How To Choose the Best Carpet for Stairs
Choosing the best carpet for stairs seems like it would be an easy process. Just pick the color and style you like and have it installed, right?
There’s actually a lot more to carpet selection than that. Although color and style matter, high traffic areas like stairways require extra consideration. Follow our outline for points to consider when shopping for stair carpeting, and you’ll be well-prepared to make the best choice for your home.
As with any type of flooring, the first step is determining how much you’re able to spend. Fortunately, it’s possible to find affordable carpet options without having to sacrifice quality. Because stair carpet gets a lot of wear and tear, you should aim for the highest quality carpet and padding you can afford.
Measure your staircase then look online to get an idea of how much certain carpets cost per square foot, including installation. Next, visit a home improvement center or carpet store so you can see and touch the different carpet styles before making a final budget decision.
Color and Style
Carpeting comes in a huge variety of colors, patterns, and textures. Some are suitable for stair covering while others aren’t ideal. For example, wool carpet feels great underfoot and it has natural stain-and-soil repelling properties, but it’s expensive and not as durable as synthetic materials.
Darker-colored carpet, striped carpet, and carpet with other patterns are some of the best carpets for stairs. Prints are great for helping camouflage food and pet stains. The Lifeproof Perfectly Posh Artillery Pattern Gray Carpet has an elegant swirling medallion print that will instantly upgrade curved stairs or any style of wood stairs.
Even if you prefer a solid color, choose a multi-colored carpet to better hide pet hair and other debris between carpet cleaning sessions. A solid light-colored carpet is probably the worst option for stairs that receive a lot of traffic as it can begin to look dingy fairly quickly.
There are two installation styles for stair carpeting: waterfall and French cap. Waterfall is exactly how it sounds: the carpet is simply bent over each step and falls straight down to the tread on the next step. It’s a fast and easy form of installation and the one that most builders choose.
The French cap method takes longer and is a bit more complicated. The installer wraps the carpet around each step and tucks it under the lip, creating a more defined contour that many people prefer.
Given how much wear-and-tear the average stair tread endures, it’s important to choose a carpet fiber that can take it. Synthetic carpet fiber lasts longer than cotton or wool fibers. Nylon carpet fiber is more durable than olefin or polyester fiber. Stainmaster and Anso are two fiber types that hold up well on stairways.
Two main carpet construction types influence carpet durability. Bulked continuous filament (BCF) carpet is made in sections, with one continuous piece of fiber for each section. Major manufacturers of synthetic carpets favor this method because it offers more design options and is shed-resistant. Staple carpets weave together many short fiber lengths. It’s mainly used with natural carpet fibers, such as wool.
Protection against color fading is another factor to consider. Look for solution-dyed nylon fibers because they hold their color longer due to how the color penetrates the entire fiber. Of course, pay attention to cleaning instructions so you don’t accidentally fade your rug color by using the wrong kind of carpet cleaner.
Soil and Stain Resistance
You aren’t likely to have as many spills on the stairs as you would in a bedroom or living room. But soil and stain resistance are still important considerations when choosing your carpet. This is especially true if you’re a dog or cat parent who frequently deals with pet messes.
Cleaning up after humans can also be a challenge in a carpeted home. Even if you don’t wear shoes inside the house, the oils on the bottom of your feet can leave a residue on your carpet that acts as a dirt magnet over time. Choose carpeted flooring that has built-in stain protection to keep your stair runner looking new.
While a thick carpet and padding may feel wonderful underfoot, the ideal stair carpet pile height is ½” or less. Thicker carpet narrows the amount of room your foot has on each step which can lead to slips and falls. It’s also harder for carpet installers to wrap thick carpet around stair nosing and railings.
Staircases also need thinner carpet padding than regular floors. While some cushioning is necessary to serve as shock and sound absorbers, don’t go over 7/16” thick on a stair carpet pad.
Pile is a carpet term that describes how the carpet is constructed. Cut pile carpets have fibers that stand up like tufts of grass cut evenly across. Loop pile carpet looks like a row of circles or loops when viewed from the side. Some carpets combine the two and are called loop-cut loop, or LCL.
Berber carpeting is one of the best carpet ideas for stairs as it’s durable and low-profile. The Seneca Beige Berber/Loop Carpet is an affordable synthetic carpet stair covering with multiple colors woven throughout its fibers. This flecked color pattern helps disguise lint and soil between vacuuming sessions and its overall warm hue looks great against any shade of hardwood or laminate flooring.
Saxony carpeting is what most people think of when they hear the word “carpet.” It’s a medium-height cut pile carpet that can work on stairs provided that it’s not too long. Saxony style carpeting can come with a textured surface or have a smooth, velvety appearance. Textured Saxonies are the better choice for stairs. They provide a little more traction and don’t show footprints as easily as the smoother types.
Frieze is the new term for shag carpeting. It has long fibers—considerably longer than Saxonies—and is a great match for more casual home interiors. Although some people like the way the long fibers help hide seams on stairs and railings, their thickness may not be the safest carpet choice for busy staircases.
Regardless of the type, tighter, denser carpets hold up better than those with thinner construction. Face weight describes the amount of fiber in ounces per square yard. Look for a 35 to 40-ounce face weight on a low pile carpet.
Carpet warranties are a little more complicated than you’d think. There are separate warranty sections that cover wear, texture, appearance, color fading, staining, and soiling. Each category may have a different length of time that the manufacturer guarantees its product, so read it carefully.
Traditionally, carpet manufacturers have exempted stairs from warranty coverage, stating that it’s “abnormal” wear and tear—despite the fact that so many dwellings have stairs. Many companies have had a change of heart on this and now include stairs in their warranties.
Before settling on your stair carpet, see if stair use is covered. Also, take note of any warranty exclusions. These can be oddly specific, such as not covering staining caused by mustard, urine, or bleach.
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Stair Carpet FAQs
Hardwood stairs, tile stairs, and other hard surface steps can be dangerous for elderly people or small children who are more prone to falling. Kids often run around in socks, and hard stairs can be slippery underfoot. Carpeting provides more traction and stability when climbing a staircase.
Staircase carpet muffles the sound of footsteps traveling up and down all day. It can also make an old or squeaky staircase’s sounds less noticeable. The greatest benefit to carpeting stairs may be visual. Many people simply prefer the look of a beautifully carpeted staircase.
There’s no reason that you cannot choose a different carpet style than the one that’s used in other rooms of the house. Many homes have hardwood floors and carpeted stairs.
Some natural fibers, loose fibers, and thick carpet types aren’t safe for stairs. In that case, install a carpet runner and include a matching area rug in your foyer. Be sure the area rug has a rubber backing so you don’t slip as you take that last step down.
Sisal rugs and mats add a lovely coastal vibe to any home. However, sisal doesn’t have a great reputation as a carpet substitute on wooden stairs. The truth is that sisal can work very well on stairs when professionally installed. Just don’t use it on a kitchen staircase or anywhere that it will be exposed to high moisture levels.