Many homeowners with laminate flooring installed throughout their homes want to know what to do when it comes to their stairs and treads; what are your laminate stair options? This Home Flooring Pros “How-To” guide explores your options including costs and how to install laminate flooring on stairs for each material.
Homeowners have two options for laminate on stairs:
1). Install prefabricated laminate stair treads
2). Use the same plank laminate flooring on stairs that you’re installing elsewhere.
Let’s get going and take a look at prefab treads.
Prefabricated Laminate Stair Treads
The material cost for laminate stairs is higher than for standard laminate planks, but the installation price is a little lower. That’s the trade-off.
Home Depot sells Cap a Tread laminate stair treads that include stair nosing.
- Width: 47”
- Depth: 12.5”
- Bullnose height: 1” or 1 11/16”
- Cost: $50-$55
- Installation Cost $40-$60 per tread
If you’re doing the math, you see that the treads cover almost exactly 4 square feet, so cost is roughly $12.50 to $13.75 per square foot. Cost is about double when pro installation is included. Even if your stairs are less than 47” wide, you need one per tread because obviously you can’t piece together scrap ends to cover a tread.
Note: The manufacturer literature mentions 94” wide treads too. But those we located on Home Depot are all listed as Discontinued. We checked Amazon, and they’re listed as Currently Unavailable.
Cap a Tread Review
What are Cap a Tread laminate stair treads? The manufacturer, Zamma, calls Cap a Tread a “laminated stair renewal system.”
The prefabricated stair treads are made from medium density fiberboard, usually referred to simply as MDF.
MDF is an engineered wood product made from wood that has been shredded into fiber. Wax is mixed in to prevent moisture damage. The materials are combined with resin and glue, and then put through a hot press machine to melt the resins and compress the materials into boards.
Like all laminate, the treads are then capped with a photographic image and covered in a clear wear layer.
Cap a Tread Pros
Two thicknesses are made: Standard for stairs up to 1” thick and Type 2 for stars between 1” and 1 3/4″.
- Treads are made for “closed” stairs, meaning there is wall on either side, and “open” stairs that have one finished side, either “right return” or “left return” referring to which side is finished.
- Home Depot carries about 100+ Cap a Tread options in all common laminate colors and looks.
- Matching wood-look risers and a white riser option are available plus matching transitions and molding.
- The warranty is 20 years, similar to midgrade laminate and some premium laminate flooring. For example, Home Depot TrafficMaster laminate flooring is backed with a 15-year warranty. Mohawk laminate has a “lifetime” warranty, but it is prorated after five years, so it doesn’t offer good long-term protection.
- Installation takes about half the time of installing plank flooring on stair treads. The process is described below.
- While easier than installing planks on stairs, it’s still a challenging job to get right. Pro installation is recommended for all but the handiest homeowners.
- They must be cut with a very sharp blade by someone understanding the process, or the surface might chip along the cut.
- Like many building materials, Cap a Tread carries a California Prop 65 Warning, “Drilling, sawing, sanding or machining wood products can expose you to wood dust, a substance known to the State of California to cause cancer. Avoid inhaling wood dust or use a dust mask or other safeguards for personal protection.”
Cap a Tread Installation
The first step is to measure the nose on your stairs to determine whether you need standard or Type 2 Cap a Treads.
And if your staircase is open on one side, be sure to order/purchase the correct product.
Now, here is how to install laminate flooring on stairs using Cap a Tread.
And you’ll need about 1 tube of construction adhesive for every two tread and riser combinations.
1). Acclimate the treads. Bring the boxes indoors 3-4 days ahead of installation to allow them to reach the temperature and humidity level of your home.
2). Measure the width and depth of each tread independently.
3). Mark the measurements on the underside of the tread.
4). Cut the tread depth with a miter saw and width with a table saw.
5). Dry fit each of the laminate stairs.
6). Apply adhesive around the edge of the laminate stairs and across the tread in a zig-zag fashion.
7). Firmly press the laminate stair tread into place.
8). Measure, cut and install the risers with the same approach.
Here is Home Depot’s video tutorial.
Laminate Flooring Planks Installed as Stair Treads
This is our second laminate stair option. Before a brief installation guide, let’s crunch the numbers.
- Laminate Planks: Average Cost – $2.00 to $3.50 per square foot, or about $8.00 to $14.00 per stair.
- Installation Cost: $60-$100 per stair.
With Cap a Tread, you’re looking at around $90 to $115 per tread for materials and installation.
For average-priced planks, the cost would be $68 to $115 per stair.
If you’re going to DIY, using planks is cost-effective. For pro installation, it will pay to get estimates from several local installers to see whether you can save money using plank flooring.
How to Install Laminate Flooring on Stairs
For DIY installation here are the essential steps.
1). Remove the nosing – the overhang – from each stair tread. A reciprocating saw is ideal. You’ll add a laminate nosing later.
2). Use a chisel and then sand the cut. The tread must be flush with the riser below.
3). Measure and cut the laminate, leaving room for the nosing. For example, if the tread is 11” deep and the nosing will cover the front 1”, you need 10” of flooring. Pros like to cut two or three pieces of laminate the same width. For example, if you’re using 6” laminate and the tread is 10” deep (minus the stair nose depth), cut two pieces 5″ for a balanced look.
4). Glue the two pieces together, tongue to groove. Do this for all the stairs, and mark them on the back, so you know which assembly goes on which stair.
5). Measure, cut and glue together the riser pieces. And cut all your stair nosing pieces and number them.
6). When you’ve got all your tread and riser assemblies completed, start at the top of the stairs and work your way down. Dry fit everything.
7). Apply three lines – or use the zig zag method – of construction glue to the subfloor.
8). Firmly press the tread assembly onto the tread, groove side out, and wipe off any glue that is squeezed out.
9). Ditto for the riser, but hold it in place for a minute.
10). Apply a bead of glue to the exposed tread – the front edge not covered by the planks. Firmly press the nosing into place, and remove excess glue.
11). Secure the nosing with small wood screws. Cover the nosing with clear tape or painter’s tape. Drill pilot holes, and install the screws, countersinking them slightly. Cover the screws with matching wood filler, and when it hardens, remove the tape.