6 Best Flooring Types For Basement Stairs

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Flooring is important. It’s the literal foundation of a room’s look, and it needs to be able to withstand all the traffic that comes with it. This is especially true for areas prone to flooding or needs to have a lot of stability, such as basement stairs. That’s what made us research to determine which flooring type is the best for this oft-overlooked part of your home. 

The best flooring for your basement’s stairs all depends on the surroundings you have. Some of the top options include: 

  • Carpeting
  • Tile
  • Wood
  • Laminate
  • Paint
  • Cork

Unlike other parts of your home, choosing flooring for your basement stairs is a safety issue. If you choose the wrong material, you could put your family at risk or end up having serious issues later on. Let’s read a little more into this issue. 

Carpeted staircase leading to basement, 6 Best Flooring Types For Basement Stairs

The Best Flooring Choices For Basement Stairs

Each flooring method has its own perks and pitfalls, which is why it’s best to go on a case by case basis. To make things easier, we’re going to look at each flooring choice individually and then take a look at some of the common questions people have. 

Carpeting

Carpeting is one of the most popular flooring choices for basements, particularly those that are finished and aren’t prone to floods. It’s easy to see why. Everyone loves carpeting, and it adds a homey touch to everything. Most people will agree that you can’t go wrong with this option.

Perks:

  • Carpeting gives your stairs more grip, leading to fewer slips and falls. 
  • A good carpet on your stairs can make it more cushioned for both children and pets.
  • It’s a warm option, too.
  • Carpet runners also can be coordinated with your basement’s carpeting for a more polished look. 
  • When properly installed, it can cover up concrete quickly.

Pitfalls:

  • Carpeting will get badly damaged during a flood and can be prone to mold. 
  • Certain types of carpeting can be pretty bad for high-traffic areas since they can get worn down. (You can read about carpeting’s durability on stairs here!)
  • Carpeting may look out of place on stairs that lead to a basement woodshop or similar room.
  • Carpeting is also harder to clean than many other options.

Tile

Though it’s not the most common material to see on stairs, we’d be lying if we said that it’s a bad idea. Tiled basement stairs are notoriously durable and can be elegant. Much like using dark paint on walls with light carpet, it’s all about the execution. A little inspiration can go a long, long way here.

Perks:

  • Tile hides concrete and can be made elegant with the right choices.
  • You won’t find a more durable option than tile, period.
  • Having tile on your stairs is a great way to make sure you don’t have permanent mold damage. 

Pitfalls:

  • Tiling is cold to the touch, which can make the climbs downstairs rough. 
  • Installing tile on stairs can be expensive and time-consuming.
  • If you don’t clean them properly, tiling can also be slippery.

Bare Wood

There’s something so classy and comforting about bare wood, which is why it remains a popular choice for almost every home. Unsurprisingly, it remains a popular pick for basement stairs as well. If you love timeless decor that works with almost every type of decorative style, you’ll adore bare wood stairs. 

Perks:

  • It’s classy but low-cost. 
  • All you have to do is choose the right wood stain or wood paint for your basement’s layout.
  • Wood is sturdy and can have a polished appearance if need be.

Pitfalls:

  • Wood is susceptible to mold, rot, and mildew from exposure to water or moisture-rich areas.
  • Some situations may make wooden stairs less safe. 
  • Heavy traffic can wear out wooden floors, which means this is a high-maintenance option. 

Laminate

If you’re looking for an affordable way to make your basement stairs look amazing, then laminate tiling might be an option. This budget-friendly pick is one of the fastest ways to cover up basement stairs.

Perks:

  • Laminate is super affordable. 
  • You can find laminate tiling that matches with almost any home, including ones that look like wood.
  • You won’t be able to find a material that’s more low-maintenance than laminate. It’s remarkably easy to clean. 
  • Laminate flooring also lasts well and is durable for high-traffic areas.

Pitfalls:

  • Laminate can be difficult when you have to deal with curves. 
  • This is one material that does not pair well with moisture-rich areas. If your basement traps moisture, skip this option.

Paint

It’s true! Painted concrete (or painted wood) can be a great flooring option for basement stairs, particularly in commercial buildings. If you love a modern, industrial look, it can be a smart choice. When getting paint for your steps, make sure it’s non-slip and floor-appropriate. Otherwise, this concept won’t work well. 

Click here to get floor paint from Amazon.

Perks:

  • Every single basement has a shade of paint that would work well with its theme. If you know how to work it, this can be an exceptionally versatile choice. 
  • Non-slip paint that’s meant for flooring is easy to clean and remarkably easy to maintain.
  • Floor paint fares well in moisture-rich environments.

Pitfalls:

  • Painted concrete is cold to the touch and uncomfortable. 
  • It can be slippery if not the right type of paint and should not be used in homes with young children who may need padding.

Cork

Cork is not exactly common, but it’s a great stair material for people who want to add a homey yet cushiony twist to their basement. It’s affordable, can look fairly stylish, and will get statements out of most guests.

Perks:

  • It’s fairly waterproof and highly durable.
  • Cork adds cushioning to every step and mutes sound.
  • When installed well, it looks stylish. 
  • It’s slip-proof.

Pitfalls:

  • It can be a pricier option than most.
  • Cork can be prone to staining in some cases. 

Smart Tips For Choosing Your Stair Covering Material

Interior of a modern urban bungalow with fully furnished basement

When you’re working on picking out a stair covering for your home, it’s important to keep an eye on important factors that can impact your quality of life with each stair material. These tips below can help you choose the best pick for your home:

  • Carpeting is the most universally-acceptable pick and tends to be great for most homes with small children.
  • Cork is excellent, especially if you have a construction den downstairs and need slip-proof footing.
  • Keep an eye on the moisture levels in your basement. If your basement is prone to flooding, choose tile or painted concrete.
  • Wood can be elegant but will need more maintenance than other types. Keep this in mind if you’re pressed for time. 
  • Paint is the cheapest material that you can use to cover your stairs.
  • Always choose a stair style that works with the ambiance you want to have in your home. 

Important FAQ’s For Stair Covering Installs

Now that we’ve gotten the basics about each material let’s talk about some of the other questions that can make or break your decision. After all, choosing the right flooring is all about knowing what each can and cannot provide. 

What Is The Safest Floor Covering For Basement Stairs?

Cork is the safest wood-like material, simply due to its slip-proof, grippy surface. If you don’t like the wooden look, then your next best choice would be carpet. Carpeting is remarkably grippy and offers a decent amount of cushioning for people, just in case a fall does occur. Either option is a great pick for homes with young children.

Do Stair Runners Ruin Wood?

If you have a rich cherry finish on your wooden stairs, you may want to think twice about installing a stair runner. Many stair runners require hammering or adhesive strips to be installed. Nails can easily damage stairs, as can having harsh adhesives that peel off the finish. If installed carefully, you might be able to avoid most damage, but it’s still a risk you’ll have to take. 

Can I Cover Open Riser Stairs?

You can, potentially. However, your options may be slightly more limited unless you’re willing to convert your open riser stairs to a more closed model. With that said, there are several options you can consider for “floating risers.”

Many people prefer to add paint, install a cork covering, or add tiling. It’s even possible to add carpeting to them if you’re willing to wrap the carpeting around the plank. A better option for open risers is to use carpet paneling that can be glued directly to the step.

Click here to get this stair paneling from Amazon.

Can I Put Marmoleum On Stairs?

Marmoleum can be put on stairs, but there’s a major catch you need to be aware of. While it can cover up stair surfaces, it’s best to keep these to closed riser stairs. Marmoleum does not do well as a wraparound and can actually cause damage to your stairs if you use it that way. 

To make sure that your Marmoleum won’t pop off, make sure that your substrate matches the requirements put forth in their guide. If at all possible, check your store for a more stair-appropriate linoleum.

What’s The Most Difficult Flooring To Install On Basement Stairs?

This all depends, but most would argue that it would be either laminate or tiling. Both laminate and tiling may need to be cut to be properly installed on stairs. This can lead to lots of extra work, much of which could be avoided by choosing an alternative method.

In particular, Laminate can be difficult to install if your stairs have a nose that extends over the riser. If your stairs have curves built into their design, do not try either method. You’ll tear your hair out from frustration.

Conclusion

Basement stairs might not be the easiest stairs to choose flooring for, but that doesn’t mean that you’re totally out of luck. There are plenty of basement flooring options that can make your stairs pop and give you the durability you need. The only thing is, you need to choose the flooring option that is best suited for your stairs, your lifestyle, and your budget. 

If waterproofing is a major concern of yours, it may be best to choose painted concrete or tile for your stair materials. Otherwise, you might want to check out what you can do with wood, carpeting, or even linoleum. It’s your house, so the only limit you really have to pay attention to is your eye for design.

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