How to restore a pine staircase: everything you need to know

Repair a creaky, yellowed pine staircase over a weekend with Helaine Clare's easy-to-follow step-by-step guide. The project includes a list of tools and equipment needed to get the job done

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Over time, a pine staircase can acquire an unpleasant orange hue that needs toning down. In addition, some of the treads may develop an irritating creak. You can repair a staircase on a DIY basis with some assistance.

Creaking stairs are usually caused by loose or flexing components rubbing together due to shrinkage, wear and tear or the strain of excessive weight. To spot the problem treads, first remove any carpet. Position yourself beneath the stairs and ask an adult to climb them while you watch and listen to ascertain which particular treads are causing a problem.

Having identified a creaky step, tread on and off several times, varying the position to pinpoint loose joints. Mark the affected ones with chalk, then follow the steps below to fix the staircase.


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To restore your staircase, you will need…

1. Reapply glue to stairs: Glue blocks are usually fitted into the angle between the tread of the stairs and the riser. If the old glue has failed, first chip off the old glue then apply woodworking adhesive and rub the block back into position and secure with a pin. Wipe away any surplus glue with a damp sponge. If the underside of the stairs is not accessible, movement between the treads and risers can be remedied by working in some diluted PVA glue from above.

2. Check firmness of wedges: If the ends of the tread or riser have worked their way loose in their housings, check that the wedges have not become displaced. Apply some wood glue and knock the wedges back into position using a wooden mallet. If the underside of the stairs is inaccessible, then wedge the joints from above.

3. Tighten up any loose screws: Daily wear and tear and rough treatment can cause screws to work loose. Tighten up the existing screws and replace any missing ones. If you have oak stairs use brass screws, otherwise a chemical reaction between steel and oak can cause the screws to corrode and the wood to discolour.

4. Sand back the pine surface: Sanding the wood will help remove the orange tone and the prepared timber will better accept a lightening wood dye. Use a medium grade sanding disc and then go over with a fine grade disc. To avoid the risk of an electrical fire always fully unwind a retractable extension lead before use.


5. Sand awkward details by hand: A delta sander can get into corners, but finer details and carved areas are best sanded by hand. To sand the handrail, roll up a magazine to match the profile and wrap a sheet of abrasive paper around it. Sandpaper wrapped around a pencil can deal with those hard-to-reach places.

6. Suck up dust and make dye blend: Vacuum the stairs and surrounding area to get rid of all traces of sawdust. Then wipe over the woodwork with a damp cloth to pick up any stray dust. You are now ready to mix 10% white water-based wood dye into the water-based interior varnish. Stir to mix thoroughly.


7. Apply the wood dye mixture: Apply two coats of the wood dye/varnish mix to the staircase, allowing at least two hours’ drying time between applications. A short roller can be used on larger areas. To ensure a smooth and even finish, apply the first coat vertically and the second horizontally or following the grain.

8. Finish with a coat of plain varnish: The addition of white, water-based dye in the first two coats will tone down the pine’s orange hue. Finish with a final coat of plain varnish to protect the wood from wear, yet maintain its natural look and feel. To keep the staircase looking as good as new, wipe it occasionally with a damp cloth.