The process of converting old carpet-covered stairs with vinyl laminate can be daunting and includes several crucial steps. Once the carpet has been removed, along with the underlayment, any protruding staples and tack strips must also be lifted – the stair tops must provide a smooth surface upon which the vinyl can be laid. And this is just the first step — pardon the pun!
Although the rough construction of interior stairs can vary slightly, the most common are either built using three-quarter-inch plywood tops with an inch protrusion along the front edge, or two-by-ten lumber with a similar protrusion. Although the former is easier to sheathe with vinyl, my current job site boasts the latter rough build. As such, there are a few extra tasks involved in the vinyl covering process.
With the stairs bare to rough lumber, the decorative stringers are pre-primed and painted glossy white — performing this task now eliminates the need to tape off the finished stairs later. Next, it is necessary to build-out the bottom of the rise to meet the one-inch protrusion, allowing for a plumb installation of the new rise. This is required due to the height of the two-by-ten — vinyl (and/or aluminum) nosing rarely comes in nosing heights over one-and-a-half inches. As such, once the vinyl is installed along the stair tops, the nosing would not completely cover the bare lumber of the rough stair. To by-pass this issue, the entire rough-rise is made flush, so that a new slight protrusion can be introduced later.
Once the build-outs on all rises has been achieved, the vinyl stair stops are cut to length and set atop every stair, using a high-bond adhesive. In this case, the same flooring style used throughout the main floor was also used for the stair tops. Although the width of the vinyl plank at seven-and-a-quarter inches fell short in reaching the front edge of the rough frame, this does not matter and will be explained a bit later. With the stair tops in place, the rise was then mounted on every stair. For mild contrast, a slightly darker vinyl colour was used to accentuate each individual stair.
Once the rise and run of each stair was allowed to set overnight, the process of introducing a new and slight rough nose protrusion could begin. In that the vinyl choice for this project had underlayment pre-fabricated on the underside of the vinyl plank, it was prudent to use a pre-nosing that was rigid and hard, to avoid any unnecessary motion over time — stairs are high traffic areas, and are subject to much wear and tear. The material selected for this step is an “L”-shaped PVC edging. Once cut to the proper lengths, the “L” (which is the same thickness as the vinyl plank plus underlayment) is placed face down along the front edges of the still bare stair-tops, with the lower portion wrapping onto the upper edge of the newly installed vinyl rise. The PVC was also nailed in place using Brad nails, to encourage an uninterrupted setting of the high-bond adhesive.
The final stage of the process involves the implementation of decorative nosings along the stair fronts, and landings. The style of nosing utilized in this project is made of PVC, whereby the outer sheathing wrap matches the vinyl of the stair-tops, as well as the flooring throughout the main floor. Cut to length, the vinyl-wrapped nosings are carefully set onto the fronts of the stair-top using the high-bond adhesive. Because the top edge of the “L”-shaped decorative nosing extends to two inches, it fully covers the rough nosing and overlaps the vinyl plank along the stair tops. And because the vertical of the “L” falls to the one inch mark, is completely covers the three-quarter inch down-turn of the PVC rough-nosing. With the decorative nosings in place, the adhesive used throughout the process is allowed to set overnight. By the next day, the stairs are ready for use.
To avoid scratching the newly painted stringers, the individual stair-top, rise, and decorative nosings are cut one at a time, roughly an eighth shorter than the exact lengths for each stair, which fluctuates slightly from one stair to the next. As such, it may be necessary to use a matching caulk along the seams where vinyl meets stringer. In my experience, this is sometimes required, but not always necessary — it all depends on how the project unfolds. Once the next phase regarding the installation of baseboards and casings begins, it will be easier to assess the overall results at a glance. The finishig touches always make a huge difference. No matter, replacing the carpet on the stairs with vinyl is a vast improvement, bound to make everyone stare at the stairs, becoming one of the main focal points in this newly renovated main floor.