Stair treads again

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What type of sander and what grit of paper to prep some 1 inch oak stair treads before staining them?
Customer want's a fairly "natural" look, but clear just doesn't look natural enough. They decided on a Varathane pecan color.
I'm thinking of staining the treads, then putting on three coats of finish on the treads before I install them, then putty up the nail holes, and add a 4th coat. I'm going to use Varathane's water based floor finish. I tried some, and like it better than Benjamin Moore's Stays Clear. Customer won't put up with the stink of an oil based clear coat.

The risers will be oak plywood.......... not the best choice, but that's what I have to work with.
To make the plywood easier to transport, I had a sheet cut in half. Wow, even with a decent blade, the thin veneer wants to chip out. I'm thinking that staining the plywood and adding a couple coats of finish before cutting it will stabilize or strengthen the veneer and keep that from happening when I cut the risers to their finished size. On the lower part of the riser piece that rests on the tread, I might do a cleanup cut with my router in case the wood still wants to chip a little bit.

Anyhow, I figured it would be silly to install the treads, then finish sand them in place. The most I would want to do after installing them is one final coat.
Maybe it's best to do all 4 coats before hand and just eliminate any final coat after they are installed. I've never installed 1 inch oak treads before, so I want to do it right.

Back to my initial inquiry on grit and sander type. I've read that you shouldn't use to fine a paper or the finish won't bond as well. What grit and what type of sander should I use. I was told by a wood flooring contractor to use a belt sander.
The treads look pretty nice as is, but I feel they will probably need a light sanding before staining and finishing.

Also, I was thinking of using small headed casing screws instead of finish nails on the treads............ your thoughts on that?
 
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If you are going to sand them before installing i would rent a rotary and use a 60 , 80 , and then a 80 screen . Be careful with the belt sander you can put waves in the wood .
 
If you are going to sand them before installing i would rent a rotary and use a 60 , 80 , and then a 80 screen . Be careful with the belt sander you can put waves in the wood .
What's a "rotary" Do you mean a random obital?

Looking at a few treads today, they seem to be in good condition, so I'm not sure they really need very much sanding. I initially figured that treads come planed and would probably need some minor surface sanding.
I think they do need a little attention, but mainly to remove any stacking and handling dents and scrapes. I just didn't want to use a grit that's too coarse, or too fine. The stain color will be relatively light. I think it's called Summer Oak, from Varathane. I know with dark stains, swirl marks from sanding can cause a headache.
 
Swirl Marks really show with a light colored wood , especially under a gloss finish.

A rotary is a Buffer that they use to wax floors .

Just use a 80 grit paper followed by a 80 screen .
 
I have a 13 inch Clark...................... but that seems kind of wide for an 11 inch tread.
The finish will be Varathane waterborne floor finish in satin. I am guessing a minimum of 3 coats.
How much scuffing between coats? ..............150 to 180?
 
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You mean a 12" drum?

Use the worn screen after the base coat only .

Lambs wool pulled in one direction . you can get it at HD.
 
You mean a 12" drum?

Use the worn screen after the base coat only .

Lambs wool pulled in one direction . you can get it at HD.

Nope, a lil old 13 inch buffer. I really don't use it for anything but sanding filler. I used it once for scuffing some new VCT before applying a few coats of wax. It's a rarely used tool and being my birthday at the time, the price was right. ;)
 
Oooooops i didn't notice you were pulling water base finish. Use a acrylic applicator .

The Buffer will work fine . Be nice if you had a hard plate .

Give you a call tomorrow .
 
I just did a set of Red Oak Stair treads. I used 3/4" as the subtreads (had carpet on them before) were 3/4" ply. I bought them un-finished and prefinished before installing. Just did a light sanding by hand to clean them with 150/180. I used Last N Last oil based semi gloss poly...3 coats...used 180 between coats to just dull them. The poly built up really well and the finish is like glass. I attached with PL adhesive and 15 ga finish nails....if I had to do it again I would use trim head screws as a few of the treads have little squeaks....I am going to add the screws to silence them completely. I also did the risers with cabinet grade Red Oak plywood and they came out really well....I was afraid that they would look like plywood but they do look like the solid treads. I ripped the treads on a table saw (no chips or tearout)and cut to final length with a sliding compound miter saw. I did cut a 45 degree angle on the backside of the riser ends to help get a nice tight fit.
Are you installing a carpet runner on the stairs?
 
Customer can't stand the stink of oil poly. Bedroom door is 5 feet from the stairwell.
What grit to use is a new issue for me. I know how it behaves in a softer wood, but working with oak and having a durability concern on a stairway is a learning experience for me. It's different than if it was just ornamental, as in a picture frame.
I'm still pondering the trim head screw idea. Finding a perfectly colored filler putty would make the slightly larger holes of the screws more acceptable.

I appreciate the input, JIMMIEM
 
Customer can't stand the stink of oil poly. Bedroom door is 5 feet from the stairwell.
What grit to use is a new issue for me. I know how it behaves in a softer wood, but working with oak and having a durability concern on a stairway is a learning experience for me. It's different than if it was just ornamental, as in a picture frame.
I'm still pondering the trim head screw idea. Finding a perfectly colored filler putty would make the slightly larger holes of the screws more acceptable.

I appreciate the input, JIMMIEM
Although I prefinished all treads and risers before installing, I was concerned about the oil poly smell when I put a dab of poly over the nail holes filler....the small amount of poly dried fairly quickly and I really didn't smell it. Can you experiment with a few drops of poly and see if your customer can smell this small amount?
I also wrestled with the filler color match as there are several different shades of Red Oak. LL had a few different shades of Red Oak putty....I bought a few different shades and got some very good matches. Oh, I'm not a LL fan but their putty is name brand. You mentioned that your treads were fairly smooth and I'm assuming no overwood between staves. I would go for a light sanding...a little tooth will make for a good poly bite. Follow manufacturers directions for sanding between coats of poly. I cleaned the plywood sub-treads really well, applied the construction adhesive per the manufacturer's directions, put 6 #15 ga finish nails into each tread and still have squeaks in 2 or 3 treads...nothing that would wake you up but you can sometimes hear them when you step on them. Some don't bother with the nails. As I mentioned I'm going to add some trim head screws. Try finish nails or nothing and if you get some squeaks you can always add the screws. I'm guessing that you are using 1" treads that will be attached directly to the stringers.....but if there are subtreads make note of the nails in them so that you don't hit them with the nails or screws used to attach the oak treads.
 
These are going right on the stringers. I assume two nails per stringer and none going into the riser piece.
"You mentioned that your treads were fairly smooth and I'm assuming no overwood between staves."
......oh dear, now you're getting all technical with me. :O
Staves are the individual boards that make up the tread I assume.
I did notice that on the back side on a couple of the treads.......... I dot know if there is a "back side", but I noticed a couple treads had a bad back edge but only on one face.
 
These are going right on the stringers. I assume two nails per stringer and none going into the riser piece.
"You mentioned that your treads were fairly smooth and I'm assuming no overwood between staves."
......oh dear, now you're getting all technical with me. :O
Staves are the individual boards that make up the tread I assume.
I did notice that on the back side on a couple of the treads.......... I dot know if there is a "back side", but I noticed a couple treads had a bad back edge but only on one face.
Yes, that is what staves are. Depending on how they mill them one face may look better than the other but you would want both surfaces as flat as possible. 100 grit should be enough before applying the poly. 2 nails or screws per stringer. From what you have said the house is being lived in so I assume that you are removing the existing stair treads in order to attach directly to the stringers. I'm sure you know this but, just in case, keep the local stair code in mind if you're changing the stair riser height in relationship to the second floor landing. If I'm sticking my nose in too much just let me know.
 
We alway use a 6" random orbit. 100 grit is usually plenty good with a light stain. Sand in between coats with 220 grit. Or a fine sanding sponge. I always do all coats before installing. I use liquid nails, or actually the poly glue now (can't remember the name of it) usually 2 large tubes does treads & risers. Then 2 1/2" 15 gauge nails. 3 per stringer always works good for me! Good luck. Hope all goes well. FYI u can always use a clear nail polish if u are worried about the sheen on the color putty


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Yes, that is what staves are. Depending on how they mill them one face may look better than the other but you would want both surfaces as flat as possible. 100 grit should be enough before applying the poly. 2 nails or screws per stringer. From what you have said the house is being lived in so I assume that you are removing the existing stair treads in order to attach directly to the stringers. I'm sure you know this but, just in case, keep the local stair code in mind if you're changing the stair riser height in relationship to the second floor landing. If I'm sticking my nose in too much just let me know.

The more info the better. These stringers were new construction as a new second story was added to the house two years ago. I am removing temporary 2X6 treads. The stringers were intentionally cut for one inch thick stair treads.
Stair code is 8 inches max, and they will be exactly 8 inches. Stair code says + or - 3/8" variability on step height and also on tread depth. Whoever cut the stringers measured it all correctly, but as the stringers dried out, they need help. This sketch is typical showing the shrinkage.
So my next question is how perfect do the stringers need to be.
The treads will be very close, if not exactly level if the risers are cut exactly 7 inches. Many of the stringers tho, will end up looking like the sketch. I'm sure this scenario is common because of stringers shrinking as they dry out.

Question here is, if the front most portion of the stringer has a gap of 1/8 inch or less, do I need to cut tapered shims to fill the entire void, or will the adhesive fill a portion of the gap? The front most part of the tread will of course, be fully supported by the riser.

I have an issue and am not able to add my sketch.. Anyone know why I can't see a "manage attachments" when I type a reply?
I also cannot add any "smiles" None of the options function for me. Font, color, smiles, manage attachments............. none of them function.
 
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The more info the better. These stringers were new construction as a new second story was added to the house two years ago. I am removing temporary 2X6 treads. The stringers were intentionally cut for one inch thick stair treads.
Stair code is 8 inches max, and they will be exactly 8 inches. Stair code says + or - 3/8" variability on step height and also on tread depth. Whoever cut the stringers measured it all correctly, but as the stringers dried out, they need help. This sketch is typical showing the shrinkage.
So my next question is how perfect do the stringers need to be.
The treads will be very close, if not exactly level if the risers are cut exactly 7 inches. Many of the stringers tho, will end up looking like the sketch. I'm sure this scenario is common because of stringers shrinking as they dry out.

Question here is, if the front most portion of the stringer has a gap of 1/8 inch or less, do I need to cut tapered shims to fill the entire void, or will the adhesive fill a portion of the gap? The front most part of the tread will of course, be fully supported by the riser.

I have an issue and am not able to add my sketch.. Anyone know why I can't see a "manage attachments" when I type a reply?
I also cannot add any "smiles" None of the options function for me. Font, color, smiles, manage attachments............. none of them function.

When you say that all stringers were cut correctly...is this based on your measurements of all of them? If the stringer cutter used any of the 3/8" variance you may have to tweak a tread or riser width. How far back on the riser does the 1/8" gap run? You mention that the treads aren't 100% level...this may mean that you have to adjust a riser......or shim a stringer.
Unless you have all stringer measurements before you start I would not pre-cut risers or treads to final dimension.
 
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When you say that all stringers were cut correctly...is this based on your measurements of all of them? If the stringer cutter used any of the 3/8" variance you may have to tweak a tread or riser width. How far back on the riser does the 1/8" gap run? You mention that the treads aren't 100% level...this may mean that you have to adjust a riser......or shim a stringer.
Unless you have all stringer measurements before you start I would not pre-cut risers or treads to final dimension.
OK, here's the sketch I drew up of the gaps from shrinkage. I did a set of 19, 48 inch wide stairs a few years ago with one piece rubber stair treads. Those were new construction also. They had the exact same problem. They weren't cut this way. The stringers shrunk where the cuts were made.
The red arrows show where the stringers are OK. The black arrows show the taper from shrinkage.
I suppose they should have used dry boards to avoid having this happen.

I have checked and done minor corrections to the first 6 steps. I have checked to see if material needs to be removed from, or added to the riser or tread parts.
I will continue checking them all the way up before beginning the installation. A quick check showed the upper stairs tell me they will be dead on. Before beginning anything structurally, I pulled a level line off the top of the stairs, and doing the math, I came up with exactly 8 inches per step.
I made up 3 steps and risers in 3/4 inch plywood to assist in measuring the steps for level and consistency as I do my fixing.
I have the lower three treads cut and fit. (not installed) Using my temporary plywood risers recut to 7 inches, these first three "real" treads, all come out at exactly 8 inches.
I plan to get all the real treads cut and fit to the skirt boards using the temporary plywood risers to check for accuracy. As I begin to nail the real treads in, I will make any minor adjustments to each riser as I do the installation. When nailing a tread home, I can make those final adjustments to the risers. I'm sure they might need a 32nd here and there, but they will certainly need less then 1/8 of an inch of corrections. They have to maintain 8 inches to end up correctly at the top............ which is carpeted.

Stair stringer profile showing shrinkage.JPG
 
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Looks like you've got it all under control. Will you post some pics when you're done?
 

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