Best Stair Treads

Updated September 2021
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Buying guide for Best stair treads

A staircase is a functional area of your home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dress it up and make it more interesting. With stair treads, you have the opportunity to liven up your staircase with color, pattern, texture, or a combination of these elements.

Stair treads are small rugs or pieces of material that sit on the top, horizontal portion of individual stair steps. These rugs add a stylish flair to your staircase. They can also help keep your family safe by creating traction, which may help prevent slips and falls. In addition, stair treads can help protect the staircase from scratches and other damage that might occur with daily foot traffic.

To choose the best stair treads, you must decide what type of tread you want, what size you need, and what material you prefer. There are other important considerations as well. To make your quest for great stair treads as simple as can be, we created this shopping guide.

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Nearly all stair treads are pre-cut so you don’t need to trim them to fit your steps.

Key considerations

Standard vs. bullnose

There are two basic types of stair treads: standard and bullnose.

Standard stair treads: These cover the horizontal part of each step (also called a “tread”) but leave a small gap between the end of the tread and the step edge. Simple and minimalistic, these pieces work well if you prefer modern décor.

Bullnose stair treads: These are designed with protection in mind and tend to have a traditional look. They cover the top of the step and also wrap over the edge to protect the staircase from scratches and other damage. Bullnose treads help dampen the sound when people run up and down the stairs.

Size

Getting the size right for stair treads is crucial. If treads are too large, you can’t safely use them on your stairs. If treads are too small, they won’t cover enough of the steps to offer protection or muffle sound.

Before shopping, measure your stairs from right to left and top to bottom. Consider how much of the step you want to cover. In general, steps generally range from 22 to 36 inches in length.

Material

Wool: Stair treads made of wool have a soft, warm feel underfoot and are fairly durable. They work well in areas that see medium foot traffic and bestow an elegant look upon a staircase.

Nylon: Nylon stair treads are excellent for homes with kids and pets because they resist stains and clean up easily. What’s more, they tend to withstand regular foot traffic while maintaining a neat appearance.

Polypropylene: Polypropylene stair treads offer excellent durability and are suitable for use on stairs that see heavy traffic. They’re usually budget-friendly and stain-resistant, too, so consider these if you live in a home with lively children or pets.

Polyester: Polyester stair treads are affordable, durable, stain-resistant, and easy to clean. You can find them in a wide array of colors and patterns.

Sisal: Sisal stair treads work well in areas with heavy foot traffic because they’re durable and water-resistant. They’re made of natural materials but have a coarser texture than other materials.

Seagrass: Seagrass stair treads are a lot like sisal stair treads. They resist water and stains and clean up easily. If you live in a home with lots of foot traffic, they’re a good option.

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Did You Know?
Stair treads made of sisal or seagrass work well when paired with rustic or shabby chic décor.
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Features

Installation

Stair treads can be attached to stairs in several ways, which typically differ from brand to brand. Some treads require double-sided tape or staples to safely adhere. These methods keep the treads securely in place, but they can damage the stairs.

Other stair treads have a special adhesive on the back that isn’t sticky like glue. The adhesive locks the treads in place without damaging the staircase.

Quantity

When shopping for stair treads, it’s essential to find out how many treads come in a set. You will likely want a tread for every step in your staircase, so you may need to buy multiple packages.

Some sets include as few as two treads while others offer as many as 15. Count the stairs you need to cover and choose a set (or a number of sets) that covers your goal.

Color

Colors and patterns abound in the world of stair treads. Look at your nearby furniture, accessories, or artwork for ideas. If you’re still unsure, consider a neutral shade like black, cream, beige, tan, gray, or brown.

Patterned stair treads work well in areas that feature mostly solid-colored décor. If your stairs are in a spot surrounded by bold patterns, you may wish to choose solid-colored stair treads.

Resistance to moisture, stains, and fading

To ensure that your stair treads hold up well even if the kids trample up and down with wet shoes, choose a moisture-resistant product that is labeled as such. Treads that are not moisture-resistant may break down when exposed to water or other moisture.

Similarly, to ensure your stair treads fare well even if muddy feet and dirty paws frequent them, choose a stain-resistant product that is labeled as such. When cleaned in a timely manner, these products are much less likely to hold on to stains.

To help your stair treads look like new for as long as possible, choose a product labeled as fade-resistant. That means repeated exposure to sunlight and artificial light — in addition to repetitive foot traffic — won’t fade the color.

When adhering a stair tread with double-sided tape, use a hand roller or seam roller to firmly press it into place.

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Stair tread prices

Inexpensive: The most affordable stair treads are usually indoor/outdoor styles made of rubber or plastic. They’re highly durable but aren’t the most stylish or attractive treads. Expect to pay $2.20 to $4.75 per tread.

Mid-range: Mid-range stair treads are usually indoor-only styles made of polyester, polypropylene, or nylon. They come in a wide range of colors and patterns and are fairly durable. Expect to pay $3.49 to $9.97 per tread.

Expensive: The most expensive stair treads are usually indoor-only styles made of wool, sisal, or seagrass. They generally have the most attractive appearance and are available in various colors. Expect to pay between $9.80 and $19.50.

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Did You Know?
Plush stair treads are sometimes seen in drafty homes because they feel extremely warm and soft underfoot, though they may not provide as much traction as other options.
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Tips

  • Sweep your stair treads regularly with a soft-bristle push broom. That will help minimize the amount of deep cleaning needed.
  • In rainy and snowy weather, wipe stair treads dry as soon as possible to prevent slips. This is also a good idea because if dirty water has a chance to dry on your steps, it’s more difficult to clean up later.
  • If your stair treads are stained and you want to deep-clean them, try scrubbing them with a minimal amount of warm water. Be careful not to flood the area.
  • Low-pile stair treads may be easier for the elderly and infirm to navigate. That’s because you don’t have to lift your legs and feet quite as high with a lower-pile tread.
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To ensure the safety of your family and pets, choose stair treads specifically labeled as non-slip.

FAQ

Q. What prep work should I do to ready my staircase for stair treads?

A. The most important thing to do before attaching stair treads is clean the step surfaces thoroughly with a wet cloth to remove dust and other residues. Allow the stairs to dry completely before applying the treads.

Q. How should I choose which adhesive to use with my stair treads?

A. The manufacturer will likely recommend the best way to adhere the treads to the staircase. Often, double-sided tape is suggested; this makes installation easy. Even easier are stair treads that come with their own adhesive backing.

Q. Can I use stair treads outdoors?

A. If you have outdoor stairs that you feel need better traction, you can use stair treads. However, it’s important to choose treads meant for outdoor use. They’re usually made of rubber or plastic material that holds up to the elements.

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