When you’re building or redesigning the stairs in your home, you may be faced with a sometimes challenging decision: do you go with carpet or wood stairs? Although the answer to this question may seem like a matter of preference at first, it actually requires careful consideration, as the stairs are one of the most used parts of your house. So, how can you decide?
Wood stairs are more aesthetically pleasing, durable, and have a much better return on investment. On the other hand, carpet stairs are safer, especially if there are elders or children in the house, or if you have pets. Additionally, they are less expensive than wood stairs.
In the following article, I’ll take you through a variety of reasons why choosing wood stairs as your design of choice can be the best decision for you and vice versa. You’ll learn more about the factors to consider when deciding between these flooring options. Keep reading to learn more.
Wood stairs can be made of hardwood or softwood. Softwood stairs are usually pine, while hardwood stairs can be made of species like oak, ash, walnut, or hickory.
Some homeowners often prefer to use a combination of materials that better fulfills all of their needs. For example, they may choose hardwood for the treads as it is a better-looking, more durable material while using a more suitable softwood for the risers.
Since a carpet doesn’t cover the stairs, they can be less protected from wear and tear and other damage factors. This is why the builders always finish them with a thick layer of polyurethane used for insulation.
If you were to choose wood stairs, you would probably need to match them to the rest of the floors and the decor of your house.
- Better looking, more sought after than carpet stairs
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Last much longer
- Unsafe; hard and not very forgiving on your joints
- Can be very noisy; this is problematic if the staircase is close to your bedroom
- Installation can be expensive
Carpet stairs are typically covered all the way: the tread, the risers, the whole width. However, not any type of carpet can be used for this function: the material needs to be durable, comfortable but not too thick. Aesthetically speaking, stair carpeting is usually a neutral color or contains some type of pattern to hide any imperfections.
When carpeting the stairs, professionals usually start from the top and work their way to the bottom. They mold the carpet over each tread to fit it perfectly to every edge and corner, as any imperfection can turn out to be hazardous.
For this reason, when getting your stairs carpeted, choosing a company that provides excellent quality work is crucial, as it is a worthwhile investment made to ensure your safety.
If you are not a fan of wall-to-wall covered stairs, you can go for an alternative design that, in a way, combines the best of both styles: carpet stair runners. I recommend the Negoo Carpet Stairs Runner (Amazon). This specific runner is not only self-adhesive, making its installment a breeze, but it’s also durable and easy to clean.
It’s still a carpet attached to your stairs, but it only covers their middle, which is also the part that gets most of the foot traffic.
- Safe, cushioning you if you slip or trip down the stairs
- Not very expensive
- Eliminate the noise of your footsteps
- Not easy to clean, collect dust and other particles
- Not very aesthetically pleasing, at least compared to wood
- The carpet can start to pull away from the stairs after some time, becoming a hazard
This concludes all the essential information you’ll need regarding the main features that wood and carpet stairs provide. In the following sections, I’ll take you through the factors that should inform your decision when choosing between these two design choices and how they compare to one another.
Safety should always be the primary concern when choosing the ideal stair design for your home. You’ll use them countless times every day, and regardless of how careful you are, accidents might happen.
Safety is an especially crucial factor to consider if you have small children, elders, or people who have difficulty moving in your household. Your pets should also be a consideration as they often find using the stairs challenging.
Wood stairs are not ideal when it comes to safety for multiple reasons. First of all, they are smooth and slippery.
While excellent for protecting the stairs, the polyurethane layer that I previously mentioned can also be slick and make them hazardous. The slip risk significantly increases if you’re used to wearing just socks around the house.
In addition to being slippery, wood stairs are much harder to fall on. They’re made of a firm and dense material that can cause a lot of damage to the human body. Over a million people injure themselves by falling down the stairs every year.
Carpeted stairs, on the other hand, can increase the safety of your staircase due to two main reasons: one, the carpeted surface will offer some traction, lowering the possibility of someone slipping, and two, even if you fall or trip, the carpet cushions you, minimizing the damage to your body.
However, you should always be careful using carpeted stairs as well, as they still pose a certain level of risk. The carpet covering the treads shouldn’t be too thick, as it can make you trip very easily. You should also check constantly for any sign of the carpet pulling away from the stairs as it can quickly become hazardous.
Overall, as far as safety goes, carpet stairs have the advantage.
See also: Best Non-Slip Stair Treads
Your stairs should look good and fit with the aesthetic of the rest of your house; after all, you want to be comfortable and visually pleased with your own space. Depending on your preferences, both wood and carpet stairs can look good in the right area.
Of course, this is much more important when you have a very visible staircase that can be seen, for example, from your living area, than a staircase somewhere at the back of the house. You should also consider the importance of matching the flooring at both ends of the stairway, as you wouldn’t want them to clash.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in general, the more of the stairs you can see, the better they look. Wood stairs are the way to go if this is your preference. They are commonly made of high-quality wood that looks rich, modern, and polished.
What’s more, with wood stairs you’ll be able to make changes to their design more easily. For example, you may want to paint the risers, usually with a light color like white, to create contrast with the treads made of dark wood to make them look more striking.
Carpeted stairs don’t have the same aesthetic effect that wood stairs have, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t also look good. You can play with colors and patterns for the carpet and match it to the rest of your decor. The options are endless, but generally, you can be sure that carpeted stairs will always look more casual than their wood counterparts.
In general, wood stairs are more aesthetically pleasing than carpet stairs.
Durability is a key factor to consider during the design process as you and your loved ones will use the stairs countless times, so ensuring they can hold up over time is of the essence. This is especially true for the middle part of the stairs, where pretty much everyone steps.
The polyurethane layer covering wood stairs protects against foot traffic and other types of damage; therefore, wood stairs can be very durable. As long as the coating is thick enough, the stairs will not sustain any damage even under the heaviest boots and sharpest high heels.
However, because the wood is uncovered, there’s still the possibility of scratches and other types of damage caused by especially sharp or heavy objects.
In this case, you may be able to salvage the wood by sanding and then finishing them with a protective layer, the same way you would finish a hardwood floor.
To learn more about salvaging wood stairs by sanding and finishing them, check out this YouTube video:
On the other hand, carpet stairs are covered, and the carpet offers a significant amount of protection for the wood underneath. This means that there is little chance of dents or scratches. Carpet stairs can handle pressure and foot traffic for long periods.
Because of foot traffic, the carpet in the middle can wear out over time or become flattened compared to the sides creating an uneven look. You might have to replace the carpet after a while.
For durability, both carpet and wood stairs have their pros and cons, but wood stairs have a slight advantage because they can withstand more damage without having to replace anything.
This might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about factors that affect your stairway choice, but the noise you make while going up and down the stairs can become a real nuisance quicker than you’d think.
Especially if your stairwell is located close to your bedroom, you’ll want to make sure that you won’t hear everyone’s feet stomping on the steps.
Wood stairs can’t do much when it comes to stifling sounds. Because the wood is exposed and tough, the steps on these stairs can be very loud.
Even if you try being careful or walk softly wearing socks (which, remember, is not exactly safe on wood stairs!), your movement can still make some noise, like creaks and squeaks.
This is where their carpet counterparts have a clear advantage. The tough wood is completely covered with a relatively soft layer of carpet which can absorb the sounds of people stepping on it. You might hear a creak or two, but generally, carpet stairs are much better for sound absorption.
Carpet stairs have the advantage of being much better at absorbing the sounds of the footsteps compared to wood floors.
Stairs need cleaning quite often because they are areas with high foot traffic. They collect dust, dirt, and different types of stains very easily, and you’ll usually have to go through the trouble of removing them.
Unlike your floor, stairs are not as easy to clean due to their edges, crevices, and nature of their structure.
Keeping in mind these difficulties, I’d say it’s still relatively easy to clean wood stairs. All you need to do is use a light broom and a mop. The protective layer of wood stairs also ensures that they won’t stain. Any sort of spills or footprints can sometimes be easily cleaned with just paper towels.
When it comes to carpet stairs, the situation is very different. The best way to clean any carpet is with a vacuum cleaner, meaning that will be the case for your carpet stairs as well. Cleaning the stairs with anything can be challenging because of their structure, but cleaning them with a vacuum cleaner can be a struggle on its own, not to mention quite risky.
Another disadvantage of carpet stairs as far as cleaning goes is that carpets stain very easily, and getting rid of the stains may require a lot more work.
You can’t just use a paper towel in this case, as the stains will get absorbed by the soft material. This means you may need to scrub and use a carpet cleaner spray that will lift stains while neutralizing odors and leaving the carpet fresh.
Wood stairs are much easier to clean and maintain than carpet stairs.
Before deciding on the type of stairs you want, you should always set a budget and choose an alternative that allows you to stay within its limits.
The most crucial factor to decide on is whether you want to do the installation yourself or get a professional to do it and then consider the accompanying costs. There are a few differences between wood stairs and carpet stairs in this regard.
Wood stairs can be pretty expensive, especially if you’re planning on using premium wood, such as cherry or oak. A Solid Red Oak Stair Tread can be a more suitable alternative, given its durability, sleek design, and expensive finish. It’s more than a worthwhile investment for those willing to pay the extra.
In contrast, there is a wide range of prices when it comes to carpet stairs. In general, they tend to be more affordable than wood stairs, but you can find expensive options as well.
The average cost for carpeting stairs in the United States is around $750 for 12 steps, but it can go as low as under $400 and as high as $2500.
If you hire a professional, you’ll be looking at a 1000 to 5000 dollars bill just for the labor. This may push you to try installing the stairs yourself, but you need to remember that the installation can often be complicated and require special tools.
For this reason, I highly recommend getting a professional to install carpet stairs because it requires additional care and precise measuring.
Carpet is cheaper to install than hardwood stairs, but it may also need to be replaced some years down the line.
What Else to Consider When Choosing Between Carpet and Wood Stairs
In addition to what I’ve previously mentioned, there are some additional factors you might want to check before making a decision about whether you’ll use wood or carpet stairs.
If you have cats or dogs, especially older ones, you may need to consider them as well, as they too will be using the stairs. Usually, for older dogs, wood stairs can be hard to manage. Additionally, pets can contribute to staining and scratches on the stairs.
The Rest of the House
Your decision should be based on what the rest of your house looks like. Analyzing the style of your living space can help immensely in choosing a staircase that suits your home best.
Sometimes wood stairs complement the rest of the space better, creating a sophisticated rich look. On the other hand, sometimes carpet stairs better suit your design style, adding to a cozier and more casual vibe.
Additionally and more importantly, keep in mind that your range of choices will be entirely different if you already have an existing set of stairs that you want to remodel rather than installing them for the first time.
For example, if you already have wood stairs, it would be cheaper to refinish them rather than install carpeting.
Return on Investment
Any decision that you make about your stairs can and will affect the value of your home if, at some point, you decide to sell it. This is why you should consider what people prefer in these situations to understand what could be more profitable for you.
Wood stairs are usually more sought after by home buyers. A lovely hardwood stairway placed in a visible place in the house can only add to the value of your house. The same stairway somewhere in the back would be less visible and, as a result, not add much to the view, but it is still preferred compared to carpet stairs.
While safer and noise absorbing, carpet stairs just don’t have the same effect on people looking to buy houses. A brand new set can make a great impression, but the problem is that the carpet wears out pretty quickly, and it can make the entire house look older. They may be cheaper to install, but potential house buyers don’t prefer them.
Choosing between wood and carpet stairs will depend on your home design and preference. For a children-friendly, cozy family home, carpet stairs may be the wisest choice, while for a more sophisticated look that requires less maintenance and can add value to your house, you’d want to choose wood stairs.