Stair Treads 101
One of the most common tread related questions is this: “Are your stair treads solid or veneered?”
Stair treads are generally sold as a solid glue-laminated product or “engineered”.
The most common stair tread is the glue-laminated product. These are three, four piece laminations, typically 1” thick. Glue-lamination is defined as “the bonding of two members with an adhesive forming a tight joint with no visible delamination at the lines of application.” Bar or pressure clamps are used in the process which result in joints that are usually stronger than the surrounding material. Good color match is necessary. One doesn’t want the look “Neapolitan ice cream” in their stair. However, in today’s market that doesn’t hold true as people have begun asking for color, variations, even knots in their delivered product. The reason for the glue-lamination process is to create a product that will not twist or warp over time.
Treads are 5/4 F.A.S. or select grade materials, glue-laminated, then surfaced down to 1” thickness. Most manufacturers mill or stock 36”, 42”, 48”, 54”, 60, and 72” stair treads.
Now we come to the facts concerning engineered treads. These are an import product, most commonly entering the USA from China. Engineered treads are also known as veneered stair treads. Outside of the fact that these are imports, the upside is engineered treads are superior to the traditional USA-made glue-laminated treads. They are created as an oak butcher block core then layered top and bottom with 1/8” of solid oak with an attached nose. With the laminations involved, the engineered satisfy the AWI standards for glue-lamination and then some, presenting the builder and home owner with a product that would probably out last the standard.
Me, I personally prefer the standard glue-laminated, USA-made treads. If you purchase a stair tread and the box is marked Made in the USA, odds are it was Amish-made. The Amish in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Iowa are well known for their woodworking which includes stair treads.