How to Install a Stair Nosing Strip

Installed nose strip on stairs

The Spruce / Lee Wallender

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Yield: Per tread
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $8 to $12

A stair nosing strip, 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 to 48 inches long and can be cut to fit the width of narrower stairs, using a hacksaw (for aluminum nosing), tin snips, or aviation snips (for vinyl nosing). Most kits come with nails for installing the strips. 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Hacksaw or tin snips
  • Metal file (as needed)
  • Power drill and small drill bits
  • Caulk gun
  • Hammer

Materials

  • Stair nosing strips with nails
  • Adhesive caulk

Instructions

  1. Cut and Fit the Strip

    Using a tape measure, measure the length of each stair. 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. The strip has a flat side with nail holes and a curved side. The curved side will rest against the riser (front) of the stair. The flat side will rest on top (the tread) of the the stair.

  2. Pre-Drill Pilot Holes if Needed

    On many stairs you may be able to simply pound the nails into the stair material. In some situations, such as encountering some solid hardwood flooring types, thick laminates, or tile require a different approach. You may have to pre-drill the nail holes to successfully penetrate the hard layers, underlayment, and subflooring.

    In these cases, transfer the location of the nosing strip's holes by marking them on the step with a pencil. Remove the nosing strip.

    If your nails must penetrate tile, drill a hole with a tile cutting or masonry drill bit (whichever is appropriate for your tile) that is the same diameter, or slightly larger than, the supplied nails. Drill only through the tile being careful not to drill deeper than the thickness of the tile. Now, change the drill bit to a standard bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the nails and continue the pilot hole to the depth of the nail.

    For hardwoods, laminates, or other hard surfaces, simply drill a pilot hole in each location using a drill bit that's slightly smaller than the nails' diameter.

  3. Install the Strip

    Although, it's not required in all situations, applying a small bead of adhesive caulk under your new stair nosings is a good idea.

    Run a 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch bead of adhesive caulk on the inside of the angle on the nosing strip.

    Place the nosing strip in its final location, and nail it in place working from one end to the other. Immediately wipe away any excessive adhesive that may have squeezed out.

    Warning

    Be sure to install nosings on all of the steps. Steps are safest when they are identical. Installing nosing on some steps and not others creates a trip or slip hazard.