Pieces Together

Measure the stair depth and subtract the nosing depth. If the result is wider than a single plank, rip a second plank to make up the difference. Make the cut on the groove side of the board. Glue the planks together tongue-to-groove.

6. Applying construction adhesive

Lay three beads of adhesive on the tread. Don’t put any on the space that will be covered by the nosing.

7. Positioning the tread assembly

Press the glued tread assembly into place on the tread, with the tongue of the full plank facing out. Wipe off any glue that squeezes onto the top of the plank with a damp rag.

8. Covering the Riser

Measure the height and width of the riser space. Cut a plank to fit, cutting off the tongue in the process. Apply adhesive to the back of the cut plank. Angle the plank into place, fitting the cut side under the tread overhang of the step above. Press the riser into place.

9. Completing The Stairs

Cut a tread edge piece and fit it onto the exposed tread edge, as in Step 1. Press it in place for a few minutes to let the adhesive bond. Repeat Steps 1 to 9 until all the stairs are done.

10. Filling The Screw Holes

Prepare the putty according to the manufacturer’s directions. A scrap of plank makes a smooth mixing surface. With a plastic putty knife, smoothly fill the screw holes in each nosing. Then carefully remove the tape. After about 20 minutes, even out the putty with a cloth dampened with water or acetone. Putty is usually impossible to remove once it’s dry, so work carefully and clean up right away.

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