9 Signs Your Fairfield County CT Home Needs Stair Repair

Stairs undergoing stair repair services in residential home
Stairs are not exactly intuitive to use. Anyone who has watched a toddler navigate a staircase knows that. But after a little practice, it becomes second nature to bound up and down—and if you have problems with your stairs, like a creaking step or wobbly railing, it's not long before you start automatically avoiding those trouble spots without giving them another thought.

Those seemingly minor instances of normal wear and tear damage are actually the first signs that your staircase is deteriorating. It's only going to worsen over time until it becomes a real hazard that could cause injury to someone in your household, or threaten the structural stability of your house. If you notice issues with your steps, it's best to get them taken care of sooner rather than later with professional stair repair services from a Fairfield County handyman.

But how do you know if you need professional service for stair repair? This guide explains nine warning signs that indicate your home is crying out for help. By knowing the signs, you can get professional service to repair your stairs quickly and effectively before the damage turns into a huge headache. If you spot the following symptoms of trouble in your residential or commercial property, call the stair repair experts at Mr. Handyman of Upper Fairfield County. We are skilled with a wide variety of trustworthy handyman services, including stair repair, and take pride in delivering top-quality workmanship and first-class customer service.

1. Squeaky Stairs

When you step on certain stairs, do they make a loud creaking or groaning noise in protest? It's not you, it's them. Noisy stairs are a common complaint, but that doesn't make them any less irritating—especially when you're trying to sneak downstairs for a midnight snack and your staircase betrays you by tattling to the whole house.

This happens to most wooden staircases eventually, because repeated pressure from people stepping on them every day for decades causes the steps to bend and warp or parts such as the treads and risers begin to pull apart from each other. A squeaky step is often caused by a gap between the tread and the riser. If that's a problem in your house, your local stair repair handyman can take care of it by nailing the tread back down, replacing a warped board, or filling in the gap to eliminate noise and make it a lot easier to get downstairs undetected.

2. Rotten Wood

Anything made of timber can suffer from wood rot if its moisture content becomes elevated, and wooden stairs are certainly no exception. This is a very typical stair repair problem for outdoor steps, which are constantly exposed to rain and snow melt, but it can happen indoors as well. Rotting wood softens and crumbles apart, so it can be particularly dangerous on stairs where it can weaken your supporting structure and cause the whole thing to collapse. Wood rot is capable of spreading to other parts of your house as well, and some types can even travel over masonry surfaces such as brick or plaster.

Not sure if you have a problem with wood rot on your staircase or outdoor steps? Grab a flashlight and examine all visible timber closely for these signs of rotting:

  • Wood is breaking into cube-shaped chunks (this is called cubical fracture) or crumbling into "sawdust"
  • Discolored patches with a white, yellow or purplish hue, or patches that are lighter or darker than the surrounding material
  • Patches of wood appear to be stringy, spongy or webbed with cracks
  • Mushrooms sprouting from the wood (in very advanced cases)

There's no way to restore rotted wood to its former condition, so the most effective solution is to remove affected timber and replace it. If you find a couple of tiny patches, your handyman may be able to take care of them by scraping out rotten parts, filling them with epoxy wood filler, and painting over them.

What Causes Wood Rot?

Wood rot is a type of decay caused by various forms of fungi that eat away at timber. The fungi can only begin to grow in wood that has a moisture content of 20% or higher, so wood that is frequently exposed to water is much more vulnerable to rotting. That's why wood that remains dry can potentially stay strong for hundreds of years. Indoor staircases can be affected by rot if they are dampened by water from a leaking roof, hidden plumbing leak, deteriorated window frame or other possible moisture sources. Wood rot repair should be one of the tasks on your annual home repairs checklist.

3. Peeling Paint or Wood Stain

If your stair treads are painted or stained and don't have anything like a runner covering them, the paint will naturally wear away from use and the staircase will need to be refinished every so often. But if you notice peeling, flaking paint in an area that doesn't usually get a lot of contact, it could be a warning that the timber has become damp—and as we learned above, where there's damp wood, the rot will soon follow. When moisture content in wood goes up, the wood swells and pushes on paint or wood stain from underneath, causing it to come loose. If you can find and eliminate the source of moisture at this point, you'll give the wood a chance to dry out and avoid rotting so you don't need even more stair repair services in the near future.

Whether or not your peeling paint is a sign of moisture incursion, it is definitely a symptom of a staircase in poor condition. Paint, wood stain, and sealant protect the wood underneath from undue wear and tear, so it's not just an appearance issue—it's the first step toward more serious damage. Our Fairfield County handyman team can remove the old, damaged paint and refinish your steps so they look brand-new again.

4. Cracked or Crumbling Treads

In a wooden staircase, each tread is an individual piece in the structure, while concrete steps are usually poured together as one unit. The treads are the parts of the staircase that people step on, so it makes sense that they wear out and can suffer from stair repair problems such as cracked wood or crumbling concrete.

When it comes to cracked treads in a timber structure, this is a pretty serious issue that shouldn't be ignored. A tread that is loose or cracking can put stress on other parts of the staircase and lead to more severe damage. It also creates a hazard that could cause you to trip and take a tumble, or get a big splinter in the bottom of your foot. Our stair repair professionals can remove a cracked tread, replace it and refinish it so it matches the rest of the staircase.

5. Wobbly Handrail or Newel Post

When you grab onto your handrail or newel post and give it a firm shake, it shouldn't move at all. If it wobbles and shifts, that's definitely a problem. The newel posts are the posts at the bottom (and sometimes top) of the staircase that the railing is attached to, and at junctures where the railing turns in another direction. They aren't just decorative, and they do more than hold up the handrail—in many stair designs, the newel at the bottom actually helps to bear some of the weight of the overall structure. So if it's not steady, that's a big issue and you need professional stair repair services to get it back in solid condition.

This type of problem can be the result of wood rot softening up the timber on the handrail or post, especially on outdoor installations. Indoors, it's more likely to be caused by frequent pressure or impacts that have damaged the wood and connection points and caused nails or screws to come loose. In either of those situations, the wood may need to be replaced entirely. But sometimes the wood is in decent shape and your handyman can simply re-secure it to stop the wobble.

6. Broken Spindles or Balusters

Spindles and balusters are the vertical parts of your handrail underneath the horizontal part you rest your hand on. Broken or missing spindles or balusters aren't necessarily a hazard, but they do sometimes offer additional structural support (especially balusters), so they can create a weak point in the staircase structure that calls for stair repair. They are also a big eyesore that can be very noticeable and stand out in all the wrong ways, and if you have pets or small children, a broken or missing piece can provide enough space for them to wiggle through and fall off the side of the stairs. Your Fairfield County handyman can provide stair repair services that usually involve installing a replacement baluster or spindle, though they may be able to fix minor issues without removing the whole piece.

What's the Difference Between Spindles and Balusters?

They are basically the same thing—vertical supports that help hold up the railing and block off the side of the staircase or platform. The difference is, balusters sit on a footing such as a step or a floor, while spindles rest on a horizontal rail that is attached to the newel posts. Both balusters and spindles are a part of railings alongside steps or places such as landings, decks, porches, and balconies.

7. Pest or Pet Damage

If you have a dog who likes to chew on spindles or a cat who prefers your newel post over their scratching post, you know exactly how pets can be a major factor in needing stair repair services. But rodent and insect pests can also have a negative impact on your steps, especially destructive insect species such as termites or carpenter ants. Your Fairfield County handyman can replace damaged timber once the pest infestation has been removed.

8. Rusty Attic Stair Mechanism

Many homes include attic access via a set of stairs (or a glorified ladder) that is tucked away in the ceiling most of the time and can be pulled down when needed. That's all well and good until the mechanism that allows them to unfold becomes rusty or otherwise damaged. If you need to heave and push to get the stairs open or get them folded back up, we can help. In some cases, the metal parts of the mechanism may just need some cleaning and lubrication to get them back in good condition. We can also replace broken or weakened treads and ensure your attic stairs are safe to use.

9. Not Up to Code

Building codes and safety regulations change over time, and older buildings sometimes include staircases that are not safe by today's standards. Issues that could violate modern building codes in Fairfield County include:

  • Too narrow
  • Too steep
  • Individual steps are too high
  • Stairs, not a uniform height or size
  • Handrail is too low, or missing altogether

All of these problems make your staircase less comfortable to use and pose a risk of serious injury, which is why building standards have evolved over the years in an attempt to eliminate safety issues in new builds. Your handyman may be able to fix some of these problems with stair repair, but some of them require replacement for the whole structure to create a new, safe staircase. It may also be necessary to orient the stairs in a different direction or location.

Mr. Handyman Will Restore Your Steps or Staircase With Expert Stair Repair Services

Whether you are in Easton, Stamford, New Canaan, or another part of Fairfield County, CT, you can trust the team of service professionals at Mr. Handyman of Upper Fairfield County for experienced stair repair and a wide variety of other handyman services. Customer satisfaction is our top priority!

Pick up the phone and give us a call today to make a service request at a convenient time, or to speak with our knowledgeable office staff and find out more about what we can do to transform your home and make your life easier!