How To Tile Stair Risers

  • Transcript

    Your home stairs can take a beating. Over time tread finish may wear away and vertical riser boards can get dented and scuffed. Tiling stair risers and refinishing the treads is something you could do on your own over a single weekend and will give your stairs a fresh new look. Here’s what you’ll need to take on this project:


    • Plastic Sheeting
    • Painter’s Tape
    • Belt Sander & 60-Grit Sanding Belt
    • Quarter Sheet Sander
    • Mouse® Detail Sander
    • Random Orbit Sander
    • 60-, 80-, & 100-Grit Sandpaper
    • Tile Nippers
    • Synthetic Pad Applicator
    • Cotton Cloth
    • Wood Stain/Polyurethane Floor Finish
    • Mastic
    • Notched Tiling Trowel
    • Tiles
    • Grout
    • Grout Float
    • Grout Sealer
    • Knife (If Using Mesh-Backed Tile)
    • Scoring Wheel & Nipper (If Using Mesh0Backed Tile)
    • Spacers (If Using Individual Tiles)
    • Score-And-Snap Tile Cutter (If Using Individual Tiles)
    • Stone Sealer (If Using Individual Tiles)

    When taking on this DIY task, be sure to equip yourself with the proper safety gear.


    • Eye Protection
    • Ear Protection
    • Gloves
    • Mask


    Rough sand treads. Refinishing your treads starts with a rough sanding. Using a belt sander start with 60 grit sandpaper. Sand with the grain along the length of each tread being careful not to bump the sander into the walls. Wrap a piece of 60 grit sandpaper around a sanding block to smooth the round surface of the tread and remove the finish. Work your way around the outside of each tread with a random Orbit sander, Quarter Sheet sander, and Mouse® Detail sander, all equipped with 60 grit sandpaper then vacuum the treads.


    Finish sand treads. Continue sanding the treads. This time with 80 grit sandpaper on a quarter sheet sander. Then also using 80 grit sandpaper smooth any areas you can’t reach with a sanding block or a Mouse® detail sander. Vacuum the treads again then carefully inspect the surface to ensure you’ve removed any ridges from the belt sander. Sand one more time with 100 grit sandpaper. Vacuum and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.


    Stain steps. If you plan on staining your steps you’ll do it now. But feel free to leave the treads natural if you’d like. Just apply a clear finish. If you decide to stain your steps start by taping off the areas where the treads meet the wall. Use a disposable foam brush to apply your stain, wiping off excess as you go with a cotton cloth. Let dry according to manufacturer’s instructions before moving on to the next step.


    Scuff sand risers. Once your treads are dry you’ll start working on the risers. Scrape off any lose paint then lightly scuff with 80 grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block. Keep in mind that you’re not trying to remove paint or finish. You’re just dulling the surface. Use a vacuum and microfiber cloth to remove dust. Then tape sheets of paper to the treads to protect them while you tile.


    Cut mesh-backed tiles. Measure the width and height of the riser you’re working on. If you’re using small tiles attached to a mesh backing you may only need to use a utility knife to cut sheets to fit. There’s no need to center the sheets. Just cut them to the correct height and butt the first sheet to the wall. Butt the last sheet into the opposing wall and mark where it needs to be cut. If you need to cut your tiles use tile nippers to trim them.


    Apply mastic. Apply mastic with a notched trowel or plastic applicator to the riser in an even 1/4 inch layer. Holding the applicator at a 45 degree angle drag the notched edge across the riser to make horizontal ridges.


    Install tiles. Place the first end tile or sheet of tiles on the mastic. Butt it against the wall. Wiggle the tile or sheet up and down while applying light pressure. You want to flatten the mastic ridges, not squeeze the mastic out. Lightly tap each tile with a rubber mallet to help secure them in place. If necessary, cut spare pieces to fit. Then move down the staircase tiling each riser the same way.


    Grout tiles. Before applying grout let the mastic dry according to manufacturer’s instructions. When you’re ready, mix grout according to instructions using a drill with a paddle attachment. Mix to a creamy consistency. Use your trowel to transfer grout to a rubber-faced float. Then smear on to the tiles working it into the joints and scraping if off the tile surface. Let the grout dry while you work on the next riser. Then after checking manufacturer’s instructions for dry time use a large damp sponge to clean tile surfaces. Repeat this process for all your tiles. As you work you may notice a hazy film as group residue dries on the tiles. To remove simply wipe with your grout sponge again. When the tiles are completely dry give them a final polish with a cotton cloth. Wait a week and apply grout sealer to protect against stains.

    Step back and admire your work. Your old stairs are new again.

    Looking for great tools to help get your project done? Shop Stanley, Black & Decker and DeWALT for everything you need!

Leave a Reply