MDF: Routing A Stair Nose? - Router Forums

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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 12:40 PM Thread Starter
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Question MDF: Routing A Stair Nose?


I'm seeking to update my terrible carpeted stairs. I'm on a tight budget and since the staircase is oddly shapped - I was hoping to just custom cut the new treads from a couple medium density MDF sheets (0.75-in x 49-in x 8ft) - but when it comes to nosing the treads - I've hit a complete wall.

Even trim that I could use in replacement of the typical over-priced nosing trim will put me waaaaay over budget. So I was wondering if it was possible to route the outward-facing edge of each MDF tread to be rounded? Creating the nose just from the rounded edge?

Images of my staircase below - You can see why the treads will have to be more custom...

Also - if anyone has any words of warning or better ideas on how to pull this off, please by all means let me know! I'm pretty new to flipping spaces and have limited experience - so any knowledge you can share would be nothing but appreciated
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Last edited by DIYChick; 03-18-2017 at 12:44 PM.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 12:53 PM
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Hey, DIYChick; welcome!
What are you planning on covering the treads with (paint, carpet, tile...)?
The normal material for tread construction would be at least 1" thick...3/4" is pretty skimpy.
1 in. x 11-1/2 in. x 12 ft. Bullnose Stair Tread MDF Board-541260 - The Home Depot
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 01:05 PM Thread Starter
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Planned to prime, paint, and seal them.

I can see your point about it possible not being thick enough - I'm not even quite sure what is under the stairs I have as far as wood or what the treads would attach to.

Do you think the Bullnose Stair tread you linked to could be used on some of my more oddly shapped stairs? Given the width of some of the oddly shapped treads I have - I'd obviously have to layer that board to fill the space.

It's also worth mentioning that this is a rental property of mine that guests only spend 3 days in at a time and the majority of that they are out skiing or hiking depending on the season. So the stairs don't usually get much use until guests are ready to go to sleep.

Last edited by DIYChick; 03-18-2017 at 01:07 PM.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 01:53 PM
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Not knowing what's beneath the tread makes giving absolute how-to advice a bit tricky, but I don't see why there'd be a problem with using that stuff on all the treads. Lots of wastage though.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 01:59 PM
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Hello and welcome to the router forum.
My suggestion to you would be saving little more money and buy decent stairs threads MDF has no strength if get wet it will swell, I am almost sure that front the step would crumble or break off, this would be a bad use of MDF
Lot uses for MDF but this not one of them
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 03:03 PM
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I wouldn't use MDF in that application - it's basically fibers held together with glue - as John stated above, if it gets wet it will swell and possibly crumble. Using it for stairs treads in a rental property is inviting liability for someone's possible injury. This isn't the place to try to save some money.

Either lead, follow, or get out of the way.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 03:06 PM
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Last year I needed to replace my stair treads and, being low on funds, decided to use 3/4" pine, which I think is stronger than MDF. They are now cracked in several places and are no where as wide as yours are. My suggestion, for what it's worth, would be to make those treads out of at least 3/4" plywood, and then carpet the stairs. I would be afraid to use MDF.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 03:24 PM
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The ndf might be strong enough since only 1 to 1.5 inches are exposed. It can be bought in 1" thick sheets but I'm not sure what the price difference is. My concern would be how well they hold up over time. When I built mine I used 3/4 OSB sub floor sheets. That was 25 to 30 years ago and they have held up with no issues. Of course osb is ugly as hell and painting it doesn't help. Mine got carpeted over.
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Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 03:28 PM
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That picture Dan referred to is mis-nomered, that shows a picture of Stran board and a world of difference to MDF
Mdf would deffinitely sag on you. I would recommend 5/4 solid wood or 1 18" plywood. both can be bull nosed with a router.

You are going to have to open up the back of the staircase to get to the back to nail/screw the riser board to the back edge of the tread also.
The cheapest way to go would be to recarpet the stairs.


From a liability standpoint in a rental in a ski area, carpet would be best and figure on replacing every couple of years. Just saying.

Last edited by Herb Stoops; 03-18-2017 at 03:31 PM.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 03-18-2017, 04:18 PM
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Good catch on the OSB, Herb! I noticed it in the pic but didn't react to the discrepancy.
I still stick to my guns on the minimum thickness though...not 3/4" of anything.
Wet boots on painted treads is an accident looking for a place to happen!
Stair runners at the very least.
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