A stair nosing, or edging, strip is a length of aluminum or plastic that protects the edges of stairs that are not already protected by a built-in bullnose or rounded edge. Most stair nosings have an L-shaped profile so that they wrap around the front edge of the stair tread and down over the riser, the vertical board just below the tread.
Nosings provide a finished look and help protect the edges of the steps from damage. They also make stairs safer by providing a non-slip surface and a slight lip that helps keep feet from slipping off a step.
Nosing strips are typically 36 inches long and can be cut to fit the width of narrower stairs, using a hacksaw (for aluminum nosing) or tin snips or aviation snips (for vinyl nosing). Most kits come with nails for installing the strips.
Equipment / Tools
- Tape measure
- Hacksaw or tin snips
- Metal file (as needed)
- Stair nosing strips with nails
Cut and Fit the Strip
Measure the length of each stair, using a tape measure. If the stairs are open on one or both sides, you can simply set the nosing in place and mark where to cut it. Mark the nosing, then cut it to length, as needed, using a hacksaw or tin snips. With aluminum nosing, be careful not to leave metal burrs along the cut edge (aluminum is prone to this). If you see burrs, use a metal file to remove them and smooth the edge.
Test the fit by placing the strip tightly on the corner of the stair tread. If your strip has a curved side, this side will go on the top (the tread) of the stair. The flat side with the nail holes will rest against the riser (front) of the stair.
Check the Nail Contact Points
Make sure that the nails will meet solid wood. On most wood steps, there is solid wood where the nails go, but at the top step (at floor level) you may be dealing with layers of flooring, underlayment, and subflooring. Thus, the contact point may not be the solid wood of a riser or even solid hardwood flooring, but possibly other types of flooring or plywood subflooring or underlayment, which won't hold the nails well if they go straight in.
The best way to check this out is to press a nail point-first firmly into the holes of the strip, then remove the strip. You will see dots on the wood where the nails hit.
If the nails will enter between layers of flooring, one option is to drill new holes in the nosing strip that are either a bit higher or lower in order to have contact with solid wood. Another approach is to drive the nails at a downward angle for better holding power. Nails driven straight into plywood edges simply separate the layers of plywood and don't hold well.
Install the Strip
Nail the nosing strip in place, working from one end to the other. If there is solid wood behind the strip, drive the nails straight in (horizontally). Otherwise, drive them at a downward angle of no more than about 30 degrees. If the angle is too sharp, the nail heads may not sit flush to the nosing.
Be sure to install nosings on all of the steps. Steps are safest when they are identical. Having nosing on some steps and not others creates a trip or slip hazard.