One of the most frequently asked questions as an interior designer is, “which material is best for my staircase?” Or to redesign a staircase in general. Many homeowners have an idea as to what they’d like in terms of the finish, but very few understand the practicalities that need to be considered when choosing a material for the stairs.

There are often many follow up questions on this subject, such as, “how can they look beautiful, but still be functional?” and “is a runner enough, or should the entire tread be carpeted?” and “is wood a big problem?” and even “how do I transition different flooring types from one level to another?”

These are all incredibly important questions to consider when thinking of redesigning or refinishing a staircase, and are all questions I hope to answer in this blog post!

Let’s dive into this subject of flooring for staircases and break it down by material type.


Wood Staircases

To make wood staircases safer, you can use ! These are fantastic for adding extra grip and friction.


By far the most attractive staircases, wood stairs offer a natural beauty that is unlike any other finish! But how are they in terms of practicality?

Wooden staircases can actually be a hazard because of the slippery surface. If you’re wearing socks on wood floors, it’s easy to slip and slide around (if you have kids with wood floors – I’m sure they’ve done this more than a few times!) So if you’re carrying something heavy down wood stairs and you have socks on, the likelihood of tripping increases massively.

So while wood stairs look fantastic, you should be aware of these dangers, especially if you have kids.

To overcome the hazard of wooden staircases, consider installing a carpet runner! The texture of the carpet adds some friction between that and your feet making the stairs safer.

While wood staircases are extremely beautiful in modern homes, they have less friction and therefore can be a hazard for kids. Care should be taken!


Carpet Staircases

Custom carpet runners are readily available to use as stair runners! This geometric runner will bring life to your stair!


Carpet is one of the most practical materials for a staircase because of the friction that is created between that and your feet. This means it is safer for all the family.

Using carpet to create a runner is a great way to add a practical layer to your staircase if you’d prefer to keep the wood beneath visible.

If you do choose carpet for your staircase, choose carefully if you have turning treads or landings. Directional or patterned carpet, in particular, will need to be considered carefully in these instances. While they are beautiful, they’re not a good solution for stairs with twists and turns. A classic textured carpet will work much better for these shaped staircases. 

Carpet stairs are much safer than wood staircases, however, can look less inviting. Use a carpet runner instead!


Transitions Between Levels

Wood transition strips are great to use for wood to carpet or wood to tile finishes!


Should you choose to install a different finish to your staircase than the rest of the flooring in your home, you will need to think about the transitions carefully, especially between levels.

If you choose a carpeted staircase or one with a runner and this connects to a carpeted upper level, choose a carpet that is the same or similar to that of the upper level to avoid using transition strips at the top of the staircase. 

For wood stairs that connect to a carpeted upper level, you will need to use a transition strip for the change in material. You should be able to source a strip that is finished in the same wood tone as the stair, or there are metal strips available.

When you’re choosing a finish for your staircase, remember to look into transition strips if materials change between levels.


Key Takeaways

Another option for transitions between levels are metal T-shape transition strips! These create a modern and minimal look.


The right material for your staircase depends on your home and situation. For those with kids, safety will be a top priority, however, for young couples, this may not be a key aspect to consider. Similarly, for modern homes, an open tread staircase that is clad in wood works extremely well, however for older properties a carpeted stair (or one with a runner) may be more appropriate.

Always examine your situation, the style of house, and inspiration from Instagram or Pinterest.


Are you looking to refinish your staircase soon? Or perhaps have just updated your interiors? I’d love to know whether you have found the advice here useful and if you have any further thoughts! Drop a comment below!