8 Best Types of Flooring for Stairs

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The stairway can be a focal point in any home or an eyesore if it needs to be refinished. If you’re thinking about redoing your staircase, you may be wondering about the best options for flooring on a staircase. We’ve done all the research and can tell you the best type of flooring for your needs. 

The best type of flooring for stairs depends on where the staircase is located and how it is used. A staircase that is visible from the entryway of the home may need a different type of flooring than a back staircase that leads to the basement. Some of the best flooring options for stairs include: 

  1. Hardwood
  2. Carpet
  3. Tile
  4. Vinyl 
  5. Stair Runner
  6. Premade Stair Treads
  7. Paint
  8. Cork

The best option for you will depend on where your stairway is, how often it is used, and the flooring in the rest of the house. Read on to find out about all the different floorings and the best cases for using them.

A beautiful winding hardwood staircase in showcase home, 8 Best Types of Flooring for Stairs

Flooring Options for Stairs

Hardwood

Hardwood is the traditional finish for stairs. It’s very versatile and can easily be matched to your upstairs or downstairs flooring. Finishing a staircase with hardwood can be expensive, especially if you hire someone to do it, but you can expect it to last a long time and provide a good return on your investment if you decide to resell your house.

If you have hardwood floors starting to show wear, they can be refinished, making them a durable option. Refinishing hardwood stairs can be time-consuming, but it is not particularly difficult or expensive, so it’s a good option if your budget is limited. 

Grand foyer down beautiful winding hardwood staircase in showcase home

Carpet

Carpeting your stairs may be the best option if you have carpet on the upstairs or downstairs of your house that you want to match. A carpet is also a good option if you want to cover an unfinished staircase on a budget. Carpet costs about half as much as hardwood, so it will be cheaper if you’re starting from scratch.

If you have small children, carpeted stairs are softer in case of a tumble. It’s also a non-slip surface and may be safer for both children and older people. Installing carpeting on a staircase is more difficult to do yourself than some other options, but it can be done if you have the time and skills. 

A cute French Bulldog puppy relaxing on the staircase landing

Tile

Tile can be a beautiful and durable option for your staircase. You can use porcelain or ceramic tiles on indoor staircases. Tile can be slippery, so special care will need to be taken to ensure safety.  Installing tile can affect the height of the risers, so you’ll need to make sure you or your contractor check the building codes in your area. Stairs have to be a certain height, and there can’t be a variance of more than 3/8 of an inch among the riser height. 

Tile stairs will also need some edge protection or stair nosing profile. This will prevent sharp edges where the riser meets the tread and provide a visual break so that it’s easier to see where the tread ends. This is an important safety consideration.  Another option is putting tiles on the risers and hardwood or another flooring on the stairs’ tread.

An overhead view of a hallway in a luxury home with expensive Italian marble tile flooring and stairs

Vinyl

If your flooring is vinyl, you may want to continue that on your stairs. Vinyl planks are an easy option, as they are small and easy to cut to fit your stairs. If you’re installing vinyl, it’s important to correctly prepare your surface, as imperfections may show through. 

Click here to see vinyl planks on Amazon.

Make sure that your treads are completely level. Use caulk to seal joints and cover screw holes. Sand down any rough surfaces and make sure the underlayers are smooth. Once your surfaces are prepared, you can apply the vinyl to the staircase. 

In addition to planks, vinyl is also available in sheets that will have to be trimmed to fit your staircase. This option is harder to install than vinyl planks but may be a good choice if you’re trying to match the sheet vinyl on your floors. 

Stair Runner

If your stairs are in good shape, but you want to update the look, a stair runner may be a good choice. Stair runners are made of carpet and cover just the center of the stairs. It’s also a good option if you want the look of wood but the safety of carpet. 

Click here to see this stair runner on Amazon.

Stair runners can be installed like carpet, with a pad underneath and tackless strips to nail it down. It can also be installed with carpet tape and staples, which will be less durable but easier to complete. 

Carpeted staircase of a modern home

Pre-made Stair Treads

Pre-made stair treads provide an easy way to finish a plywood staircase. These stair treads are already finished and need to be cut to fit and put in place. You can also purchase risers to match. Stair treads are available in a variety of finishes, including hardwood, laminate, and vinyl. 

While these are fairly easy to install, you’ll need a stair tread gauge to accurately measure and transfer the angle on the width of the stair tread to the pre-made tread. While the tread’s depth is usually a straight cut, the angle on the width will have to be measured for each step. 

Click here to check out this stair tread gauge on Amazon.

Beautiful Santos mahogany wooden stairs leading up

Paint

Paint may be the least expensive alternative for finishing a staircase. It’s a good option if your staircase is sturdy and in good shape but needs a cosmetic update. Painting is a quick way to change your staircase’s look and can be customized to fit in with any decor. 

Painting and decorating an apartment room

Painting is a fairly easy DIY project. If your floors have a finish on them, you’ll need to sand it down to the bare wood. Then you can choose the paint or stain of your choice. Paint stairs by starting at the top so that you can wipe off drips as they occur. Since stairs are high-traffic areas, they will need at least two coats of paint and one or two coats of polyurethane to finish them. 

Click here to see floor paint on Amazon.

Cork

Cork is an eco-friendly option that provides a non-slip surface for stairs. Cork is biodegradable and renewable. It’s also cheaper and easier to install than hardwood. Cork needs to be sealed properly. Once it’s sealed, it’s durable and long-lasting. Sharp objects can puncture cork, and heavy furniture can cause indentations, so it’s not as durable as hardwood or tile. 

Cork is much easier to install than hardwood flooring. It will need to cut to fit each step. The underlayer must be level and smooth. 

What is the Safest Covering for Stairs?

If safety is your main concern, carpet is probably the best way to go. Carpet provides a soft finish that offers a lot of traction. It’s a great option if you have small children or older people in your household. Make sure your staircase has a sturdy banister as well make your stairs as safe as possible. 

Cork is the safest of the wood flooring options. It has a naturally non-slip surface, while most wood options such as hardwood and laminate can be slippery. 

In addition to the flooring you choose, make sure to follow these safety guidelines to prevent falls:

  • Always use the handrail when going down steps.
  • Only climb or descend one step at a time.
  • Keep stairs free of toys, papers, or any other items. 
  • Keep landings free of clutter and toys. 
  • Make sure staircases are well lit.

How Can I Make Stairs Non-slip?

Non-slip stair treads are an easy way to add traction to stairs to prevent slips and falls.  These work great on all finishes except for carpeting, which is already non-slip. Installation is very quick. You peel the strips off and apply them to the front and back of the stair tread. 

Click here to see non-slip stair treads on Amazon.

Should Stairs Match Upstairs or Downstairs Flooring? 

Which floor your stairs should match depends on where in the house your staircase is located. If it’s most visible from the downstairs, then it should match downstairs. If it’s most visible from the upstairs, it should match the upstairs flooring. If it’s equally visible from upstairs or downstairs, many neutral options will match both.

A basement staircase should match the basement flooring if you want it to be finished. The basement’s finish must be consistent with the finish in the rest of the house if you want the square footage in the basement to be valued the same as the rest of the house. 

In Conclusion

The stairway is a major feature in any home. Updating your staircase can change the entire look of your house. There are a wide variety of finishes available. Which one you choose will depend on your style and your priorities. There is an option to make your staircase look great on any budget. 

For more information on stairs, check out these posts on HomeDecorBliss.com!

How Much Floor Space Do Stairs Typically Take?

How Long Does Carpet Last on Stairs?

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