December 17, 2013

Basement Stairs Makeover with Retread

basement stairs makeoverTada! The basement stairs are finally done. I took ugly carpeted stairs to this in just a few days. Want to know how?


The before looked a lot like these carpeted steps over at Bluet & Clover. Unfortunately I did not get a great shot of our before. So you’ll have to trust me they were hideous.

I ripped up all the dirty carpet and padding. Eww. Using a pair of pliers I pulled out all the staples and nails. I was hoping to find wood steps that I could repair and paint but nope. We had particle board steps with serious surface damage so that idea wasn’t going to work.


basement stairs makeoverI was looking for a way to reface the steps without completely ripping them out. I found a product at Lowes called RetroTread that was in stock. Basically it’s a thin stair tread with an attached trim on the front, so you can place right on top of your current steps. Genius! The price has since gone up but I was able to get the treads for about $24 a piece. There are matching risers you can buy but I was intending to paint not stain the riser so I wanted to go cheaper. So for the risers I had them cut up a 4×8 foot oak plywood sheet. Each riser cost me about $4 vs $14 for the pre-primed cut risers. Depending on your stairs, you may have to cut off the over hang called the nose of the steps flush to the risers as you can see we had to do. Not fun and messy. Our particle board treads were notched into the walls so I had to patch them with wood filler.

Next was staining the new treads to match the floors in the basement. I ended up using 1-Qt. of Minwax Oil-Based Early American Wood Finish Interior Stain and seal them with 2 coats of Minwax Satin Fast-Drying Polyurethane Aerosol Spray.  I used Behr Premium Plus Hi-Gloss matched to Benjamin Moore’s  Simply White to paint the risers. After the treads were dry, I ripped them down to sized using a table saw with fresh blade to cut the tread to the depth I needed leaving a 1/4″ for expansion. To cut both the tread and risers down in length I had to rent sliding compound miter saw from Home Depot. It was about $30 for half a day. Make sure they have fresh blade on there because I had to come back for them to replace the one that was on there. Before you rent the saw. you want to measure and mark all the treads and risers with a pencil. I used a Stairtek Sturdy Plastic Tread Template to ensure a perfect fit.

Numbered Stair Risers

Numbered Stair Risers

Now comes the fun part –  painting the numbering the risers. For the numbers, I used a black Sharpie oil paint marker. The font is Eloquent Pro. I love the curves and the play between thick and thin. I printed the numbers out exactly how I wanted, making sure it was centered horizontally on the paper and exactly 2″ down from the top edge. By doing this, I just needed to mark the center of each riser the I could fold the paper in half lengthwise and match it up the the center marks to the ones I made on the risers. This would ensure the my painted numbers would be consistently positioned both vertically and horizontally all the way up. I chose to paint the numbers on before I put the stairs up but you can do afterwards as well. I used Saral wax free transfer paper to trace the numbers onto the risers and filled it in with the black oil paint marker. I dry fitted all the treads and risers next to ensure I wouldn’t run into a headache later on. To install the steps I used Liquid Nails and my finish-nailer to keep the pieces in place while the adhesive dried. The instructions called for a polyurethane adhesive.

Stairs with RetroTread

Just Over Halfway Done

Starting with a riser and alternating riser, tread, riser, tread – all the way up. It goes down pretty fast at that point. =)

basement stairs makeoverHere’s our 4 year old on the steps with our boston terrier, Apple. The kids love to count the steps as they go up now. This was not the easiest diy project, but it was one of my favorites. Well worth the time and money spent. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’ll try my best to answer them. =)

  1. Rebecca

    July 11th, 2014 at 11:11 am

    How did you cut the particle board bullnose before putting the RetroTreads on?

  2. Amy Ehmann

    July 15th, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    The bullnose was cut off with a jigsaw, but this step is not always needed. In our case the new tread would have jutted out past the trim on the wall. But if there was an allowance I would have left the bullnose to same a lot of time and mess. =)

  3. Rob

    October 3rd, 2014 at 6:56 am

    I have exact same scenario at my house, and I have been wanting to do this for a while now. I am concerned about keeping the stairs within code. Was there a difference in riser height between the floor and the first step and the last riser and the floor at the top of the stairs as compared to the riser height of the other stairs? If so how did you account for that to keep it within code?

  4. Amy Ehmann

    October 3rd, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Hi Rob. RetroTread is only .625 inches thick. Aside from the very top and bottom steps, there’s no change in the riser height. You’ll gain .625 in riser height for the bottom step and lose the same from the top landing step. So unless you’re already riding the line of allowable code height, it shouldn’t be a problem. How that helps!

  5. Jessica

    June 15th, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    I love this so much! I am starting my own redo very soon as I pulled up my carpet today. I am wondering what you did about the landing at the top. I have two landings in the middle where my stairs turn and haven’t figured out how to use the retro treads to cover those areas.


  6. Amy Ehmann

    June 18th, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Hi Jessica! If you’re staining the landing I would just buy oak planks or even oak plywood and cut it down to your desired width. Hope that helps.

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