Carpet or Wood Stairs: Which is the Best Option?

If you’re getting ready to undertake a new flooring project, and you happen to have a basement or second floor in your home, then this post is for you!

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Chances are you’ve already given some consideration with what to do with your staircase(s) when you replace your flooring.

You’re probably wondering if the stairs need to match the flooring, or what material you need to cover them with? The options can be endless and it can feel like you’re spiraling down the rabbit hole when you have to make yet another design decision.

There’s no one size fits all solution to this debate, but the good news is I’ve broken down all of the pros and cons to help you make the best choice for your home.

So read on!

Are carpeted stairs safer than wood?

Are carpeted stairs safer than wooden stairs?

It’s a question that many homeowners grapple with, especially if they have family members who might be young children or senior citizens living with them.

On the one hand, wood is a sturdy material that provides a lot of grip when climbing stairs. But on the other hand, carpet is softer and less likely to cause injury if someone falls.

So, which is the better option for such a high-traffic area?

As a mom of four small children, I feel compelled to bring up the question of safety first, because ultimately this is going to guide the rest of your purchasing decision.

I also happen to have first-hand experience with this decision when we installed our new laminate flooring and treads a few years ago.

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The short answer is, there is no clear answer.

Both a carpeted staircase and wooden stairs each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. So let’s break them down a bit to better understand.

Carpeted stairs are often seen as being safer than their wooden counterparts. That’s been the general rule of thumb, but this isn’t always the case.

Depending on the material, carpet can pose a tripping hazard leading to falls. But if you’ve ever taken a tumble down a flight of stairs, then you know all too well that those covered in carpet actually provide a bit more cushion for safety.

This is where deciding between low-pile carpeting and high-pile carpeting comes into play. Ideally, thinner carpets, or low piles, are a much safer option for stair treads as they don’t reduce the depth of the stairs nearly as much as thicker options.

So while there can be some potential safety hazards with carpeted stairs, it ultimately will come down to the type of material you select.

But does this mean wood treads are unsafe?

Not at all!

Wooden stairs can actually provide a more stable surface that is less likely to cause a person to slip.

You also get to avoid the regular vacuuming that comes as an added responsibility of having carpeted stairs. Which by the way, are more likely to harbor dirt and bacteria.


I will add though, that socks without grips are not a wooden staircase’s best friend. Just ask my clumsy littles.

For this reason, a built-in carpet runner or thin, low pile stair runner would make a good choice to cover these hard surfaces.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference and the needs of your family.

So, is wood or carpet better for stairs?

The type of stairs you have can make a big difference in how easy they are to use, as well as how they hold up to everyday foot traffic.

Oftentimes, when purchasing new carpet for a home, the default decision tends to be to recarpet the entire staircase as well.

But it that the best option?

Well, it depends. Aside from the topic of safety, how will this decision affect the rest of your home?

You might have heard that wood stairs increase home value. Homebuyers often see wooden stairs as an indication that the rest of the home has been well-maintained. Wood is a durable, timeless material that can last for many years with proper care and adds a lot of warmth and beauty to a space.

As a result, adding wood stairs can be a great way to boost the value of your home, and buyers are willing to pay a premium for this type of craftsmanship.

So if you’re giving consideration to moving in the near future you may want to keep in this in mind.

But what if you aren’t planning to move anytime soon? 

Well, solid wood stairs are generally more durable than carpeted stairs, and the upfront investment of refinishing or replacing treads are sure to last much longer than the lifespan of carpeting.

They are also easier to clean and maintain. Carpeted stairs, on the other hand, tend to be more comfortable and quieter.

If you are looking for durability and easy maintenance, wood stairs may be the way to go. But if you want a softer, quieter surface, carpeted stairs may be a better option for your home.

In my experience when helping others make flooring design decisions, I tend to help them find a happy medium between these options.

When selecting stairs for a basement area, where warmth and comfort may be needed, I opt for a comfortable and durable carpeting material.

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But with open living spaces and areas where there’s already existing hard wood, I love to encourage homeowners to enhance the beauty of their homes by selecting wood treads paired with stylish stair runner for safety.

wood vs carpet stairs

Again, I encourage you to take into account your own needs and safety requirements for your living situation, but many designers would agree this is a classic option suitable for most homes.  

Do stairs need to match your flooring?

Once you’ve narrowed down the material for your new staircase project, it’s time to dig deeper.

Deciding whether to install wood or carpet on your stairs can be tricky and ultimately comes down to personal preference.

But choosing colors, patterns and styles can feel even more overwhelming! But I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be.

As a general rule of thumb, there are a few things that should match or compliment when adding carpeted or wood stairs so I’m going to break it down into a handy list of do’s and don’t for you here:

When adding a carpeted staircase

select an exact match to your carpeted floors IF they will be adjoiningselect white for high-traffic areas
select a similar warm or cool undertone as your existing wood or hard surfaced floorsopt for a waterfall profile for safety reasons, this reduces tread depth against risers
select a pattern or flecked style to disguise everyday dirt/ debrisselect berber if you have pets as claws can get caught in the material

When adding wood Stairs

select an exact match and finish to your hardwood floors IF they will be adjoiningcombine opposite undertones when pairing against another hard surface floor if an exact match is not an option
select a similar warm or cool undertone as your existing carpeted floors for continuityselect a high gloss finish for safety
opt for an integrated carpet runner or added stair runner for safety and comforteryday dirt/ debrisselect a soft wood material, as it may not be durable over time

What about the Cost of wood stairs vs carpet?

So you’ve gone through what feels like an endless list of pros and cons when considering what types of carpet or new treads to install, but what about the money factor?

The cost of wood stairs depends on a variety of factors, including the type of wood, the number of stairs, and the complexity of the design.

Generally speaking, hardwoods like oak and maple are more expensive than softwoods like pine. And for good reason. Their durability is meant to last a lifetime.

In addition, custom-made stairs, such as those with curved treads or intricate profiles will typically cost more than prefabricated stairs.

When planning a staircase, it’s important to work with a qualified contractor to get an accurate estimate of the final cost. With careful planning, it’s possible to create a beautiful and functional staircase that fits within your budget.

While typically less expensive, the cost of carpeting stairs still depends on a number of factors. This includes the style of carpet, the size of the staircase, and the labor involved.

For example, a basic berber carpet may cost as little as $2 per square foot, while a more intricate patterned carpet could cost $5 per square foot or more.

Similarly, a small staircase with just a few steps could be carpeted for as little as $200, while a larger staircase with more than 20 steps could cost $1,000 or more.

Ultimately, the best way to get an accurate estimate of the cost to carpet stairs is to consult with a professional flooring contractor.

They’ve seen it all, and can often weigh in on some basic design questions as well. 

Making your decision

To recap, deciding whether to choose carpeted stairs or wood stairs really comes down to your individual needs and preferences.

Do you need a softer surface for young children, pets, or someone with limited mobility? Carpeting is the way to go here.

Can the stairwell handle more wear and tear and do you fit into a larger budget? Wood stairs may be better suited for you.

However rest assured that no matter which option you ultimately choose, installing either carpets or solid/engineered flooring on your stairs will add a surprise impact to any and home design. 

Best of luck with your staircase project! Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram – I have plenty of other design tips to help inspire you on similar projects!

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