Hardwood Stairs vs Carpet: Which is The Best Option?

July 27, 2023
nicole

Hi! I'm Nicole

Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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My very first project ever, was ripping the carpet off of my stairway and creating a beautiful wooden stairs. But was that a good idea? In Nicole-fashion, I jumped in with both feet and just went for it! Here I am, ten years later, finally exploring this question. Hardwood stairs vs carpet: Which is the better option? Let’s find out!

Choosing the best flooring solution for high-traffic areas of your home can be a really hard decision to make. Deciding between hardwood stairs and carpet can be one of those things you go back and forth on. Both have pros and cons. But, like most things, when it really comes down to it, it’s personal choice and practicality.

Hardwood stairs offer elegance, durability, and easy maintenance, while carpet provides comfort, insulation, and sound reduction.

HEADER IMAGE

SOURCE: Rowland + Broughton Architecture & Urban Design

Ready to jump into the benefits and drawbacks of hardwood stairs vs carpet, as well as the benefits of combining the two options? Let’s dive in and make the right decision for your home’s high-traffic area.

Hardwood stairs vs carpet: Understanding these terms

What are hardwood stairs?

First, the basics…Hardwood stairs are an elegant and durable addition to any home. They are usually made of high-quality wood species, such as:

  • oak
  • maple
  • birch
  • or Brazilian cherry

All of these are known for their hard surfaces and exceptional natural beauty.

A hardwood staircase is the best choice if you’re seeking style and durability. It greatly enhances the appearance, value, and longevity of your home.

Light color wooden stairs with all white trim for hardwood stairs vs carpet post

SOURCE: Visbeen Architects

The entire staircase can be modified to suit any desired aesthetic, whether it’s a classic or modern style, by selecting different textures, colors, and finishes. Because of their solid construction, a good quality hardwood stairs is less likely to squeak or shift with age or use. And the best part, they usually require little maintenance beyond occasional sweeping and polishing.

What are carpet stairs?

Carpet stairs, as the name suggests, are a type of staircase that is covered with carpeting. Numerous advantages make a carpeted staircase a desirable option.

  • First, they are visually appealing and can add warmth and comfort to a home.
  • Carpet stairs can also help to reduce noise in the home by absorbing sound and preventing echoes.
  • Additionally, they can be a safer choice, especially with young children. While hardwood stairs can be a tripping hazard, quality carpet can provide added traction and prevent slips or falls.
  • Like wood treads, when it comes to maintenance, carpet stairs are relatively easy to clean. They can simply be vacuumed or spot cleaned as needed.

Carpeted stairs with cherry wood railing for hardwood stairs vs carpet post

SOURCE: Village Home Stores

Hardwood floors vs carpet: Which is the best option for high traffic areas?

To determine which flooring best suits your needs, we need to consider the following factors:

Aesthetics

When it comes to choosing between hardwood stairs and carpet stairs for high traffic areas, aesthetics must be taken into consideration. Hardwood stairs are more appealing compared to carpet stairs since they add elegance and class to the area. The natural beauty of hardwood stairs cannot be matched by the numerous designs and color options of carpets, especially in timeless spaces like a grand foyer or living rooms.

Safety

While hardwood stairs may increase the value of your home and provide a sleek and stylish option, they can be slippery and potentially dangerous. Without proper traction, it’s possible for people to slip and fall down the flight of stairs, resulting in serious injuries. Thus, adding non-slip treads or grip strips may be necessary to prevent slipping on hardwood stairs.

Carpeted stairs, on the other hand, give extra traction and grip, lowering the chance of slips and falls. They may be a better choice for households with small children, elderly individuals, and pets, who may be more prone to accidents on hard floors.

Open stairs for hardwood stairs vs carpet post

SOURCE: The Lagasse Group, LLC

Durability

When considering flooring options, the classic look of hardwood stairs are incredibly sturdy and can tolerate significant foot traffic without deterioration. They are also scratch resistant, making them perfect for high traffic areas. The good news is, these stairs have a lifespan that can last several decades.

On the other hand, carpets can become easily damaged and worn in high traffic areas, especially if they are made from synthetic materials. Carpet fibers can quickly become matted down and worn, which can give it an unsightly, old carpet look. Furthermore, carpeting can become stained over time, which can be difficult to clean. The average lifespan, before you’ll need to replace the old carpet with new carpet, is between 7-10 years.

Cleaning

While hardwood stairs may require periodic waxing, they are generally much easier to clean in the long run. Dirt and debris can be easily swept or vacuumed without leaving any residue behind. Furthermore, hardwood stairs are less prone to stains and spills.

On the other hand, carpets are notorious for trapping dirt and grime, which can lead to discoloration and odors over time. Even with regular vacuuming and shampooing, it can be difficult to completely eliminate stubborn stains from carpeted stairs. This can make your stair way treads look more worn out than the carpet in the rest of your home.

Open staircase with a metal streamlined railing

SOURCE: Westeck Windows and Doors

Noise

Hardwood stairs may look charming and enhance the aesthetic appeal of a home, but they can also be noisy. With 3 teenagers, it can sound like a herd of wild elephants coming down our stairs, at times.

In contrast, carpeted stairs are far less noisy. The carpet texture absorbs the footsteps and other audible sounds. For this reason, choosing carpet over hardwood stairs, can be a great option in smaller homes.

Before making a final selection, it’s important to consider how much traffic your stairway gets. If you have older kids and sleeping babies, carpet may be the better choice. But if the extra noise is not an issue, the design statement that hardwood stairs make, are well worth it!

Modern wooden stairs with a darker wood finish on half of one side of all of the risers

SOURCE: Buttrick Projects Architecture + Design

Do your stairs need to match your flooring?

Again, this is personal choice. There are no hard-fast rules when it comes to choosing your stairway flooring versus the flooring throughout your home.

Some homeowners prefer to have their stairs blend seamlessly with the surrounding flooring, creating a cohesive and unified look throughout the space. This can create a sense of continuity and flow, especially in open-concept layouts where the stairs are visible from different areas of the home.

All wooden staircase with white trim for hardwood stairs vs carpet post

SOURCE: AGK Design Studio

On the other hand, many people choose to make their stairs stand out by using different materials, colors, or patterns. This can add visual interest and serve as a design statement, making the staircase a focal point of the room. For example, you might opt for a contrasting carpet, tile, or hardwood on your stairs to create a striking visual contrast with the rest of the flooring.

The general rule of thumb, that I like to stick to, is that it should complement the flooring closest to it. In other words, you don’t want the two to be so wildly different from one another that there is no flow whatsoever. For example, if your main flooring is a lighter tone, painting your staircase and stair tread a darker color would be a great option. This will make your stairway pop and become the focal point of the space.

Modern wooden staircase in an open concept floorplan for hardwood stairs vs carpet post

SOURCE: Viewrail

If you prefer to have a seamless look, but don’t want to continue the same flooring of your home onto your stairs, go with an option that is similar in color AND complements the main flooring. The biggest thing you want to avoid, is the impression that you were trying to match the two floors together but failed. The key is: you want somewhat of a contrast.

Which is cheaper? Hardwood stairs vs carpet

The cost of hardwood stairs vs carpet can vary depending on various factors such as the quality of materials, the complexity of the installation, and the region where you live. However, in general, carpeted stairs tend to be less expensive than hardwood stairs.

Carpet stair treads are typically more affordable because of the materials used. Depending on the type of carpet you choose, the carpet and padding, are generally less expensive than hardwood. Additionally, the installation process for carpeted stairs is often less complex and time-consuming compared to hardwood stairs, which can contribute to lower labor costs.

Huge windows behind an open staircase with a blue and white runner

SOURCE: 3north

There’s a reason hardwood stairs increase the value of your home. A hardwood staircase can be more expensive due to the higher cost of hardwood materials. Hardwood stairs also require more precise measurements, cutting, and fitting. If you’re hiring a professional installer to do it for you, the extra attention to detail required, will make this job more costly.

It’s for this reason, that I love to do it myself! If you’re on a tight budget, or you just like to be smart with your money, there are DIY options available.

While an oak stair tread is more durable, a 4-foot board will cost you $25 at Home Depot. Compare this to a 4-foot pine wood tread at only $13 a piece.

At less than half the cost, it really comes down to whether you want to pay the extra amount for the extra durability. If you’re going for more of a rustic or modern farmhouse look, the pine wood tread is a great way to achieve your wooden staircase dreams without breaking the bank.

Re-doing my main staircase is a project I’m looking at tackling in the not too distant future. As always, I’ll share exactly how I do it here on the blog. Be sure to sign up for my email below to be notified when I complete this project.

And last but certainly not least, there is, of course, the option of the best of both worlds: combining hardwood stairs with a carpet runner. This allows you to enjoy the elegance of hardwood while benefiting from the added comfort and safety of the carpet.

All wooden stairs with a tan runner

SOURCE: Meyer Architecture

As I’ve shared in this post, it really comes down to the following:

  • your personal choice
  • aesthetic considerations
  • safety concerns
  • durability
  • simplicity of cleaning
  • and noise reduction

Assessing these factors and considering the specific needs of your high-traffic area will help you make an informed choice that suits your home and lifestyle.

Be sure to check back in a couple weeks when I share the best wood species for stair treads.

Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

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Before you go, be sure to check out this post all about my favorite flooring! 

 

 

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