Concrete stairs present their set of problems; in past columns I have shared with you some solutions I have used with success for tackless installations over pad. This month, I would like to share with you a technique for direct-glue installation of stairs.

The problem I have always faced installing stairs direct-glue is getting the carpet to conform to the nose. Usually these types of installations are with commercial grade carpet, Unitary, Hot-melt, or other heavy and quite often stiff backings.

Traditionally, contact adhesive was used to overcome the resistance of these carpets to being conformed to such tight turns as are present installing a staircase.

While contact works great, I always had a problem with the fumes. Even the newer non-flammable contact adhesives can be a problem for me in an enclosed area like a stairwell. The following is a technique I came up with to allow me to install concrete stairs using a multi-purpose adhesive.

First, spread the stairs with adhesive; use plenty -- DON'T SKIMP! It is important to use a high-solids premium multi-purpose; you'll want something with lots of grab. Next, use a fan to help flash off, and accelerate the adhesive set up (Photo 1).

When the adhesive is quite tacky (Photo 2), it's time to apply the carpet. Applying the carpet seems to work best with two people, one in front of the other. One person should be standing behind holding the rolled up staircase as the person kneeling in front smoothes the carpet onto the stairs. Sorry, there is no photo of this step; there were only two of us, and no one to take the picture.

At this point the carpet will bubble at the nose. The solution is to steam the carpet, causing it to relax and form to the stair contour.

There are two inexpensive ways to do this.

1. Use a regular clothes iron and a white dishtowel; if white isn't available, make sure the towel is colorfast, because on a light carpet you might have a color transfer. In this case, the gray stripes were not a concern because the carpet was the same color gray. Wet the towel and wring it out so it is just damp. Place the towel over the nose of the stair. Apply the iron to the towel. This will create a blast of steam, instantly softening the carpet allowing it to conform to the stair nose.

The tacked up adhesive will grab the softened carpet, and when it cools it will have assumed the shape of the stair firmly held in place by the multi-purpose adhesive (Photos 3 and 4).

It is very important to only apply the iron to the damp towel; direct contact with the carpet will damage the face fiber.

2. A safer approach is to use a small portable steamer available from your local distributor that will not damage the face fiber of the carpet. The procedure is the same as using the iron, but the towel is not required because the bottom of this steamer doesn't heat up (Photos 5 and 6).