Modern architecture loves to incorporate the aesthetics of reclaimed wood stair treads. Sometimes the stair treads are just flooring over a plywood base, but for the most dramatic effect, a thick wood floating stair tread steals the show!
Wood stair treads can come in a variety of species. The most common ones are douglas fir, walnut and white oak. Each have their own specific attributes that you should know about before you choose a species for your application. For instance, the look of douglas fir is perfect in the modern home, but the softness of that species would not be suitable for a high-traffic commercial application.
When specifying floating treads for your staircase, you will have to consider how you will finish them. One challenge with ordering stair treads for a floating tread is that the supports that hold up the wood stair treads are seldom perfectly parallel, which means that one side of the tread will have to be cut for the tread to fit properly. We rarely sell fully finished treads and recommend ordering them unfinished because they will need to be cut-to-size. You will need to plan on having your contractor cut the tread to fit each space, dry fit them in place, remove them, and finish on site and reinstall. For more information on finishing wood, read our blog.
The thickness and width of your solid wood stair treads will depend on a calculation your contractor will provide. It is a bit complicated but local codes want to ensure that each stair is at a specific height so you won’t have a misstep when going up the stairs. The treads need to be consistent in height. Most people who get thick wood treads specify at least 2.5” thick. This thickness will support a heavy weight load and can also span a large width without support in the middle of the run. Typical widths for grand stair treads are almost always over 12” wide. This gives your foot a good place to land. Some people specify a narrow hardwood with a contrasting color be glued to the front of each tread to help your eye see the steps and prevent tripping. This high visibility strip of hardwood also helps with wear and tear since your foot hits the nose of the tread more than anywhere else.
As I mentioned earlier, there is another option for having a good reclaimed wood look for your stair treads. Most of us don’t have modern stair cases with open tread construction. Instead, we have a typical enclosed stair case. In this instance, it is possible to give your stairs a new life by removing the carpet or old treads and install tongue and groove flooring over the plywood substrate. This is a perfectly acceptable way to achieve the look of a new wood stair case at a fraction of the cost.
Pricing for solid wood stair treads can vary depending on species, width, thickness and finish. Costs range from $50-$100 per square foot. To put this into a real number, on a typical floating stair case made from 2” thick doug fir that is 12” wide and 36” long each tread would be approximately $300 per piece. A typical stair case has 12-18 stairs in it so the total cost for a new floating stair case would be in the range of $3600 to $5400.