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We are planning to replace carpet with wood.

The stairs are trimmed with oak ends, which hold balusters. The top of the oak part is approximately on the same level as the base under the carpet. I understand that the right way is to rip everything off, make steps the full width of the stairs and reinstall balusters into the steps. But that seems to be a lot of work.

Has anyone solved similar task more simply? I wonder how would the stairs look if I only replace the carpet part leaving the oak ends intact.

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    What is under the carpet? Plywood? Can you add a picture including the transition from oak to whatever ?
    – jay613
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 15:45
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    FYI, a banister is the railing or the entire system; a baluster is the individual spindle.
    – isherwood
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 13:35
  • It would be unusual, but not impossible. It might look pretty cool if done right.
    – gnicko
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 1:07
  • It might look pretty good if you replaced the <whatever> under the carpet with a different species of wood. If your joinery skills are good, you could make up a nice, nearly invisible joint between the new wood and the existing, however, the closeup shows that the tread end caps have a bit of a round over on them (as they should) and making a gapless transition between new & old will be difficult and take a lot of skill.
    – FreeMan
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 11:59

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Under the carpet you'll almost certainly find particle board, OSB, or fiberboard rough treads. Those are probably bonded well to the stringers with construction adhesive, so some careful demolition is in order.

Then, flush joints are a problem in finish carpentry. If you were to try and retrofit wood treads, not only will the flat portion pose a challenge, but the nosings are unlikely to match well. Even if they have the same radius, slight vertical misalignment in the machining means the soft corners won't align. You'll be doing sanding and refinishing of finished woodwork to smooth the parts together, which is a royal pain.

After all that, the outcome will be just OK due to the break in the wood grain, stain color variation, and obvious butt joints.

You have two options, as I see it:

  • Remove everything and rebuild. This is as big-n-hairy a job as you imagine. I've done multiple such stair sets, and the number of moving parts is a bit mind-boggling. It's a multi-day job for even an expert carpenter, and a miscalculation in a baluster position or a skirt miter means starting over, with everything having been thoroughly glued together already. If you go this route, select your carpenter very carefully.

  • Just replace the plush carpet with something less conventional, like a good commercial carpet. Use something elegant and classic which complements the rest of your home's design. Think outside the box. Something that at first seems stuffy and pretentious may actually be a real winner. I've seen it done many times. Find a creative carpet salesperson and keep your mind open. Inspiration

    With this approach you may want to extend the rough treads a bit. There's a lot of the inner face of the hardwood caps showing now, and a thinner carpet will exacerbate that, possibly to the point that the back edge shows. You may want to trim off the bullnose and securely mount new longer ones to improve final fitment.

By the way, wooden stairs are notoriously slippery to socked feet. A sleepy resident can easily end up in an unsustainable flight attitude*. That's the primary reason most are carpeted or have runners installed. I've seen wooden staircases in new homes retrofit with runners in short order due to this fact.


* One of the worst moments of my life was when I received a voicemail from my young, pregnant wife while on a jobsite out of town. She had just slipped down the last few steps of a wooden staircase I had built into our home and sounded terrified. Rarely have I felt so helpless and inept as a husband and future father.

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