Any problem with this stair tread design?

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Forum topic by jtm posted 01-12-2014 07:46 AM 1388 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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230 posts in 1835 days

01-12-2014 07:46 AM

Hi everyone,

I posted about making stair treads a month or two ago. At the time, my plan was to make treads out of solid cherry lumber, glued up in three 4” strips.

After milling the rough cut cherry lumber, it has become apparent that because of all the knots, checking, and sapwood, I underestimated the amount I needed by about half. Rather than go buy another few hundred dollars worth of cherry, I was thinking about using 3/4” cabinet grade plywood as a core.

Other than the fact that these are no longer true solid cherry treads, I can’t seem to think of any drawback to using the plywood. In fact, I think I’ll actually be better off. These should be much more dimensionally stable, correct? Also, it will enable me to resaw the cherry lumber I have now, ensuring all the treads will be made with bookmatched clear cherry pieces.

I’ve attached the design I plan on using. Does it look okay?


7 replies so far

View HerbC's profile


1790 posts in 3058 days

#1 posted 01-12-2014 08:10 AM

I think you may have a problem with wood movement. The solid cherry will have a different rate of expansion than the plywood and the steps will eventually tear apart due to the movement.

Of course, that’s just what I think.


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View jtm's profile


230 posts in 1835 days

#2 posted 01-12-2014 08:29 AM

Even with just 1/4” cherry thickness?

Also, won’t the glue from laminating the cherry to the plywood help reduce any movement?

View AlaskaGuy's profile (online now)


4774 posts in 2508 days

#3 posted 01-12-2014 10:23 AM

Even with just 1/4” cherry thickness is to thick. If you’re going to veneer over plywood you need to get to a 1/16” or less.

I know you don’t want to buy more wood but it’s the best way to go.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Tony_S's profile


955 posts in 3282 days

#4 posted 01-12-2014 11:16 AM

Yes, it will help minimize the movement, but wont eliminate it. Movement in solid lumber can’t be completely eliminated, ever.
With that said, I’ve done stair treads in a similar manner to what your suggesting in the past, due to minimal customer supplied reclaimed lumber scenario…huge landings built from engineered products…etc, with no long term stability issues
Typically, wood movement is pretty minimal in widths of 12” and under, so a lamination of the size your suggesting, wood movement wouldn’t be of any concern to me.

BUT…you may very well run into another problem with your idea….cupping. Any time you glue large sections of solid lumber to only one face of any type of sheet goods, you ‘unbalance’ the sheet goods, and it will typically cup. Sometimes it will be minimal, sometimes severe, depending on what your gluing to what.
The easiest way to combat this, is to ‘balance’ you glue up, meaning…whatever you glue to one face, you glue to the opposing face.
In your case you my be able to resaw the lumber and use the crap cutoffs for the underside. You don’t necessarily need to use the same material on the underside though, but it should have similar properties. IE, possibly poplar in your case.
If I was forced to take this rout, I would more than likely use 1/2” mdf as the core with 2 hardwood faces, as mdf is extremely flat and very stable.

With THAT said….I avoid doing them in this manner at all costs if I can, simply because it’s a SHITPILE of labor compared to simply using solid lumber.
In a commercial setting it’s just not a viable solution simply due to labor costs. The treads typically end up costing the customer 3 to 4 times more.

If I was in your shoes….I’d spend the extra $200 bucks.

-- It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

View jtm's profile


230 posts in 1835 days

#5 posted 01-13-2014 03:04 AM

Fair enough.

I’m not really worried about the cost (the plywood sheets aren’t exactly free either). I just figured it would be easier to run to Home Depot rather than make the trip to my hardwood supplier, let it sit for a week or two, and then mill it down.

Looks like I’ll be buying more cherry.

Thanks for the help

View realcowtown_eric's profile


617 posts in 2136 days

#6 posted 01-13-2014 03:36 AM

or you may be so lucky to find a flooring hardwood supplier who has 1/1/4 cherry stair treads in stock. Already sanded and flat, but then you’d have to pop off the existing treads maybe. Probably held down with PL. May be cheaper, maybe not,

Good luck eh


-- Real_cowtown_eric

View jtm's profile


230 posts in 1835 days

#7 posted 01-13-2014 03:38 AM

Cheapest I’ve found is around $700 for what I need.

I’m only in to this for $200 so far.

I need another $200 worth of cherry lumber at most.

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