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How Much Does Hardwood Stair Installation Cost?

Last Updated on February 12, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Installing new hardwood stairs can transform the look and feel of your home. The rich, natural beauty of wood adds warmth and character to any staircase. But before taking on this major home renovation project, it’s important to understand the costs involved.

This article provides a detailed breakdown of what to expect when budgeting for hardwood stair installation.

The total cost will depend on several key factors, including the type of wood, number of steps, complexity of design, and choice of contractor. The national average range is $3,000 to $7,000 for materials and professional installation of a standard straight staircase with 10 to 15 steps.

Prices go up for curved or custom stairs and additional finishing elements like railings.


  • Budget of $3,000 to $7,000 on average for a complete hardwood stair installation. Actual costs depend on design complexity and local rates.
  • Material costs range from $500 to $1,200 per step. Labor adds $200 to $500 per step for installation.
  • Popular hardwood choices like oak and maple provide the best durability and value. Exotic woods can increase the budget.
  • Hiring an experienced staircase contractor is highly recommended for flawless results.
  • With proper maintenance, hardwood stairs will enhance your home’s style, safety, comfort, and value for decades to come.

How Much Does Hardwood Stair Installation Cost?

The two main components driving the price are materials and labor. On average, expect to spend $500 to $1,200 on materials per step. This covers the hardwood treads and risers, hardware, adhesives, and supplementary materials.

Labor will typically add $200 to $500 per step for installation, sanding, finishing, and other construction work.

Prefinished engineered hardwood is often used for stairs since it’s more affordable and durable than solid hardwood. Popular choices like oak and maple run $3 to $12 per square foot. Exotic woods like Brazilian cherry can cost up to $20 per square foot. The total material cost depends on the tread width, rise, and run of each step.

Professional installation is highly recommended, especially for complex designs. Carpenters charge around $70 per hour, while contractors add a markup resulting in labor costs of $100 per hour or more. DIY installation can save on labor, but requires woodworking skills and specialty tools.

Homewyse.com provides a cost guide for wood stair treads, which ranges from $368.27 to $520.00 for five installed treads. The cost includes basic coverage quantities, typical overage, medium-cost labor, and supplies and tools for preparation, job completion, and site cleanup.

Stair-treads.com mentions that the average cost of prefinished 12 treads and 13 risers ranges from $800 to $1,000. The cost of the stair installation is typically closer to $2,000 if primed white risers are used.

The overall cost of a red oak stair installation is based on the type of treads and risers used, the size of the stairs, and the staining and finishing options.

Homeadvisor.com reports that the cost to replace hardwood stair treads and risers ranges from $1,800 to $2,500. The cost of handrails and balusters made of wood or metal ranges from $60 to $150 per linear foot.

Factors Affecting the Price

Several factors contribute to the overall project cost:

  • Wood Type: Oak is a popular choice known for durability. But other options like pine (less expensive), cherry (mid-range cost), or maple (premium price) vary in price.
  • Number of Steps: More steps means higher total costs. Pricing is usually based on a per step or square footage basis.
  • Staircase Design: Straight steps are the most affordable. Curved, spiral, or double back stairs require more labor and expertise.
  • Railings and Finishings: Handrails, balusters, staining, sealing, and replacing treads/risers all add to material and labor costs.
  • Accessibility: Ease of access for bringing in equipment and working impacts labor time and difficulty.

Why Invest in Hardwood Stairs?

There are several great reasons to take on the investment of installing hardwood stairs:

  • Durability: Hardwoods like oak are extremely sturdy and can last 50 years or more with proper care. This enhances safety.
  • Aesthetics: Wood brings warmth, elegance, and classical beauty to any home. Rich stains and finishes let you customize the look.
  • Value: Beautiful hardwood stairs can increase a home’s worth and appeal to buyers. This boosts resale value.
  • Comfort: Properly installed wood feels smooth underfoot and absorbs sound better than other stair materials.

For most homeowners, the return on investment from enhanced aesthetics, comfort, safety, and durability makes the project cost well worth it.

Finding the Right Contractor

Hiring a qualified staircase contractor is highly recommended for flawless results. Begin by searching online and asking neighbors for referrals. When comparing contractors, here are key considerations:

  • Expertise: Look for several years of proven experience specializing in staircases. Verify licenses, insurance, and training.
  • Portfolio: Request photos of past stair projects to assess the quality of work.
  • Project Understanding: Choose a contractor who carefully evaluates your space and needs.
  • Timeframe: Find someone who can complete the project within your desired timeline.
  • Estimates: Get at least three itemized written estimates for cost comparisons.
  • Reviews: Check third-party review sites like Yelp for customer feedback.

A professional assessment and quote at the outset can prevent unexpected costs down the road.

You might also like our articles about the cost of wood restoration, dry rot elimination, and the cost to build a duplex.

DIY Hardwood Stair Installation

Building a Hardwood StaircaseWhile DIY stair installation is achievable for some, it requires intermediate carpentry skills along with specialty tools. Here are the basics to consider:

  • Demolition: Safely remove existing stair treads/risers wearing protective gear.
  • Framing: Assess and reinforce stringers, then calculate and cut housings for tread depth.
  • Newel Posts: Cut and secure newel posts at the top and bottom of stairs if needed.
  • Treads & Risers: Cut treads and risers to size. Use construction adhesive and finishing nails to install.
  • Railings & Trim: Measure, cut, and install balusters, handrails, and other trim molding.
  • Finishing Touches: Sand, stain, seal and install finishing touches like end caps.

Having realistic expectations about the time commitment, physical demands, and skill level required is key for DIY success. Many homeowners ultimately hire contractors to avoid costly mistakes.

Maintenance Tips for Hardwood Stairs

Proper care and maintenance will maximize the longevity and beauty of new hardwood stairs. Recommendations include:

  • Inspect stairs regularly for loose boards, damage, and wear. Make repairs right away.
  • Sweep and vacuum frequently to prevent dirt buildup. Use mild cleaners on treads.
  • Re-stain and re-seal stairs every 2-3 years to maintain the wood finish.
  • Install carpet runner or non-slip treads if wood becomes slippery.
  • Control humidity and temperature to prevent excessive expansion/contraction of wood.
  • Refinish or replace stairs if they become very worn, scratched or warped over time.

With routine care, quality hardwood stairs can serve a home beautifully for 50 years or longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hardwood stairs worth it?

Yes, hardwood stairs are typically worth the investment for most homeowners due to their beauty, durability, and ability to increase a home’s value. The rich visual appeal and longevity of quality wood like oak makes it a timeless choice to enhance any stairway.

Hardwood stairs also absorb sound better and feel more comfortable underfoot than alternatives like tile or concrete. With proper installation and care, hardwood stairs can last 50 years or longer. This makes them an investment that will continue paying dividends in terms of improved aesthetics, functionality and home value over time.

What are the disadvantages of wood stairs?

The main disadvantages of wood stairs include:

  • Higher upfront cost – Hardwood is generally more expensive than carpeting or other stair covering options. Installation also increases the price for labor.
  • Regular maintenance – Hardwood requires refinishing and resealing every few years to maintain its appearance and function. This adds to long-term costs.
  • Potential splintering – Over time, wood can develop small splinters along the surface if not kept smooth. This can be uncomfortable under bare feet.
  • Susceptibility to water damage – Exposure to excess moisture can cause swelling, warping, and deterioration of wood. Proper sealing is essential.
  • Slipperiness – Wood stairs can become slick if not refinished regularly. Adding grip tape or carpet runners helps improve traction.
  • Noise – Although less noisy than tile or concrete, hardwood does not absorb as much sound as carpeted stairs.

Are hardwood stairs slippery?

Hardwood stairs can become slippery over time when the finish wears down from foot traffic and cleaning. To prevent slips and falls, it’s important to refinish the surface regularly to maintain traction.

When properly maintained, hardwood should provide adequate grip for most users. For added safety, homeowners can install textured strips with non-slip adhesive, apply a textured finish treatment, or use secured stair runners along the center of each tread.

Taking simple precautions to avoid slick surfaces will allow the enjoyment of beautiful hardwood stairs worry-free. Proper lighting and stair railings also help enhance safety. Non-slip treads come in colors to match any wood finish. With routine care, hardwood steps can provide both beauty and reliable traction.

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