Your hardwood stairs are pretty to look at, and everyone compliments them when they come over to your house. Unfortunately, you just slipped down them and sprained your ankle while trying to make a grand entrance. Stairs made of finished wood and laminates can be slippery and can mean painful falls for young and old alike. Making your stairs less slippery is possible without having to refinish them.
Carpeting can add traction to your stairs. Fortunately, you don't have to recarpet the whole staircase. Some houseware companies sell miniature versions of braided rugs with a nonslip backing that you can place on each step. Carpet runners are also an attractive way to add tread to the carpeting. A piece of carpet in a style you like is cut and hemmed to run the full length of your staircase and is then installed down the centre. You can still see the gorgeous wood underneath but don't have the same slipping problems.
Stair treads are made of different materials. Upscale treads, like those offered by Plow and Hearth, are stain-resistant treads with an embossed scroll pattern that makes them look attractive. Backed with a heavy-duty rubber backing, they lay right on the stairs, won't slip and slide and can be hosed off when dirty. Some treads are made of rubber or other materials and are glued or stapled on to the staircase.
Wooden stairs with a thick coat of varnish on them can be sanded down to make them less slippery. Take a piece of fine-grit sandpaper and rough up the centre, most-travelled area of the step. If the varnish is too tough for that, a harsher grit might be needed. Damaging the stair and removing all of the finish is usually not necessary, just enough to create a bit of friction.
Different types of strips are available to place at the edge of stairs. For outside steps, stainless steel mesh treads are effective, especially in rain. They are fastened to each step with stainless steel screws. Other strips are available, including self-sticking strips that have a sandpaper-like texture on the upside. Those with a flair for carpentry have had success securing small strips of wood about 1/4-inch wide by 12 inches long in groups of three or four to prevent slipping. These are attractive and can match the stain and finish of the stairs but do take some getting used to when walking both up and down the stairs.