Solid wood stairs or carpet on stairs...which would you do?

jencjuddJune 22, 2009

I am debating on whether or not to do wood stair treads or carpeted. I currently have picked out a very beautiful patterned carpet for our stairs; I figured I'd rather have carpet because I have small kiddos and I like the comfort of carpet there.

BUT, I just found out that the carpet I picked for the stairs COSTS THE SAME as doing all wood. Leave it to me to break the bank on carpet! I wondered if I should just go ahead and do the wood stairs after all.

I'd probably end up putting a runner on them at some point, though, so I'm back at thinking maybe I should stick with carpet.

Anyone have wood stairs with little kids? Has it been a problem? Are they still bare, or have you needed to come back and cover them?

Thanks for your help!

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This is confusing to me. It sounds as if you are saying that you have the option of doing stairs that do not have wood treads but have carpet treads instead. Ever stair system I've ever seen is built with wood or metal or whatever basic material has been chosen. The carpeting is an option to add on top of the basic tread and could be a runner or individual strips of carpet or another material applied to the tread. Could you clarify this?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 8:40PM
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I would do wood treads and add a carpet runner later if you find it isn't working for you. I think wood looks "richer". I don't have kids. What is your concern? Slipping? We go barefoot all summer, and in the winter I usually wear grippy socks. Some cotton socks can be slippery, as they can be on any wood floors.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 11:07PM
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I'm probably not using the right terminology here. What I mean is, the steps will either be solid, stained wood, or they'll be carpeted (meaning you take up the carpet, you have an unfinished wood step beneath, meaning you can only carpet these steps). If that makes any sense. Somebody who understands my garble, please help me explain myself.:)

Sue36, my concern is slipping, rolling down hard, unforgiving stairs, tripping and banging shins, etc., etc. My kids are going to grow, but some of them are itty bitty (the 4-month-old, for example). I love the richness of the wood as well, and thought I could put a runner later, but wondered if it really would be the same as carpeting the stairs, since you'd have to drill holes in the wood to install the runner, anyway.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 11:32PM
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In our last house we had carpeted stairs.
In our current house we were convinced hardwood stained stairs would be a slipping problem and had all intentions of doing a carpet runner over the hard woods.
It has been almost 5 years and we still have not done a runner and I doubt we will.
It has been a non-issue with us. It has not been as slick and slippery as we thought it would be.
If I were you, I would do the hardwoods stair treads and in the future, if you find it slippery, do a carpet runner.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 11:51PM
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My son and his wife built a house last year and they have two kids, nine and eleven. The house has a huge set of stairs and I wondered what they would do but they decided on carpet and at first I thought they would regret it but it is very nice. Not only does it look nice but it is so much more quiet! They don't wear shoes in the house so the stairs are not showing any wear. You may want to take the sound issue into consideration too!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 12:21AM
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I would guess the carpet will absorb some of the shock to your knees coming down.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 4:28AM
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I've lived with bare wood steps, wood with runners, carpeted [with padding], and wood with carpet only on the step portion.

IMO, bare wood looks "richer" as long as it is well kept. Yes, it's a bit harder on the feet than having padded carpet, and yes, it has the potential for being noisy -- it's awfully difficult for an angst-y teen to stomp up carpeted steps whereas bare wood can give an emphatic whomp. And yes, if you slip you'll likely have bruises to show.

I have not liked either of the stairs with pad/carpet treads, and that could well be a matter of the installation practice. One must be very careful that the full depth of tread remains, and installers seem to have a tendency to just drop the carpet nearly straight from the upper edge down to the tread. Keep in mind that a properly installed carpet which is fastened *under* the upper tread all the way to the riser uses a tremendous amount of carpet (think $$$). And keep in mind that while bare feet are kinder to carpet than boots/shoes; the carpet WILL wear and eventually need to be replaced at considerably more cost than refinishing treads.

The complaint about loss of tread depth area also applies to runners over wood. While I *have* seen correctly installed full carpeting, I have never seen runners correctly laid.

For looks, and both comfort and safety, I like finished wood with the tread carpeted on top only. This provides the safety of having a full tread, with carpeting giving the benefits of quietness and softness.

And, talking about carpeting, please DON'T use deep pile with a thick pad. It's a visual perception thing, but your eye sees the edge of the tread and thinks it is firm enough to step on. Not so with the ultra-deeps because the visible edge is actually the pile itself.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 7:08AM
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FWIW, the carpet is a low-pile, patterned style. I've posted a link to it, if anyone's curious. It's really lovely, and would be lovely as a runner atop of full wood steps, it just would be like paying double for the stairs, instead of doing one, or the other.

I might mention that this set of stairs has no landing, as it spirals. So if a kiddo takes a stumble, they're up for a long and winding ride down. Maybe I am answering my own question here, as I drum up all these possible catastrophes! :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Stanton Century Collection Caurosel in Clack

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 7:26AM
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LOL, I meant "black" not "clack" on the link. Hit submit before I caught it!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 7:28AM
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Hi thre! In our last home, we had wood stairs and it was never an issue of beng slippery (teens clonking down the steps is a separate issue LOL). Now we are in an apartment waiting to build our forever home, and there is carpet. My daughter has slipped more on the carpet coming down the stairs then ever before. We will get wood again in our new home. I vote go for wood!!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 8:17AM
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We have solid wood stair and love them a lot more than the carpeted stairs that we had at our old house. I often slipped on the carpet, but have never slipped on the wood. We have two boys who have been known to chase each other up and down the stairs and slipping has never been an issue for them. We do not have a runner and I do not intend to get one as I really like the plain wood.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 9:17AM
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I hated the worn old carpet we had on stairs in last house. We recarpeted the condo we had b4 that and I was always vacuuming the treads to "fluff" the carpet esp. when we were trying to sell. I much prefer wood - can be refinished, and even a few dings add character (we had a lot of gouges from builder - he put plywood over the treads but grit got under and I didn't want to lose a lot of oak to sanding during the first finishing so that's what I'm trying to tell myself!).

If you slip (can slip on carpet) and fall, you're going to get bruises anyway. I think you'd be more likely to trip on a runner than bare wood.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 9:25AM
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We had carpeted stairs, and slipping was definitely an issue.

Since we took up the carpet, no one has slipped.

It seems we have better footing on the solid wood than on the cushy carpet.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 11:38AM
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In our previous home we had an all wood staircase that was the cause of MANY accidents (both myself and my kids). It seemed we were always slipping. In the new home we built with wood stairs and put on a runner. while we wanted the rich look of the wood, we have small children and were freaked out about falls. It didn't help that our builder had recently fallen down his wooden stairs while holding his infant (everything was okay, but still had to spend night in hospital) - so he highly recommended it. I love that our stairs have the runner - soft, quiet, pretty. My girls have taken a couple tumbles (maybe their just clumsy??) and I think the carpeting prevented any big bruising.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 2:36PM
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We are actually doing a sort of mix. We have the normal stairs (not unstained wood, just subflooring or whatever), but then we're adding the wood endcaps and iron spindles and will have the designer carpet running up the stairs (similar to what you have picked out) it kind of mimics a runner over wood stairs (except the wood end caps are only on the open side, it's carpet to the wall on the other). We chose this bc it's what we liked (and we also have small kids, a 3 year old and we're expecting #2 in September), plus a dog. I imagine this option would be cheaper than doing the full wood and covering with a runner, but obviously no way to just remove the runner in the future since the wood doesn't cover the length of the stairs.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 4:48PM
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Wildcat, we are currently planning to do the very same thing you are...wood endcaps (risers?) and the iron spindles on one side, carpet going to the wall (there will be a wood trim piece going up the side of that wall to give a feeling of an additional cap).

And you mentioned the one issue that's had me going back to this again and again...once carpeted, always carpeted. I'm thinking I may want the wood stairs to be there after the kids are bigger.

Everyone's thoughts are great! So glad for all the feedback. Mairin, your stairs and runner are lovely, BTW. I'm leaning toward doing all wood and seeing how we do with them; it seems a lot of homes in the area are doing the full wood stairs, anyway.

Another question, though...has anyone ever taken up a runner off their wood stairs? Was it a hassle? Easy? Just wondering...if the runner ends up damaging the stairs considerably, maybe I'd be robbing Paul to pay Peter...

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 11:28PM
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I can only say from personal experience with twin boys (now 7) that we have not had problems with the 'all wood' steps. Growing up we had carpeted steps that actually seemed to cause more slips that the wooden stairs.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 10:46AM
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The potential problems with removal of runner are dependent upon how the runner was installed. Some dearies actually tack the runner to the steps, tread and riser. Ouch, because removal leaves those holes to be filled and stained to match (very difficult to conceal).

An alternative method is to use carpet bars which come in wood or metal, in an assortment of finishes. This is slightly more expensive but imo, also *looks* more luxurious. The carpet is barred at the back of the tread where it meets the riser; best practice has the runner tacked beneath each tread rather than slanted from top-front to the back of the next lower riser. Note that under-tread tacking also uses the most running feet of carpet, so the most finished appearance is going to cost.

There are several other methods, so discuss intent with the installer before s/he does the work. One thing for sure, is to not use any sort of sticky-back tape: it either doesn't hold well, or holds too well and removel is labor-intensive.

Because of the carpet pile height, if possible choose treads that are slightly deeper than usual so as to maintain fully safe depth.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 1:42PM
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A lot of the trip hazard of any type of stairs can be mitigated if the stairs are longer in depth and shallower in height than the minimum required by code. But, that takes up more space in a home, and not all homeowners are willing to devote that space to a stairway instead of maybe a larger master bath etc.

The slipperest stairs I've ever used were some very steep and short stairs that led to a converted attic space in a 1908 home. They weren't even that smooth, just sorta rough sawn barely finished. But, you could slip and fall super easy on those because there really wasn't room for your feet.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 3:59PM
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My concern with all stained wood is the noise. It's a considerable difference. Particularly if the steps are coming down into another hard-surface area, you'll know when someone's coming down the steps. However, I agree with most of the posts favoring all stained or stained + runner due to looks. If you're putting in a "show" staircase that spirals into the foyer, I think you'd be best with some stained wood if it fits the style of the house.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 7:32AM
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Thanks for all the feedback. I think I've settled on doing all wood stairs, with a runner. Though I may wait to put in the runner after we've lived in the house a bit, to see if all my worries are justified. Fish7577, the noise is an issue for me, too. Hopefully, if there's a sound problem, though, I can remedy some of that with a runner.

Thanks again for your is sooo much easier to make a decision with the help of these forums!

1 Like    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 11:42AM
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