How To Prevent Slipping On Wood Stairs

Wood is a classic and elegant finish for stairs. However, they are as beautiful as they can be slippery--which can be dangerous if you have children in the house who like to run up and down the stairs. So, how do you reduce or eliminate the possibility of slipping? We have researched answers to find out. 

The solutions for this are simple enough, but they would require time and a little effort. You can: 

  • Have carpet runners installed
  • Use anti-slip stair treads
  • Coat the wood with an anti-slip finish
  • Attach anti-slip stair tape strips
  • Spray with anti-slip aerosols
  • Wipe off and clean spilled liquid immediately

Safety should be our number one priority when dealing with home fixtures. It doesn't matter how aesthetically pleasing they could be--if they're a safety hazard, they need to be addressed.  Keep reading below to learn more about how to make your hardwood stairs safer and lovelier.

Close-up detail of brown wooden stairs, How To Prevent Slipping On Wood Stairs

How to Prevent Slipping on Wood Stairs

Wood staircase inside contemporary white modern house

Hardwood stairs add significant value to your home. They are highly durable and hold up against heavy foot traffic. However, they can be dangerous, especially if they were built with no safety precautions.

If you have elders, children, or sleepwalkers in the house, hardwood stairs are not the safest fixture. Hardwood can be slippery, especially if you live in a humid area where moisture can affect any surface. 

Fortunately, there are ways we can work around this to make our homes safer for everyone. Here are ways you can eliminate the possibility of slipping on hardwood stairs.

Have a carpet runners installed

If you're a fan of old-fashioned or traditional interior design, carpet runners are for you. They give off a classic aesthetic that can elevate the look of your living area. 

There are many designs available on the market. You can go for lavish prints or plain runners for a more hotel-like vibe--just imagine your favorite hotel with the red carpet cascading down marble stairs.

It is best to call a professional to install a carpet runner to have the correct measurements. Professionals will also have the tools needed on hand for a smoother installation. 

Read: "What Color Furniture Goes With Oak Wood Floors?"

See this carpet runner on Amazon

Use anti-slip stair treads 

Carpet stair treads are individual pieces placed on each staircase. Unlike carpet runners, they don't descend down the stairs; instead, they look like matching mats that don't completely cover the entire staircase.

These are your second best option if carpet runners are beyond your budget. They are easier to clean, and they make cleaning the wood stairs easier.

You also don't need a professional to install them since they're not as heavy and don't require special tools, so you can save on labor costs. 

See this stair tread on Amazon.

Coat the wood with an anti-slip finish

If carpets don't sound appealing to you, you can opt for an anti-slip finish. These liquid solutions can be applied directly to the staircase, significantly decreasing the steps' slip potential. 

This is ideal if you want to expose the gleaming surface of your hardwood stairs and if you don't have the time to regularly remove the dust and dirt on carpets. 

Anti-slip liquids have invisible particles that incorporate friction into smooth wood. However, you will need to reapply them since the friction can wear down over time.

How long do antislip finishes last?

Antislip liquids applied on hardwood can last up to five years with regular cleaning and dusting. Make sure you avoid harsh cleaning materials to make the coating last. 

Note that some antislip treatments require sanding to make the chemical stick. This might ruin the hardwood floors if you're inexperienced with sanding floorboards, so make sure to read the instructions before purchasing.

Once you apply the liquid, you will need to wait for 6-12 hours before the coating fully dries. This may not be ideal if you don't have any more time to spare.

Attach anti-slip stair tape strips

This anti-slip stair tape is actually 80-grit sandpaper with an adhesive backside. They are effective at providing friction on slippery staircases, and they are not easily peeled off physically. 

These tapes can also withstand humidity, so you don't have to worry about them peeling in unpredictable climates.

However, you need to be cautious since their adhesive backing can leave marks on hardwood once you decide to peel them off, which could permanently mar its look. 

The rough friction may also feel uncomfortable for people with sensitive skin. These may be reasons why this treatment is more often found in commercial buildings instead of homes.

See this grip tape on Amazon.

Spray with anti-slip aerosol

Anti-slip sprays are the cheapest solution you can find. The catch is they may also be the least reliable.

These sprays may not give you the results you want since the particles that are supposed to give friction are more scattered than if they are suspended in a liquid.

The effectivity of this spray will also be reduced if the hardwood's coat does not accept the aerosol material. Even some anti-slip liquids require sanding and priming--which sprays could require more of. 

If you choose to use aerosols, place anti-slip mats on the staircase too as another layer of protection. 

Wipe off and clean spilled liquid immediately!

This one's a no-brainer. It doesn't matter if you applied a non-slip treatment to your hardwood staircases--if something spills on it, accidents are bound to happen.

It is also easier to slip on it if it has been collecting dirt and moisture and hasn't been cleaned for a while.

Make sure to clean each step with hardwood cleaners to avoid accidents and to maintain their luster.

  • Vacuum or sweep the staircase with microfiber sheets or a broom.
  • Get a floor cleaner specifically for hardwood and one that's compatible with its finish.
  • Wipe the stairs with the cleaner thoroughly, remembering to clear spots and grease.

What makes Hardwood Slippery?

Classic vintage elegant wooden staircase with wrought iron railing.

Wood is not supposed to be slippery since it is a natural and porous material. However, some hardwood finishes make these surfaces more slippery than expected. 

Floor treatments that make wood shiny and attractive also contribute to their slip potential. Excessive use of wax polish can cause accidental falls and injuries. 

Grease, grime, and dust can also make them more slippery than usual--which is why regular maintenance needs to be observed. 

Older hardwood that hasn't been sanded and refinished for a long time can also be more slippery. Make sure your floors are sanded and refinished if anti-slip solutions are no longer working. 

What Does the Building Code Say About Stairs?

Wooden staircase with glass railings and wooden handrail. View from above

Making your stairs safe to use for all ages include following the stair-building code in your area. This ensures that your stairs are up to the safety standards so no one can suffer accidents or injuries. 

The IRC states that residential stairs should be no less than 36 inches; with their rise height not going over 7.75 inches. Each staircase should remain consistent, only allowing a difference of not more than 3/8 of an inch. 

Regarding stair tread, the depth should also be no less than 10 inches with nosing but not less than 11 inches without nosing. The residential and building codes only have slight differences in their stair codes.

The International Building Codes require that the stair riser should have a riser height of 7 inches; 4 inches minimum. The tread standard for buildings is clocked at 11 inches, with both having a tolerable variance of only 3/8 of an inch.

How To Take Care of Hardwood Stairs?

Staircase interior

Maintenance is key to protect not only the fixture but the people residing in the house as well. Here are ways to care for your hardwood stairs.

Read: "What Color Furniture Goes With Wood Floors? [11 Options]"

Fix dents immediately

Regular wear can produce dents on the staircase. Make sure to call a professional if you're unable to fix it yourself. These dents can be the culprit of an accidental injury; you need to have it fixed immediately. 

Avoid cleaning with harsh chemicals

One chemical you should keep away from hardwood floors is Ammonia. This can damage your finish and dissolve the lignin in the wood.

Lignin is the one maintaining the structural integrity of hardwood; you don't want anything breaking its polymer chain. Only apply materials and chemicals compatible with hardwood to make it last a long time.


Wooden and elegant steps in modern storey house

Hardwood adds beauty and value to homes and buildings. It gives off an opulent appeal that can't easily be replicated by other materials. Its one known flaw--slipperiness--can easily be solved with a few treatments.

Should you encounter any other issues, it is best to hire a professional. 

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