What to Know About Replacing a Stairway System – Part 2

Before jumping ahead and starting a stairway replacement project, it’s important to understand the components of a staircase.

Here are some key parts: Stringers are the sloped boards that support the weight of where you stand on the stairs. Treads are the tops of every step. And finally, risers are installed under the lip of each tread, hiding the stringers and closing the space between treads.

Sweet Spot: Risers, Treads, and Brackets

Checking on local building codes should be the first step before starting a stair replacement project. There may be newer codes you need to adhere to that were not in place when an older stairway was installed. If replacing the entire stairway, this can mean a significant change in the design or measurements involving risers and treads.

After gathering code information, builder Tim Carter recommends trying to get the “sweet spot” for positioning risers and treads.

“A 7.5-inch riser, coupled with 10-inch treads is ideal for a stairway,” says Carter, founder of AsktheBuilder.com. “You’ll discover stairs built with this combination are the most comfortable set of steps you’ve ever gone up or down!”

Stepping Up to Beauty

Carter, who has installed L.J. Smith stair systems in his own home, suggests that homeowners consider unique elements to make their stairway system truly original. Our stair company offers Reversible Stair Risers featuring a shiplap design on one side and a beaded planking design on the other, making it easy for building-industry professionals to create an entirely new look for a stair system.


Made of Primed Poplar, Reversible Stair Risers are mitered to the stringer and come in various lengths. Installed during the construction of a new stairway, the risers can be painted an accent or complementary color.

L.J. Smith also offers a variety of Decorative Stair Brackets as a way for contractors and builders to add a ‘wow factor' to a stairway. Designed for installation below stair tread returns or on stair risers, the on-trend new stair brackets come in two unique designs --- a sleek, straight Mission-style Craftsman bracket or a softly-curved Modern shape.


Each wooden stair bracket comes in left- and right-hand configurations. Available in Red Oak for staining and Birch for painting, the decorative brackets can be installed by professionals in a variety of ways on a stairway.

Swapping Out for Iron Balusters

The IronPro system from L.J. Smith Stair Systems keeps the structural aspect of the stairway but allows you to add in iron balusters. The IronPro level kit includes both a pivoting top piece and a stationary bottom piece.

After removing the existing wood baluster, the pivoting fasteners of the IronPro are attached to the handrail. Then the new iron baluster is measured and cut. The iron baluster is then inserted into the pivot fastener and swung into a vertical position. The assembly is aligned and screwed into place to secure the baluster. It’s that easy.


Two different IronPro kits are available from L.J. Smith, both featuring products in Satin Black and Low Sheen Black. For an open tread stairway, the IronPro Level Kit includes a ball adaptor, round and rectangular sockets, a base collar, a threaded disk, and centering plugs. For a kneewall stairway, the IronPro Kneewall Kit includes a ball adaptor, threaded ball adaptor, round and rectangular sockets, and centering plugs.

One IronPro kit is needed for each baluster replacement in a stairway system. L.J. Smith offers 35 different ½” solid and hollow iron baluster styles as replacement options when using the IronPro kit.

Need more stairway tips? See the first part of our series on “What to Know About Replacing a Stairway System.”

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