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I'm doing a DIY project converting my carpeted stairs to stained 1" think red oak treads and painted poplar risers. My issue is at the top of the stairs where I'm placing a narrow stair tread, this stair tread then transitions to carpet. This top stair tread sits on top of the plywood sub-floor (existing carpet has been cut back) that the existing carpet is installed on. To make sure that this top stair tread is level I'm going to have to place shims under it, the plywood sub-flooring is not level. I'm concerned that this is going to create a trip hazard due to the height difference between the carpet and stair tread. New carpet will be installed, so some sort of transition piece can be used if possible. I believe here are my options to correct this:

1) cut the sub-flooring in that small area and replace it so the transition between the carpet and stair tread is level and acceptable.

2) bevel cut the back edge of the stair tread to minimize the height difference

3) use some sort of transition piece between the stair tread to carpet when new carpet is installed. shimmed stair tread stair tread to carpet

What is typically done in this situation? Any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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    I would avoid using a "narrow stair tread" here. I gather that you are stopping it in line with the wall trim next to the stairs, but from a practical "not falling down the stairs" point of view, having at least a full width tread (or more) at the top eases the transition onto and off of the stairs. Anything that adds extra foot complications in that spot is a hazard, in my opinion. – Ecnerwal May 18 at 11:50
  • Thanks for the suggestion, what is typically done with the carpet if there is no top tread? Would I just create a bullnose at the sub-floor and have the carpet installers wrap the carpet over it. – Ken May 18 at 12:04
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    I think that is a common approach with carpet, but I would personally just take more space out of the carpeted area for a full width wood tread or small "landing" as I think that is better footing than carpet. – Ecnerwal May 18 at 12:11
  • If I used a full width wood tread I'd still have to deal with shimming and leveling it, and the height difference. Also, I'm not sure I like how it would look going past the door jamb trim. – Ken May 18 at 12:42
  • What treatment did the top tread have when the whole thing was carpeted? Was there a bull nose there? I'd duplicate that. Use a thinner top tread (out of rough lumber, since it will be hidden) to match the final finished carpet height. The carpet layers should be able to wrap the carpet & pad around the bull nose & attach it to the underside. – FreeMan May 18 at 12:43
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If you happen to have a double-layer subfloor, remove the top layer and build back up under the tread using material of appropriate thickness.

Otherwise I would make the top tread thinner where it laps over the subfloor. You can do this a couple ways. Either use a hand planer and take multiple passes, or use a tablesaw or circular saw, shifting the fence 1/8" with each pass. Be sure to stop short of where the tread drops down to the riser.

Either approach has the added benefit of bringing the top rise back to standard. I would still use a small bevel against the carpet to make it easier on feet.

Note that the second option will weaken the tread. The nosing needs to be supported well to prevent cracking. Use shims and construction adhesive to create a solid bedding.

Regarding Ecnerwal's good suggestion of a full-depth tread extending past the door casing... Those are two different trim assemblies and shouldn't be expected to align. You could nip the corner off the tread at a 45 to meet the casing, though, or simply bevel both the edge and the end slightly and not worry about it. If you're able to get the tread low enough you may be able to leave it as you have it now, too.

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    I like the idea of cutting a 45 corner if I decide to use a full tread depth. I also like your idea of making the tread a little thinner. I have a dado blade for my table saw, I'll use it so I don't have to make a lot of passes. I plan on shimming and using PL construction adhesive, its what I'm using to put all my treads down. I'm pretty sure I'll put a small bevel on the tread as well. Thanks. – Ken May 18 at 17:25
  • You're welcome. Please take the tour so you know what to do next. – isherwood May 18 at 18:07
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In all the stairs that I finished, which are a good number of them, I have never used a full tread at the top of set of stairs (sorry Ecnerwal...) where a landing nosing has always been used in the past by thousands of other carpenters over the centuries. In the past the landing nose was only 3 1/2" wide, but nowadays they are available 5 1/2" or 5 1/4" depending where you get them. What you have looks to be a little wider than that, but it is easy to be off, going by a picture.

What I would do since you have a few different issues here, is a hybrid of all that has been mentioned in comments and answers to a degree. Tempered by what the landing nosing needs to do to meet code (no more than 3/8" difference in height compared to the other tread heights, this is a paraphrase) and what it needs for comfort and strength.

What I find as that 1/2" is a good height above a floor where carpet is meeting it. Easing the corner a little, no more than a 1/4" radius, I prefer about 1/8" myself. When stepped on the compression of the carpet and the nose "feels" well under foot with bare feet even.

What you will need is the nosing to be 3/4" thick, and the subfloor to be thick enough to support the nosing with the weight of a person standing on it. Here is the hybrid. If the nosing is 5 1/2" wide with a thinned portion 4 1/4" wide and the full thick part 1 1/4", taper the 3/4" thick part to 1/2" at the edge with a tablesaw set at a slight angle.

enter image description here

Set the nosing in place and mark the subfloor, remove the nails temporarily, and taper the subfloor to match the slope of the nosing. This way the subfloor is as thick as it can be in places where it needs to be and the nosing is also thick where it needs to be too.

As a mention, most tablesaws only cut a depth of 3 1/4", so there may be some hand planing needing to be done to finish, or, make the compensating cut in the subfloor to get past that little area, which may not be needed since the new riser may go up in that area.

Glue it all down with a good polyurethane construction adhesive and it can be pinned with finish nails to hold it. After the glue sets, it will stay as long as the house stands.

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instead of cutting the edge of the stairs, you should rather go with removing a slight portion of sub floor and add a transition strip like t-molding which will help in smooth transition with no uneven heights. Use strong constructive adhesive glue between transition strip connection base and the floor surface and match the color of the transition strip between carpet and stairs and place it on the connnective base firmly it will definately gives a professional look with smooth transition.

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