Stair Tread Removal

Okay, back to my ongoing staircase remodel…

You’ll see in earlier blog posts that I’ve already stained and finished the new treads and newel posts. Now it’s time to remove the old treads in preparation for the new ones. Although the old treads weren’t the prettiest pieces in the world, I was hoping to salvage them to eventually refinish the wood and maybe re-purpose them as shelves somewhere. So, rather than going hog-wild with the demolition, I tried to remove them in an orderly fashion to avoid unnecessary damage.

This is what I’m calling a “prying block.” It’s basically just three 2x4s stacked and screwed together lengthwise.


This is a gnarly long-handled pry bar from Mayhew Tools called the Deck Wrecker. It’s got doubled cat’s paws on the business end, and I’m about to use it to wreck some treads.


The prying block provides the elevation I need for leverage (plus a sacrificial prying surface). I can then slip the cat’s paws beneath the nosing of the tread to lift it up. If you’re trying this at home, work from one end to the other, prying up only enough to loosen the front fasteners and open a gap beneath the tread. If you pry up any higher, the tread will probably break due to the screws holding it down in the back.


Next, grab a reciprocating saw and equip it with the longest nail-cutting blade you have in your toolbox.


Slip the recip blade into the gap beneath the tread, and saw through all the fasteners that you can reach.


With the front fasteners out of the way, you can slip a slimmer pry bar (shown) beneath the tread as far to the back as it will reach, then pry the tread upward off the framing. On the tread shown in the photo, you can see how the screws that held it down in back have pulled out of the bottom of the wood. You can then pull out those old fasteners to prepare the stringers for the new treads.


Repeat the same procedure for all the old stringers, and your staircase will soon look like this one. Next step: New tread installation. Stay tuned to our blog for further updates…


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