As a full-time stairbuilder, I've learned that I can't always rely on premilled parts, especially when staircases get complicated. For example, I constantly use factory-made treads with pre-installed returns. This works great on a straight staircase with one open and one closed stringer: I just trim the closed end so that I get the correct overhang on the open side. But on a staircase with both sides open - which requires treads with returns on both ends - things get trickier. That's because the treads have to be ordered a couple of weeks before installation - before the exact measurement from finish stringer to finish stringer is available.

I developed the technique shown here on just such a staircase. It had eight treads open on each side, so I ordered eight extra-long single-returned treads and eight tread returns. Once the drywall and skirtboards were in place, I was able to mark each tread and then fit the returns using a pattern like the one shown. That staircase happened to...

or Register to read the full article.