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Forum topic by Cyndi1 posted 01-27-2015 02:55 PM 2126 views 0 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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16 posts in 1243 days

01-27-2015 02:55 PM

Topic tags/keywords: stairs treads glue liquid nail waraped question

Hi, we hated the carpet on our builder grade stairs so we ripped it off. I painted the risers but the treads were not good enough to leave exposed, so I bought these:

Glued them on and they looked beautiful, and that is when all the trouble started. A guy who did some tile work for me (who supposedly knows how to do this, told me to use liquid nail. My husband thought liquid nail too but it made the treads warp, and we had to take them off. Most went back to normal, one is a little cracked on the seam so that might go back in pieces.

My husband was recently diagnosed with cancer so I am on my own with my Son to try to fix this. Yesterday, we soaked the liquid nail on the stairs with mineral spirits, then got it off with scrapers.

I now have to get it off the treads, but I think I should not use mineral spirits on them since they are not a solid piece, they are pressed, although they are very nice looking.

I know you probably don’t think much of this type of thing but it was the best we could do, my Dad was a woodworker and I wish I had his skill.

I am looking for advice as to how to best get the (dried) liquid nail off the backside of the treads without wrecking them. I am thinking scrape and sand, I have a pocket sander but that would take a while, and some decent scrapers. If I use mineral oil, it could wreck the glue holding the treads together and water could warp them again.

Do you think sanding/scraping is the best course of action? Also, when we put them back on, I don’t have a nail gun, we do have a drill, is that good enough? What is the best screw to use given what I have? I can’t get to the underneath of the stairs unless I tear down the ceiling above my basement stairs, which I really don’t want to do, but I would not mind small screws, but nothing that is going to look terrible. My husband seemed to think holes had to be pre-drilled. I can get him to give me a quick lesson but that is about all he can handle right now. He will be starting chemo soon.

34 replies so far

View mahdee's profile


3888 posts in 1794 days

#1 posted 01-27-2015 03:36 PM

Pretty expensive stuff. I think maybe the reason they warped was because of the liquid nails. If you can take that off and just nail them in with finishing nail you may be better off. If you have a sharp chisel that might be the best way to get the glue off. It will more likely clog any sand paper or file.


View joey502's profile


537 posts in 1545 days

#2 posted 01-27-2015 03:41 PM

I am not sure what advice to give you on your project, I have never replaced stair treads before. I do sincerely hope that your husband recovers quickly. I will keep your family in my thoughts.

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2702 days

#3 posted 01-27-2015 03:43 PM

I think I tried to remove that stuff once. It wasn’t made for removing. It is made to stay. I agree on the scrape and chisel method. I think I tried to sand it off and it just clogged the paper. If you nail it only, then you will have squeaky steps and no one wants that. you might try liquid nails and nail it to hold it down until the adhesive dries. Do one step and let it sit for a few days. The clean up is easier.

View Tim's profile


3812 posts in 1988 days

#4 posted 01-27-2015 04:08 PM

A cheap chisel is the easiest way to get construction adhesive off that I tried. It keeps curing harder so the sooner you get it off the easier. If you don’t have the strength to push the chisel through it, use a rubber mallet or hammer or whatever. Put the flat side of the chisel up and the bevel down and adjust the angle until you are taking off just the adhesive. You get used the angle.

Go to any of the big box or hardware stores and get the cheapest wide chisel you can find. Harbor freight has cheap sets, but you might be able to find a single 1” or wider chisel that would work for less.

View Earlextech's profile


1162 posts in 2717 days

#5 posted 01-27-2015 04:14 PM

Use a sharp chisel to remove the excess liquid nails.
Step treads should never be glued down. I would use 12d finish nails into predrilled holes. Some non-adhesive caulk under them would help them level. Two or three nails across the back edge of the tread. Solid wood moves as humidity changes, the liquid nails locked it in place and since it couldn’t move it warped.
Also, leave the treads in the house for two weeks before installation so that they acclimate.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Cyndi1's profile


16 posts in 1243 days

#6 posted 01-27-2015 07:43 PM

Hi, thanks for all the advice. We did have them in the house for about a month before we put them on. I am home today because we had an appt. to find out the pathology of the cancer and I couldn’t sleep, but then they put it off again because the pathologist had to send it out for further testing so we are in wait mode again. I have spent the better part of the last hour chiseling glue off of one tread, I am 80% done. We were reading on the liquid nail site and it said heat at 140 degrees or baby oil loosens it. I have a blow dryer but it takes to long to get to 140 even on turbo mode, but I did use it to loosen up a few spots. I am finding freeform chiseling works best for the most part. I am pretty strong for a woman (I lift free weights so that helps) but man this glue is a pain. My husband told us to try mineral oil, which won’t wreck the treads like mineral spirits would, so my son went to get another chisel and mineral oil and to return the 2 cans of spirits we didn’t use on the stairs. So if we don’t have a nail gun, can we secure the treads well enough with just finishing nails? That would really work? I have some PL Premium by Loctite my Brother told me to get (he does re-models) he said use that and finishing nails, I don’t know why I didn’t think to ask him BEFORE we did anything, I guess I thought my husband and the tile guy knew, but you could not tell from reading the ingredients that the glue was water based, we checked because the treads clearly said don’t use water based glue on the back of every one. I can’t help being ticked at liquid nail, they should be very clear about that.

View Cyndi1's profile


16 posts in 1243 days

#7 posted 01-27-2015 07:46 PM

The other thing we have to do, that we didn’t think to do in the first place but we now realize, is we have to use a board (not really a level, it is more just a matter of straight) to make sure the builder grade treads we are fastening the nice treads to are even. We realized some of them are lower in the back by the riser. Now that the glue is off we can use the pocket sander and my husband says just a board to make sure it is even before we put the treads on. That was probably causing the warping as well, right?

View TechTeacher04's profile


386 posts in 1558 days

#8 posted 01-27-2015 07:54 PM

Invest in an oscillating tool and a scraper blade. While time consuming you can scrape most of the adhesive off. Then try solvents or sanders.

View HerbC's profile


1764 posts in 2886 days

#9 posted 01-27-2015 08:08 PM

+1 on the oscillating tool with scraper blade. Will save you a LOT of time and effort.

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

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2034 days

#10 posted 01-28-2015 12:56 AM

Where are you located? There’s a chance that someone here on LJs might be close enough to come and give you a hand.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View runswithscissors's profile


2767 posts in 2052 days

#11 posted 01-28-2015 05:18 AM

+2 for the oscillating tool. Go to Harbor Freight and get their $15 single speed tool (price varies, but really cheap, esp. with a 20% off coupon. The tool comes with scrapers.

I scraped up the glued-on underlayer from old linoleum from an entire kitchen floor using one of these. Far easier than any hand method. Oh, pick up some cheap earmuffs at HF too, as the oscillating tool is very loud.

Best of luck to you and your family.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View devann's profile


2246 posts in 2719 days

#12 posted 01-28-2015 05:43 AM

Cyndi, I hope your husband gets better.

+3 on the oscillating tool. They make great power scrapers and just a ton of other uses yet to be discovered. The scrapper blades will work but you may want to get some cutter blades too. I’ve learn to keep the old cutting blades to use for scrapping in some instances. Now if you’re like me your jaw is going to drop when you see how much they want for the dinky little blade. I just suck it up and buy the three pack, you’ll save nearly 33% of the cost of buying three blades. I have learned to get the Bosch brand, so far they offer the best value and last the longest. Look for the ones that say metal/wood on the blade. They cost the same has the wood only blades except you’ll notice a slight radius on the cutting end of the metal/wood blades. The wood only ones are straight across the cutting end. This radius end makes a noticeable difference in the amount of control you’ll have using the tool.

Use a countersink/flushbit (depends on who you’re asking) to drill the screw holes before applying the screws. I like to use the Teflon coated deck screws because they don’t snap the head off like the cheaper screws will (bright finish,galvanized, or zinc coated) & they are usually self-tapping. Look at the pointed end you’ll notice a small groove cut across the threads. The deck screws will also have better heads, ie, #2 Phillips/combo square drive or a torx drive head. Where the cheaper ones usually are #2 Phillips only and cam out easier stripping out the head. #2 square drives are usually the cheapest & least frustrating that I like to use.

Don’t forget to apply glue to the stringer/tread connection or your stairs will squeak.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View runswithscissors's profile


2767 posts in 2052 days

#13 posted 01-28-2015 07:45 AM

Devann is right about the cost of blades—even from Harbor Freight. But if you happen to be anywhere near a Grizzly store, they have blades just as good as anybody’s for about 1/3 to 1/2 the price. Their blades are universal—fit all brands of oscillating tool. You can get them mail order, but I realize you may not have the luxury of time before you have to tackle that job.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Tony_S's profile


871 posts in 3110 days

#14 posted 01-28-2015 11:04 AM

The treads, without a doubt should be glued down, the PLPremium your brother suggested is what I would recommend 1st.
Providing the treads are straight and flat, predrilled finishing nails should be all you need to hold the tread in place until the adhesive sets up(wear gloves when gluing…the only way to get it off your hands is to wear it off).

Lay them all in place before you install them permanently. You may want to put the treads with ‘very’ slight cupping at the bottom of the stair. Anything below the waist will typically reflect the least light, and the cupping will show less. If any of the treads are cupped to a more noticeable degree, replace them.

I’m not really sure what you mean by this…you may not need to do anything to the plywood tread. The PLPremium is an excellent gap filling adhesive.

The other thing we have to do, that we didn t think to do in the first place but we now realize, is we have to use a board (not really a level, it is more just a matter of straight) to make sure the builder grade treads we are fastening the nice treads to are even. We realized some of them are lower in the back by the riser. Now that the glue is off we can use the pocket sander and my husband says just a board to make sure it is even before we put the treads on. That was probably causing the warping as well, right?
- Cyndi1

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

View Cyndi1's profile


16 posts in 1243 days

#15 posted 02-01-2015 05:17 PM

JoeinGa, that is really nice, I live in southeastern Michigan, and boy could I use some help if anybody is willing. I am going to work on actually laying the retreads again today.

Here is an update…soaked the treads with Goo Gone (all my son could get at Home Depot) and baby oil, think the Goo Gone worked better, for a couple of days after I got the liquid nail off the first 2 and it took 3 hours. Then, using chisels (my son used the sander a little but I stuck with the chisels) we knocked the other 10 of them out in another 3 hours, so softening the liquid nail definitely helped, but neither one of those things effected the treads. Liquid nail dries black (I think?) there was from off white to black color variation. The bottom of the treads isn’t beautiful to look (who will see that anyway) but the liquid nail is off.

Today I am about to start prepping the builder grade treads so they are even from back to front (as some are lower back by the riser), the builder grade stairs are just that, the molding around them is not bad. Then I agree with the one at a time thing, probably going to do a test tread. We will have to try them out and make sure the treads don’t have problems either, but I think they should all make it, a couple developed cracks we will have to fix, but we have stuff to do that. I hope I don’t have to replace any as they were not the cheapest retreads, and they are not plywood, they are gunstock oak, the builder grade stairs (treads and risers) are pine, but we did not think it was good enough to refinish those, which was what we were originally going to do, I did do the original risers, which now need fixing up because of the liquid nail mess and the cleanup of that. The retreads are not one solid piece, each tread consists of about 5 pieces glued/pressed together, where a couple of (small) splits developed were in those seams. Here is a link to what they are again, irks me they went down in price by almost $5 each since I bought them.

They are really nice looking retreads if I can manage to get them on to stay this time. Once I accomplish that, I will have to get my husband to show me how to cut the molding right. We have 2 kinds of molding we bought (unfinished, I have to stain it). One is this we bought to go across the top of every riser, we were going to just do the top where the carpet is tucked but then we decided it would look nice the whole way.

The other one is this, to go where the tread and riser meet at the bottom.

I have a cheap plastic mitre box thing I got from Home Depot to use to cut the molding (you can also do straight cuts), but I need a little instruction so I don’t mess it up. My husband said the molding is too delicate to do on the table saw (which I also don’t know how to use yet, but I am determined to learn).

I hate to ask him to do anything but really all he has to do is tell me what to do and I can do it.

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