In the below picture you can see the 4 steps that take the visitor from the entrance door to the main floor.

The floor guy will install 3/8" subfloor over the existing diagonal boards that are sitting on top of the main floor joists

The engineered hardwood is 3/4" The existing hardwood floor is 3/8"
The steps are 1" solid maple

All the above will raise the main floor floor with 3/4" which will bring the top step 3/4" higher than the ones below it. In order to fix this I could probably install hardwood on all the steps in the picture but then that moves the problem to the bottom step which is just above a tiled area at the entrance

What can be done here to set the risers at proper height?

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The stairs are made of 1" solid red oak.

  • Is the existing hardwood damaged beyond repair or you just don't want to sand and refinish? What is the local regulations concerning the range of different step heights? How are the steps made? With wood stringers or cement or steel.
    – crip659
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 12:20
  • solid wood read oak. Existing floor is 60Y old 3/8" installed on these planks and it is horrible. It needs to go leaving that there is out of question. Here is the Ontario Building code buildingcode.online/420.html
    – MiniMe
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 12:26
  • 2
    Surprising that 60 year old red oak flooring is only 3/8" thick. Usually it is 3/4" T&G.... perhaps it is and only able to see the top of the wood floor above the tongue and groove? The stuff is surprisingly refinish able. I have seen floors with glued down with asphalt based glue sanded down and finished beautifully. Some that have had other material nailed severely over it, cleaned up and refinished turned out really nice too.
    – Jack
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


The important thing to get right when building steps is to get all the risers exactly the same height. A 3/4" difference between adjacent risers is sure to cause stumbling and tripping. OTOH an increase of 3/16" in each riser is probably not noticeable.

You could add hardwood on the treads, but not the same thickness on all treads. You could shim the treads on the stringers. You could replace the stringers.

In any case, if you add 9/16" to the upper step, 3/8" to the middle, and 3/16" to the lower step, the risers will all be 3/16" higher than they are now, and will all be the same height.

  • installing 3/8" plywood on the main floor and then 3/4" engineered wood will raise that with 3/4" Installing hardwood floor on the steps will raise them 3/4" as well so they will all float upward with 3/4 and they will be in sync. The issue here is that ALL the raisers are now 3/4" higher than the max allowed height which is 8". That means that all the stringers need to be trimmed down 3/4"
    – MiniMe
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 22:23
  • 1
    Pretty sure this is not correct. Adding 3/4" to the top floor and to all treads will make them all the same rise as they were before except for the bottom step which will be 3/4" higher than before because the tile is not being raised.
    – Kyle
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 22:28

To be Ontario code compliant, your only options are to either rebuild the stairs or re-do the tile floor and raise it to make all your risers equal.

Re-building the stairs seems the logical choice so the finish floor to finish floor riser height can be calculated correctly regardless of what your stair treads are made of.

  • cutting a strip from the horizontals of the stringers is also an option isn't it?
    – MiniMe
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 20:18
  • @MiniMe: Trimming the risers can only lower the treads, but they need to be raised. - But the risers could be raised by nailing strips of hardwood to the bottom. Then trimming becomes feasible. Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 21:55
  • see my comment to your reply for the reasons why I need to trim down the risers
    – MiniMe
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 22:24
  • Like I said before in my answer- rebuild the stairs. Whether you can re-use existing stringers and treads is your decision. From the new finish top floor to the existing tile bottom floor you are adding 3/4" to the overall rise. I do not believe you will be able to modify the existing stringers to accommodate this. You are maxed out code-wise on your riser height already. To be code compliant you need to add one more tread and riser to your setup.
    – Kyle
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 22:34
  • I would suggest contacting your local building authority and see what they suggest, in the end they will either approve it or make you do it over. This can save you a lot of grief in the long run.
    – Gil
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 19:36

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