5 Tips: Adding Hardwood to Curved Staircase

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase

If you are joining in from How To Stain Banisters Dark With Java Gel – welcome!  I knew years ago that I wanted to give our stairs a major makeover by: replacing carpet with hardwood, staining handrails a darker color, and changing out the bottom step and curved newel post to give us more room.  And it’s finally done!!  Now there is still a little tweaking left for me to finish (isn’t there always), and I’ve got something new I’m adding (coming soon), but we’re much happier with this new look.    So, I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you.  Let’s get to it!   5 Tips:  Adding Hardwood To Curved Staircase.

UPDATED:  February 22, 2022.

  • *** New Pictures have been added to this post in certain sections.
  • To see the “extra” pictures – scroll to the very end of the post.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


***NOTE***  This post contains affiliate links which means that I will receive a small compensation if you purchase something from these links.  Please see my privacy and disclosure policies below.  Thanks for your support.  πŸ™‚

5 Tips:  Adding Hardwood To Curved Staircase 

There are a lot of people I talk to that would love to change out their “worn” carpet on their stairs to hardwood, but don’t know how or where to begin.

And since there is more than “just money and function” to consider, I wanted to share what I learned through our process with you.


Let’s talk staircase anatomy.  There was so much more to staircase design than I EVER could have imagined, and I think it’s best to get familiar with some of the terms.

Here is a color-coded diagram to help you along the way.  

Since I am not an expert on staircase terminology either (lol), having a picture makes it much easier to refer back to while learning the “parts.”

Staircase Diagram:

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


Thank goodness there will NOT be a test at the end of this post, but it is important to have an idea of what the staircase looks like.

Now, let’s move on to some of the supplies we used for our staircase renovation.

SUPPLIES for 15 Stairs:

  1.  (22) Hardwood Red Oak Tread 48″L – unfinished
  2.   (2) Hardwood Red Oak Tread 60’L – unfinished
  3.  (1) Newel Post Handrail Easing Fitting or Newel Post Handrail Cap Fitting – unfinished
  4.  (1 quart) Minwax Oil-Based Wood Conditioner
  5.  (1 Quart each) Jacobean Stain & Dark Walnut Stain (or here) – mixed together 
  6.  ( 1 Quart) Polyrurethane Oil-Based Sealer Satin
  7.   Rags
  8.   Paint Brushes
  9.   Floor Protectors
  10.   Painter’s Tape 

For Staircase Railing Info:  Click How To Stain Banisters Dark With Java Gel.

Here is a picture of the actual hardwood tread (solid plank) that we used for our project.  It also came with the nosing attached to make the installation easier.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase

And the handrail cap fitting for newel post, depending on your needs.


5 Tips: Adding Hardwood to Curved Staircase


5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase

Ok, time to move on to the 5 tips, and the process of adding hardwood to our curved staircase.

5 Tips:  Adding Hardwood To Curved Staircase 

TIP #1:  Set Up A Problem/Wish List & Get Ideas

If you’re wanting to remodel your stairs, the first thing that I would recommend is setting up a problem or wish list.  Basically what you want to change about your stairs, and what you want to keep.

Do you want to:

  • stain or paint handrails/newel posts
  • replace carpet with hardwoods
  • replace wooden balusters (spindles) with metal or cables
  • update newel posts
  • reconfigure bottom steps or shape
  • stained or painted hardwoods/risers
  • hardwood solid-plank treads or multi-plank hardwood flooring

Then search through pinterest or houzz and get some ideas on how you want your staircase to look.  

In the picture below, take a look at some different ways the balusters/spindles can sit on the treads.  The first picture is mine – and the second picture is from architectureideas.com.  

This website has good information on different types of open or closed “stringers” if you want to check it out further.

 I just wanted to show you that “one staircase does NOT fit all.”  (See below – Our Project #3 for more details).

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


TIP #2:  Set a Budget & Timeline

After you’ve selected some inspiration pictures, it’s time to do some research on staircase remodeling costs.  

Set a Budget:

According to Home Advisor, staircase renovations cost anywhere from $1,000 on low end – $8,000 for a complete remodel, and on average $4,000 to put hardwoods on 10 – 12 stairs.

Some factors that go into that cost:

  • types of hardwood you choose (oak, pine, hickory, maple, bamboo, ash, etc.)
  • hire out or do the job DIY
  • use hardwood flooring or solid wood planks
  • refinish/stain the hardwood DIY or hire someone
  • do a cheaper remodel versus a more expensive remodel

Both of these are great articles if you want more detailed information.

Set a Timeline:

Also, set a timeline for your project and be prepared to be inconvenienced.  It will take roughly 3 – 5 days to remove carpet and install hardwood on stairs.

So think about your living arrangements, kids, etc. – and how they will maneuver around the stairs while the project takes place.

Plus it will take another 3-5 days to stain/seal the treads (is using planks vs. flooring), paint risers, stain handrails, etc.

Our painters asked if we could stay somewhere else for 2 nights/days so that they could finish the staining/painting portion faster.  Which we did.

Note:  we were able to walk on our stairs about 24 hours later, which was good news (with SOCKS only for 2 days).

***BUT they were slippery with the socks.  So, please be careful.***


1- Remove Right Newel Post/ Replace Left “Curved” Volute

***New Pics Added Below February 22, 2022. ***

Here you can tell how much room the curved volute handrails/newel post/spindles take up on the sides of the stairs (old picture – but it’s all I had – sorry).

Even though they are beautiful and make the staircase entry look grand, they really took up a ton of space. 

They also cut off traffic flow from the front door to the kitchen, and took up valuable space in our dining room (which is already small).

Before stained (Old picture)


5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


And here is the right side after it’s been stained and removed.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


After pictures – Much better!! 

Now, the right side opens up creating better traffic flow, and the left side looks cleaner and less bulky with the smaller newel post cap fitting.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


*** Here is a closeup of the new addition.  I did not take a picture of it before I stained it – sorry again!

Your carpenter will have to play around with the angle of the handrail, and might have to cut some off to fit.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


 2 – Square off Bottom Stair

Ok – let me just say that having the bottom stair squared off was one of the BEST decisions ever – and boy did the carpenters FIGHT me on this!!

That is why they laid the hardwood floor first (the initial contractor with the flood), because he was never planning on honoring the contract and changing that bottom stair.

But guess what – our second contractor/carpenter didn’t want to do this either – ugh!!  Men!!

And not a day goes by that I ever regret it!!

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


I just wanted to show you the difference it makes with the rounded bottom, and how much room it takes up.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


This picture was also from the flood, but it was the only picture I had – again!

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


Since our front door opens up directly into the staircase, we need all the extra room we can get. 

And even though this change might appear to be small & pesky, it has definitely made a big difference (for both sides).

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


3 – Remove Carpet/Choose (Solid Plank) Hardwood Treads

One little thing that I learned through all of this  –  is that some stairs that are made for carpet – really aren’t made for hardwoods.  What??

And guess  what kind we have?  You guessed it – the ones that aren’t!!

Remember that picture above with the different spindles on the treads and molding?  That’s where this “little issue” comes into play.

So basically our stairs have a plywood board underneath the carpet, but they are shorter than the molding piece to allow for carpet (and padding thickness).

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase  

And here is a closeup picture so that you can see that the “existing tread” isn’t deep enough – and that means that the riser isn’t “thick enough” to fit the new tread either.

Our measurement was about ~ 1 1/4 ” deep.

Oh- the fun!!

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


Plus, this also means that the new tread HAS to align evenly (flush) with that side molding or close so that it doesn’t look funny (too low or too high).

  • Hard to tell from this picture below – but we needed 5/8″H treads = .625″.

On a ruler the smaller hash marks are: 

  • 1/2″, 9/16″, 5/8″, 11/16″, 3/4″
  • 5/8″ – in the middle of 1/2″ and 3/4″

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


TIP #3:   Check Design of Stairs (before you start the process)  

This will most likely change the options you have:  like solid planks versus hardwood multi planks (like engineered hardwood floor planks….and the budget). πŸ˜‰

Our carpenter fixed the issue by adding extra plywood blocks underneath the riser.

And this is also why we ended up choosing the solid treads with the nosing (that are 5/8″ H x 11 1/2″W) – to fit our existing plywood boards.

Here is our mock setup so you see it close up.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


*** Here is a picture of the extra plywood added to the risers.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


And then the finished piece on top of those plywood blocks.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


4 – Install Solid Hardwood Planks to Curved Staircase

Out of our 15 stairs, there are 10 curved, 4 straight at the same length, and 2 at additional longer lengths.  

I just wanted to give you this info so that you aware how “custom” all of the planks will be. 

Basically this means that the carpenter has to measure and cut EACH.SINGLE.PLANK differently = A LOT of time.

Each curved stair will also have an extra “pie-shaped gap” that needs to be filled. 

This is the reason we ordered 8 extra planks so that they could cut and fill each curved stair “gap.” 

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


Tip #4:  Do not let your contractor or carpenter talk you out of something you want.

I wanted the solid treads (one board) versus hardwood flooring (2-5 boards), and they kept telling me it was not possible.

Even though the flooring “tread” looks beautiful also, I just wanted a cleaner (no joints) appearance.  It was my dream stairs – you know like your dream wedding – LOL!!

Anyhoo…. the contractor/carpenter told me I had to use flooring boards – so I had to prove them wrong.  I found some articles and pictures – and bam – it was magic!!

And I will be the first to admit that the carpenter did stunning work, and he was SO proud!! 

Since this was his first attempt at installing the solid tread planks, he told me that he could now add this “skill” to his portfolio. 

So, just go with your gut ladies and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want!

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


5 – Stain and Seal Staircase

It’s so exciting at this stage to see how your new staircase will look, and then they remind you that the staining process takes JUST about the same amount of time as the installation process – UGH!!

Which, I have to admit that I already knew because I am a painter/stain-er, but still it’s a little depressing.


  • If you are using hardwood flooring, skip this step.  Good news for you! 
  • And if you want to save money, stain the stairs yourself.  Just remember to stain every other stair – so that it leaves you a path to go up and down while working. πŸ˜‰ 
  • Your hardwood stairs do not have to match your hardwood floors exactly.  They can be close in color range, and still look fine.

TIP #5:  Test Stain Colors Out First on Actual Hardwood Tread

If you are using hardwood that requires staining, I highly recommend testing out the colors on the actual hardwood tread/plank first (just use a piece that is leftover).

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


And write the names on the back so you will remember – trust me!

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


Different wood types will take stain differently – so this is VERY important.  I also highly encourage you to use the wood conditioner before staining.

It is extra work, but worth the time.  I specifically asked (begged actually) our painters to use the wood conditioner, and they told me that they used it – but they DID not!!

And how do I know?

This is what happens (below) when you don’t use wood conditioner on new wood – it leaves “bare” spots that simply will NOT take stain.

Thank goodness there are only 4 stairs like this, but there should be zero. 

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


Ok, moving on now – ha!!

We mixed the Dark Walnut and Jacobean stains together (1:1 ratio – equal parts), but they botched this a little as well. 

The color ended up looking a little more yellow (like the Jacobean tint) than we had planned.  But it’ll do for now!

So, definitely make for sure you test the stain colors, have them show pictures of their prior work, go look at their work in-person, and get referrals.

Here are some pictures after the 2nd coat. 

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


And now.  Still beautiful, and we truly do love it.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase

You Are Done!!

Overall, we are SO HAPPY with how our stairs turned out.  Our ugly carpet is finally gone, and the hardwoods give our entry a much nicer look.

Side view.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


Top View.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


Full View.

5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


***To see our updated staircase:  Click Adding Removable Wallpaper To Stair Risers:  Under $35.

Have a Great Week!!

Love & Hugs πŸ™‚

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5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase




5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase



5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase



5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase



5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase


5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase



5 tips: adding hardwood to curved staircase




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    1. hi jana! the paint color on the stairwell/foyer is tinsmith SW 7657.
      hugs jael πŸ™‚

  1. Thank you so much this is so helpful. I have the same stairs and was trying to find a picture of how it would look! This is so much more and so informative. WOW game changer! Thanks again for sharing your experience!

    1. Hi Janice! I’m so happy this post helped you picture your own stairs. You will love them (by the way) – they really are a game changer! Good Luck with your remodel!
      hugs –
      jael πŸ™‚

  2. Jael, I also wanted to say you absolutely made the right choice with the bottom stair!!!!

  3. I am also getting push back to cut off that rounded bit on the bottom step. I appreciate the pictures of that adjustment and how they built in out, Im really curious and hope you have more pictures of how you made the adjustment on that railing from the volute to the new post end. Looks like you used the same newel, just moved it over. ow did you do that so seamlessly with our touching the railing above?

    1. Hi Karen! I’ve added some new pictures to the newel post section, but I can’t find any original pics on the actual adjustment portion – so sorry! It looks like they simply removed the curved volute, and attached the new fitting in the same place.
      I also have added some “extra” pictures to the very end of the post- so hopefully they will help your carpentry crew out a little more.
      You’re going to love the new changes! Keep me posted.
      Hugs –
      Jael πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Lulu!
      Thanks for the kind feedback!
      We used 5/8″H treads.
      5/8″ – in the middle of 1/2″ and 3/4″ (just a little helpful tip)
      And 5/8″ = .625″
      So that is the tread height that we used (it’s linked up in the supply section if you need it).
      Please let me know how your stairs turn out – you’ll love them!
      Hugs –
      Jael πŸ™‚

  4. Hi,

    Thanks SO MUCH for this post. We have a traditional post and I want to change it to the cap you have. I asked for a quote from. Stair place and they quoted thousands!!! Did you just have a handy man do this for you?

    1. Hi Tania! I can’t see a small change running into the thousands – are they doing the entire stairs also?
      I know it will be a little work removing the old handrail cap and replacing it with the new one because they will have to adjust it a little to match the angle of the old one (and then stain to match). In other words, it will be a little time consuming – but not difficult work.
      An entire new newel post – would run probably about $350 each for parts/labor – so changing out the cap fitting should be less than that.
      We used a carpenter because they replaced the carpet with hardwoods.
      I think you could hire a handyman that is also considered “good” in carpentry work as well. Shop around and maybe ask some friends or neighbors if they have a recommendation of someone they have already used that does great work!
      Hugs – Jael πŸ™‚

  5. Hi Jael! Thanks for the informative post! I’m in the middle of a similar scenario with replacing carpet on my curved staircase and my contractor is pushing back on adding the “pie-shaped” piece in, did you see issue with this? He didn’t know how clean it would look and suggested I buy the wider, longer boards and he would cut them to size. Did y’all caulk that joint too? Any insight is appreciated! Thank you!

    1. Hi Alexis! We used the same board for all of the curved pieces (pie-shaped), and then we ordered 8 extra tread boards for the pie-shaped “gap fill-ins.”
      So basically our treads were: 48″L x 11.5″ W. The carpenter had to cut the large pie piece first (cut length off and width), and then used the “extra treads” to cut the small pie piece last.
      – (length of our stairs are ~ 45″L, and each width is different for the curved treads)

      I don’t remember if they glued or caulked this smaller piece, but we have not had one issue with any of the tread “joints”.
      I also don’t think we could find any wider tread boards (that I know of), with the nose portion connected – sorry!
      These will take some time to plan and “figure out,” but they are beautiful when done!
      Hope this helps!
      hugs – jael πŸ™‚

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