I'm planning a stair remodel and am seriously considering using stair retreads over existing stairs on a U-shaped staircase. The stairs are open on one side so will be needing returns as well.

I'm considering flooring for the landing, which is just plywood underlayment on joists. I'm assuming the retreads will be some hardwood.

  1. Would a finished plywood be a reasonably durable surface to use for a landing?
  2. Assuming the landing (finished plywood or hardwood flooring) was of the same wood species as the retreads, would there be any reason to expect that staining would not match the retreads? That is assuming my technique was consistent.

Specific to the returns, products I've found vary between butt jointing or tongue and groove to connect. Do T&G joints tend to be a tighter/more lasting joint option?

  • 2
    The main issue I see with this is the different riser heights at the bottom floor and top floor. Seems the step from the bottom floor to the first step will get higher and the step to the top floor from the top step will get smaller. I am not sure what re-treads are or how thick they are but this is an issue for both safety and code.
    – Kyle
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 5:04
  • @Kyle Thanks for the consideration. The retreads I've been finding have ranged from 5/8 - 1". The bottom step is slightly shorter than the others. Original builders didn't seem to factor in lower floor flooring. The upper flooring is currently about a 1/2" higher than the top stop. I should look into local codes. Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


Plywood is a perfectly suitable flooring, though it invariably has a rustic or casual look. The lack of individual board shapes is unconventional, and the veneer is rotary cut, so you get wide and repeating grain. Also, you generally have exposed fasteners which wouldn't be present with plank flooring.

My family owned a lakeside vacation home in which we installed BC pine plywood over a kitchen and sitting room. It worked well considering the mostly pine beadboard wall and ceiling finish. It was fastened with construction adhesive and a framing nailer. Once multiple coats of urethane were applied the recessed nails looked somewhat old-fashioned.

However, it's soft. It showed chair leg dents and other damage fairly readily. You could mitigate this with a furniture grade plywood with a hardwood veneer. Basic hardwood plywood will have thin veneer and softer interior plies, meaning that it would be nearly as susceptible to dents as softwood plywood. You want a fairly thick top layer for durability, as well as interior structure with no voids. Plywood intended for furniture can offer those features.

Regarding stain, all species have variation, and variation between types of products, which could be sourced from entirely different regions, could be more pronounced. You'll have to do some testing and decide what you can tolerate.

Tongue-and-groove joints in plywood rarely result in tight seams. They're only usually present in plywood intended as subfloor, so the milling isn't precise. All standard butt joints must be supported in one way or another. That's not difficult, though. Either splice on a joist or add blocking.

  • 2
    Hardwood plywood in my neck of the woods is north of $100/4x8' sheet (actually, a quick price check puts it a bit below that - color me shocked!), so it's not currently the cheapest option for flooring. For such a small area as a landing, actual hardwood flooring or hardwood veneer flooring might be a more cost effective (or cost equal) option as well as avoiding the drawbacks to plywood.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 15:39
  • Thanks for the well-explained answer! One point I wasn't clear on is the retreads I've seen range 5/8 - 1" and are solid. Those were where the T&G vs. butt jointing, but also interesting to know about the plywood cases and uses for T&G! Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 21:24
  • 2
    I've seen flooring, made from sheets of plywood ripped into "boards" on a table saw, that was pretty nice looking. Just a thought....
    – gnicko
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 0:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.