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Are Stair Treads Safe?

Many homeowners who have indoor wooden or tiled steps on their staircases consider installing stair treads thinking that they will make the steps less slippery and safer for everyone (including pets) no matter what their age is.  But, are they right?

Are stair treads safe? – Yes, stair treads should make your steps (indoors or outdoors) safer which would help to keep you and your loved ones from slipping and falling when you use the staircase.  But choosing the right type of tread is important.  The different types of treads available today are aluminum, rubber, carpet and tape.

These days, you have multiple options for stair treads, which is great because you can customize them to your decor.

  • The different kinds of indoor stair treads that are available today are carpet, vinyl or rubber and tape.
  • Outdoor stair treads available today are aluminum, vinyl or rubber, outdoor carpet and tape.

They all do a wonderful job of adding traction to your steps which reduces the chances of slipping and falling.

Types Of Stair Treads For Indoor and Outdoor Use

Indoor carpet stair treads come in a variety of styles and designs.  You can choose from simple styles like these or patterned styles like these.  There are many more to choose from so look through the multitude of styles available either at your local carpet store or online.

Indoor vinyl or rubber stair treads are a great choice especially if you have pets in the home (easier to clean the pet hair off of).  They aren’t as decorative as some of the other options available but they are very practical – like these rubber treads.  Note that some of these are not solid pieces of vinyl or rubber but instead have decorative cut outs.  Although these cut out versions are more aesthetic, they can be difficult for someone who uses a cane.

Indoor tape stair treads don’t have to look obvious on your wooden steps.  Clear Anti Slip Roll by EdenProducts is a great choice for indoor wooden steps, bathroom flooring (tile, vinyl, linoleum, etc.) and any other location that is not carpeted. I would also recommend this in the master bedroom, by the bedside if the floor there is not carpeted.

Outdoor aluminum stair treads don’t necessarily have to look silver and industrial. Outdoor Anti Slip Treads like the ones made by Handi-Treads are specifically designed for wooden outdoor steps, decks and other wood surfaces.  It’s an aluminum product that the manufacturer states will not rust or wear out.

Outdoor vinyl or rubber stair treads are rubber floor treads which can be an excellent product for outdoor steps.  I would recommend to purchase solid rubber treads (vs the cut out ones) to avoid any problems if your senior loved one uses a cane.  I personally have dealt with having to remove the tip of a cane that was jammed into a rubber floor tread that had intricate lacy cutouts.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal but it becomes one when you have to do that AND help your senior loved one up or down the stairs at the same time.  Just saving you the trouble of having to go through that!

If you live in climates that have severe temperatures (hot or cold) note that rubber and vinyl do not withstand these temperatures very well and you may end up having to replace these types of stair treads yearly or every other year.  For these climates I would recommend the aluminum type of treads that I mentioned above.

Outdoor tape stair treads are available as well.  I would recommend these non-slip indoor/outdoor stair treads that have a reflective stripe on them to make it easier to see in the night.  However, I always recommend lighting everywhere so although these do have a reflective stripe, to be as safe as possible I would recommend a rope light or motion light nearby to illuminate the steps.

Do Stair Treads Ruin Wood?

Depending on the type of stair tread that you choose, the answer is that yes, they could ruin your wooden staircase or maybe not. So, let’s go over the different methods used when stair treads are installed on your hardwood steps.

  • Tape stair treads – normally come with a commercial type of durable adhesive.  This could damage the hardwood floors of your steps if they were to be removed and/or replaced.
  • Rubber stair treads – could be fastened with screws or nails or glued.
  • Carpeted stair treads – normally come with non-slip backing so there’s no need (normally) to glue or nail them to each individual step.

Best Stair Treads For Wood

Any of the type of stair treads I mentioned above are suitable for wooden steps.  For indoor wooden stairs, the best treads to get would depend on your home environment, your lifestyle and if you want to avoid any damage to the wooden steps.

Consider the following:

  • If you have pets, I would recommend to avoid tape stair treads.  Reason being that pet hair would be difficult to remove from these strips.
  • If someone in the home uses a cane or wears high heels, I would recommend to avoid any of the laced cut out rubber treads for obvious reasons.
  • If you want to avoid glue or screws or nails in your wooden steps then I would recommend to choose carpeted treads that come with a non-slip backing.  (But – if a senior loved one has difficulty raising their leg high enough to clear the carpeted tread – then this may NOT be a safe solution for your home).

Note that you can look for very low pile carpeted stair treads if your senior loved one is having problems raising their legs from one step to the other.  Again, these carpeted treads should NOT hang over the edge of the step.  If they do, it can be easy enough to get catch your toe at the end of the tread and lift it up and possibly cause you to trip.

Are Carpet Stair Treads Safe?

Generally speaking, carpeted stair treads should be safe.  Most (if not all) come with non-slip backing so simply placing them on each step of the staircase is just about the easiest and quickest installation process for most any type of stair tread.

But, as I mentioned earlier – if a homeowner or senior loved one has problems raising their leg from one step to the next, there is a chance that the tip of their toe may catch on the edge of the carpet tread – which would make it very unsafe.

For these instances I would recommend trying the following solutions:

  • avoid a carpeted stair tread altogether and choose one of the other options I mentioned above
  • try carpet stair treads that measure about 1 inch shorter than the depth of the step.  This should help to minimize chances of a foot hitting the edge of the carpeting and pulling it up.
  • you could glue or nail down each tread onto the step

General Tips On Making Stairs Safer With Stair Treads

Below are a few tips that I’ve learned about stair treads while conducting home safety assessments as an Occupational Therapist.

  • Choose a stair tread that is a very different color (a contrasting color) from the step.  This will make it easier for someone to identify each step as they go up or down the staircase.
  • If you use a clear tape tread – I would recommend to add a bright color tape or paint on the bullnose part of each step – again to help them to identify each step.
  • If you or a senior loved one uses a cane, avoid the lacy cut out rubber stair treads.
  • If you want to avoid treads altogether then you may want to consider products by companies like Trusty-StepSlip Doctors and SlipTec Solutions which all offer products that can be applied (like a varnish) onto existing flooring. It works on ceramic tile, terrazzo, porcelain, quarry tile, fiberglass, brick, wood, concrete, marble, granite, vinyl and travertine tiles.
  • You can read more about stair safety in our article How To Modify Stairs For The Elderly

Lighting For Steps

lighted staircase
Photo courtesy of Instructables.com

I love the idea of lighting for steps, indoors and outdoors. Fortunately for us, there are many options available for us today. Everything from battery powered units to LED rope lights to motion activated lights.

You can place the lights under the steps (so they highlight the steps) – you can place lights on the walls up the staircase – you can also place lights on the wall by each step.

Installation of these will require a handyman or electrician so check with either one of these professionals for this project.

I know it may seem like alot but I will tell you that lighting is one of the most underused tools to make a home safer. It’s fairly inexpensive and it can end up saving you and/or your senior loved one serious injury, or even their life.

Here is a great tutorial on lighting stairs that you or a handy person you know (or your handyman) can follow to add lighting to your staircase.  I recommend that you read through the instructions before beginning the project to make sure that this type of technique works best for you in your home.

The designer of this particular project used “…an Arduino micro-controller, motion sensors, which serve as the brains of the build, WS2812B LED strips to light up the stairs and a 5V 60A switching power supply to provide the juice for the system.” You can read more about this project on his tutorial page which I mentioned above.

If adding electrical lights to your staircase is not something you can do (too expensive or you are renting) then you may want to consider using battery powered lights like these motion sensor lights by Searik.  They use 3 AAA batteries in each unit.

Of course, the downside of battery powered units is that they need battery replacements fairly often.  But on the other hand, if the power to your home does go out, then you’ll at least have lights on your staircase!

In conclusion – stair treads can be safe if you choose the right type for your specific home and needs.

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