Professional finish to an exposed bottom step when installing a wood floor covering

During my wood floor fitting adventures over the past seventeen years, I’ve been asked on innumerable occasions how to deal with the bottom riser of stairs when installing a wood floor covering, particularly if the bottom riser is to be left exposed. Well, there’re several ways to do this. Let’s briefly look at the options..

Firstly, you need to understand that any wood floor covering (including laminate flooring) will expand and contract with changes in climate. Typically, through the seasons.

To account, in particular, for expansion of wood flooring, we need to cut the wood short of any solid surfaces i.e. walls, fireplaces, stair bottoms.

With the need for an expansion gap we should also consider the final appearance of the installation. Having an exposed expansion gap is by far a professional finish and frankly looks horrendous.

If the riser of the stair bottom is to be covered with carpet, leaving an expansion gap isn’t a problem. Just leave the expansion gap, pack off the riser with carpet underlay and fit the carpet. Doing this will cover the expansion gap. That one bit of advice pretty much covers 70% of all installations.

If the stair bottom is to be left exposed as a decorative finish, there are several ways you can dealt with it.

The first and less appealing is to cut the wood floor short of the stair bottom neatly as to assure the expansion gap is consistent and with no chips on the surface. Then apply a flexible coloured sealant (specifically for this purpose) into the expansion gap. Doing this will often highlight the gap and the sealant will become a natural dirt magnet. There is nothing wrong in using this method, my preferred solution at the end of this article isn’t always my clients preferred solution so this method has had to be used by us on many occasions.

Another way of approaching a stair riser, is to cover the required expansion gap with a moulding/beading. Again, there’s isn’t anything wrong using this method. However, the moulding will clearly stand out and should your bottom riser be curved, the use of beading is possible but looks disgraceful in my opinion!

Following on from the last approach, a full false riser decorative sheath could be installed. For example sheet ply, oak veneer, sheet MDF . One that either perhaps matches a required wood finish, or can be painted with the obvious need for it to be several mm thicker than the expansion gap.

Undercut bottom stepNow let’s move on to the best and most cosmetically pleasing approach. Undercut the stair riser! Undercut bottom step 2This entails the careful marking of the riser by placing a piece of wood flooring – sat on top of underlay if that’s the method of installation used – up to the bottom of the riser and with a pencil placed on top, drawing a line across the complete riser.

Then with either a multi tool or jamb saw
, cut along the pre-marked line and remove the section of wood below the line. Undercut bottom step 3If done correctly, your wood floor should slide underneath the riser, leaving a crisp neat finish as well as allowing for the floor to expand and contract without restriction! You’ll often require the use of a sharp chisel to finish the cut in them awkward corners.

Of course caution needs to be taken. With many bottom step risers, they act as support for the step. Undercut bottom step with neat finishIn certain circumstance, extra support given to the bottom step may be preferred. This could be done using wedges or timber blocks if access to the back of the step is possible.

© Copyright 2015 Wes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Fitmywoodfloor

I am a Pergo trained professional installer of 20 years. I've been up close and personal with lots of floors and have the knobbly knees to show for it...Should you have any questions or comments please feel free to add them below. Thanks for taking the time to call by and I hope the information you've found has given you some insight!........................................................................................................................................................................“When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in the site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network,,,,,,, affiliate window network.” This statement is to comply with current internet regulations regarding transparency to consumers.

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