The cap of a stair is also called the tread. It's the flat part you step on when climbing up or down the staircase. Yours may be worn, scratched or covered with layers of paint. If ripping them out is not an option, stair part companies have the perfect, ready-made answer for you. Red or white oak stair tread covers that fit over the existing tread are readily available, durable and reasonably priced.
Measure the width and length of each of each individual stair tread with a measuring tape. Number and record the measurements on paper. No two stairs are alike, especially if the house is very old. Go to your home-improvement centre and order oak tread covers. Give the store the measurements and have them custom cut if you don't have a proper wood shop at home. Number the bottom of each stair as it is cut.
Stain the oak stair treads to match the woodwork in your home. Wipe stain on with a brush and wipe off excess with a lint-free cloth. Stain with the grain of the wood. Let the stained treads dry for three to five hours. Sand lightly between coats with fine-grit sandpaper, applying as many coats as needed for the desired colour. Finish with two coats of polyurethane to seal the wood against spills and scuffs.
Cut the nose of each old stair tread so it's flush with the riser with an electric jigsaw. Vacuum up the sawdust and wipe the cut surface with a damp cloth.
Run a bead of construction glue in a tight 'S' curve on the back of the bottom stair tread cover. Fit the tread over the old stair and press down hard for 30 seconds. Hammer finishing nails three-quarters of an inch from each of the four edges of the tread, spacing them 3 to 4 inches apart. Repeat with the next stair tread, working your way to the top.
Half a tube of construction adhesive per tread is the most you should need. Wipe off any excess glue that comes from under the tread under pressure with a damp rag.
Stair tread covers raise the stair height slightly. Be aware of this while climbing or descending the stairs until you get used to the new height.