Hardwood steps warping??

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Forum topic by remodelinghouse posted 04-07-2011 09:35 PM 5455 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5 posts in 2569 days

04-07-2011 09:35 PM

I am in the process of installing hardwood steps in my house. I did the first three and thought they looked pretty good. The temp outside was 80, so i turned the furnace off. Unfortunately, I went out of town without turning it back on. As a result, I came home to this today (please see attached picture):

I did not face nail the front of the steps as I was hoping the liquid nails glue and nails under the risers would be enough. (I see that is a big mistake now). I have turned the heat back on, do you think the steps will level back out?

Is there any way to fix this?

If they do flatten back down, I will face nail the front of them. How many nails do you all recommend?

Will face nailing them prevent this from happening in the future? I did a lot of research online and didn’t find anything saying I needed to lay a vapor barrier or anything under the hardwood before putting them on the existing pine ones. Do I need to do this??

I have access to the bottom of the steps (split level house). Can i pull this wood back down by screwing them down from under the steps?

Any advice and insight would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks in advance.

18 replies so far

View remodelinghouse's profile


5 posts in 2569 days

#1 posted 04-07-2011 09:35 PM

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4181 days

#2 posted 04-07-2011 10:00 PM

It’s a little late now since it appears all the finishing is done, but I would have used countersunk screws covered with matching plugs.

I would trying pulling them down with screws from underneath.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Woodendeavor's profile


276 posts in 2569 days

#3 posted 04-07-2011 10:25 PM

What is under the steps? This could be a moisture problem from under the steps causing the unfinished part of the tread to swell. Was the material dry before installed? The curve up of the tread tells me the top has shrunk or the bottom has swollen. Have the risers shrunk below the old tread? That will tell you if the material was not dry when installed

View Bertha's profile


13518 posts in 2655 days

#4 posted 04-07-2011 10:30 PM

^agree with both above. If the risers are still dimensionally stable, you might be able to cinch the gap from below (assuming you have access). I’ve had things like this happen once I move a piece indoors. It’s a real drag and I’m sorry you have to deal with this after all that hard work.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View remodelinghouse's profile


5 posts in 2569 days

#5 posted 04-08-2011 12:11 AM

Thanks for all the reply’s.

I can access the bottom of the steps, as there is a closet under them that is open.

I had the treads and risers in my house for over a month (as I was installing the hardwood upstairs). The only time I had them out of the house was when I cut them the same day I installed them. I only did half of the steps, so is there anything I need to do before installing the rest of them?

The first step curled only slightly, then second is fine, the pic is of the third. I do have an extra stair tread, so I’m going to just rip of the last one and install a new one. I used liquid nails under them, is there something else I should use instead? Thanks

View Loren's profile (online now)


10244 posts in 3610 days

#6 posted 04-08-2011 12:21 AM

The bottom of the board is absorbing moisture but the top is sealed,
so it curves as it expands on the bottom. The moisture may be in
the liquid nails, which may still be curing, or it may be just an ambient
moisture issue.

View Bertha's profile


13518 posts in 2655 days

#7 posted 04-08-2011 12:34 AM

Genius on Loren. Liquid nails has warped several items in my home.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2638 days

#8 posted 04-08-2011 12:42 AM

I agree that the problem is moisture from below and Liquid Nails could be the problem. That step might be salvaged. Remove it and wrap it in black plastic and put it in the sunshine. Clamp it to something straight and then and move it to a cooler shaded place. let it completely coll and see if it doesn’t stay true. This allows the moisture to distribute and the board relaxes. Then the bottom of the steps shoul dbe sealed to keep moisture out. I the Liquid Nails is the suspect then move away from that. I believe the last stairs we bilt we used Tite Bond. It worked fine. Might be some reason to not use it but we got away with it. Moisture is the problem though. I assume you got the same 90 degree temperature today that we got in SW Oklahoma. If not you might need to generate your own heat.

View remodelinghouse's profile


5 posts in 2569 days

#9 posted 04-08-2011 01:34 AM

what do you all recommend to seal the bottom of the steps?

Should I take up the step that isn’t warped and seal it to?

Thanks for all the help!

View bubinga's profile


861 posts in 2630 days

#10 posted 04-08-2011 07:16 AM

If you don,t seal both sides,moisture will escape faster from one side than the other and warp it

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View Woodendeavor's profile


276 posts in 2569 days

#11 posted 04-08-2011 03:00 PM

Before you get too drastic could you put a small heater in under the stairs and leave it there for a week? See if this helps and tells you if moisture under is the problem

View ScottN's profile


261 posts in 2642 days

#12 posted 04-08-2011 03:15 PM

I’ve made and installed quite a few treads and risers in the past. I would do glue ups for all the treads and wouldn’t go over 3” on the pieces and alternating the grains somewhat. The treads I make are 1” thick and the risers are 3/4” thick,being that the risers were only 3/4” thick I would leave them as whole pieces…no glue ups.

Installing I use clear caulk and finish screws. The caulk isn’t for any type of bonding its more to give the tread more support to fill in any voids that’s between the tread and stringer. Between the caulk and screws you wont or shouldn’t have any squeaks. I’ve never had a call back.

I’m not saying this is the only way to build steps. Its just my way. :D

-- New Auburn,WI

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3259 posts in 2638 days

#13 posted 04-08-2011 05:46 PM

If you seal you can use the same finish you put on the top. Just apply a coat of Poly or whatever but you won’t need as much since it will never wear off from walking. The heater is an idea. The problem is moisture whether it is left inthe wood from earlier of introduced later. Swelling and contracting. The sun doesn’t shine in a window on the steps does it? That could cause a problem.

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3856 days

#14 posted 04-08-2011 05:55 PM

that sucks

you might be able to invert a clamp between the stringers, put some premium PL into the opern crack and then wedge them back down

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View eric122's profile


123 posts in 2972 days

#15 posted 04-09-2011 05:18 AM

you might be able to fix that gap using a portable kreg pocket hole jig from behind on the back side of the riser drilling a few pocket holes in the back of the riser as far as pulling the tread tight to the riser use some wood glue in the gap then take a hot glue gun to tempary glue a clamping block accross the riser to give u a way to pull the tread tight drive the pocket hole screws tight with the clamps pulling things tight while u drive the screws leave the clamps on over night use a wet sponge to wipe glue off . use denatured aclohol to remove hot glue with a putty knife this is how i fixed all my stairs in a hobby house i,m helping my dad work on good luck

-- eric underwood

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