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We have a spiral staircase with 14 closed wooden steps. Most steps creak when you put your weight on them (or take it off). The noise intensity depends on where exactly on the step you stand.

How can I silence this staircase?

I would prefer a non-intrusive solution that doesn't require a repaint. Beneath the staircase there is a walk-in cupboard/closet. I wouldn't mind if your solution makes the backside of the stairs look a bit ugly, since it's not in full view anyway.

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2 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The number one reason for creaking floors, staircases and furniture is they are assembled using regular nails. The problem with regular nails is the following.

When you put load onto any board in your assembled staircase the board bends slightly and this causes it to slightly pull the nails at the places where the board is connected to other parts. After this repeats for thousand times the nails remain slightly extended out of the part and so the board is no longer tightly attached.

Now every time you put load the board bends and the walls of the nail holes rub against the nails and this causes the creaking sound. When you remove the load the board restores its original form and the same rub-and-creak process repeats in reverse.

So the bottom line is you have to reassemble the staircase using some fasteners that withstand extreme alternating load. I had great success using wood screws for furniture. One answer to this question mentions that wood screws are brittle and so maybe less reliable and so you could use some advanced nails. Anyway you have to use fasteners with extreme resistance to pulling out.

You likely don't need to dissassemble the staircase completely. In most cases adding new fasteners or replacing old ones one-by-one will be sufficient.

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I actually agree with @sharptooth's answer and I think it's overall a better solution, but thought of this as well (I've never tried it):

What possibly could work is to use some expanding foam, and use it along the bottom of all stairs against all the joints (so all the inside corners under each stair, really). You'd need to use the high-expanding foam which hardens completely (not the door-and-window type stuff that stays somewhat soft and flexible after it's cured). This may firm things up enough to get rid of the creaking, without requiring anything done on the front of the stairs.

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I guess it will be very difficult to force the foam in between parts - seams are very narrow. Also after that is done and if the foam is really hard you are again in the initial situation (as when the staircase was assembled) and bending boards pull the nails out further, so in about several months creaks will inevitably be back. –  sharptooth Nov 17 '10 at 6:55
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