The best flooring for covering stairs in a home

Written by brenda duffey
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The best flooring for covering stairs in a home
Make stairs safe and eco-friendly while matching home decor. (stairway image by jeancliclac from

Choosing the best flooring for covering stairs in your home should be easy. Once you’ve selected the flooring for your entryway, use the same flooring on the stairs. According to, the trend in 2008 was to return to the clean look of wood or laminate floors over carpet and vinyl. The hottest trend in 2008 was eco-friendly products such as bamboo and cork. There are, however, other factors to consider when choosing the covering for the stairs. These factors include; shape of the staircase, cleaning and maintenance and safety.

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Closed Staircases

The traditional staircase is the closed staircase with a balustrade on one side attached to the risers. According to "Popular Mechanics," you cannot use thin laminate, bamboo or hardwood planks on this staircase. The click-and-lock planks only work in single strips that fit like a puzzle piece. If you cut them to go around a post, they will not lock with another piece. You need wide bamboo or hardwood planks that are a solid piece that will cover the entire riser for this kind of installation. Cork is an eco-friendly product and doesn’t attract dust and allergens like carpet. Cork treads can be fitted to the stair risers.

Open Staircase

An open staircase has a balustrade on both sides of the risers. Laminate click-and-lock pieces and thin hardwood and bamboo planks cannot be installed on these risers. One wide plank that covers the entire riser must be used. Unlike the thin laminate pieces, bamboo and hardwood come in wide planks and have a clean, bright look for this type of staircase. The bright colours of cork products make it another popular choice for entryways, so cork stair treads are also an option.

The best flooring for covering stairs in a home
A curved staircase can be open or closed. (wooden staircase image by Heng kong Chen from

Curved Staircases

Curved staircases can be open or closed. Because the risers are different widths and shapes, they must be cut to accomodate the shape of each riser. Therefore, you must use planks wide enough to be cut in a single piece. Click-and-lock thin strips that will not cover with one piece will not work. Since the current trend is to replace carpet and vinyl floors with more sustainable wood products, the preferred covering for the curved and open and closed staircases would be wide plank hardwood or bamboo. Cork comes in a variety of bright colours, so cork stair treads are also a consideration. This would add to the installation costs.


Hardwood, laminate, bamboo and cork covered stairs are easier to keep clean than carpet and withstand heavy traffic better. Carpet holds allergens, moisture and stains very easily. In addition, lifting a heavy vacuum cleaner or rug shampooer up and down stairs is not only difficult and dangerous but hard on the back. Spills must be wiped up quickly on hardwood, bamboo and cork, but these coverings are more stain resistant than carpeting. They can also be wiped or swept clean; no vacuum cleaner is needed. Cork is the least resistant to water damage of the eco-friendly surfaces.

The best flooring for covering stairs in a home
Wood and bamboo can be slippery. (Wooden Stairs image by Towards Ithaca from


Safety is a priority when it comes to stair coverings. Cork is the safest of the popular wood floorings. Cork has a non-slip surface while hardwood, laminate and bamboo can have slippery surfaces. Taking your choice of surface floor covering for your home's entry, type of staircase, maintenance and safety into consideration, cork stair treads are the best flooring for covering your stairs.

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