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How To Choose the Best Carpet for Stairs

Updated Jan 10, 2023

Updated Jan 10, 2023

Home > Flooring > How To Choose the Best Carpet for Stairs

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Your entryway stairs will see the most foot traffic of any area in your home. Aside from making a solid first impression, it must be easy to clean and durable enough to withstand years of sustained and regular use. The right type of carpet will be aesthetically pleasing, rugged, and safe.

House Method has you covered if you’re looking to replace an existing carpet or add a new one. Our guide will explain the best carpet materials, styles, and other tips for getting new stair carpets.

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What Is the Best Carpet for Stairs?

When choosing materials for carpeted stairs, we recommend those composed of synthetic fibers. These materials are ideal for safety and durability and provide more bang for your buck per square foot. Alternatively, wool carpet is a great choice due to its stain-repellent properties if you’re willing to spend a bit more.

Closed loop carpets—known as Berber—are more resistant to wear and tear than cut-pile carpet styles. Nylon, a synthetic fiber, is the most wear-resistant Berber option available. Berber carpets also come in olefin and wool options, which can suit various homeowner needs.

Tips for Selecting the Best Carpet for Stairs

To help you find the right carpet for your home, we’ve broken down the most important factors when looking into different carpet ideas. Durability, cost, stain resistance, durability, and warranty options should all be considered.

Evaluate Durability and Quality

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a carpet is its lifespan. Stairs are high-traffic areas in a home, so you must spend enough time choosing the best type to cushion each step and reduce noise.

Consider a carpet that can withstand high amounts of foot traffic. The material can determine durability and quality. Wool, for example, is thick, sturdy, and can last up to 20 years when properly cleaned and cared for. This material comes at a higher cost but offers a softer underfoot feel.

If wool is too expensive, consider a blend that includes other fibers to make it more affordable. Sisal and nylon make excellent budget-friendly carpeting options. Homeowners should also consider purchasing stair treads instead of stair runners if money is a concern. These will require less material, which will mean lower overall costs.

General Carpet Lifespans

  • Polyester: Between five and 15 years
  • Nylon: Between 10 and 15 years
  • Olefin: Between 10 and 15 years
  • Wool: More than 20 years

Consider Stain and Soil Resistance

You may not wear shoes in your home, but walking barefoot can still soil your carpet over time. Opt for stain and soil-resistant materials, such as wool. It will lessen how frequently you need to clean your stair carpets after installation. Nylon or Triexta carpets are also solid options, as both are fairly resistant to stains and are among the most wear-resistant materials.

Thickness: Go for Low Carpet Pile

Pile height will be a central consideration when vetting your options for stairway carpeting. A quarter-inch or less is considered to be low-pile. One-quarter to one-half inch is a medium pile, while anything above this is plush carpeting. Choose a maximum thickness of three-eighths of an inch and use a thin, firm carpet pad as the underlay to absorb noise and provide additional moisture protection.

Doing this will lessen the impact and noise on the underlying hard surface of your stairs and will provide a durable carpet solution that will last for years. Loop pile—or closed-loop carpets—are tighter-woven and generally last longer in high-traffic areas.

Pile density will also play a role in determining how well-suited your carpets are to staircase applications, so consider a carpet’s face weight. Face weight measures the amount of fiber material per square yard of carpeting. You’ll want to go with a high number—at least 40 ounces per yard—to ensure that you buy a carpet that can hold up over time.

Industrial-Grade Carpets

Stair carpets will wear out more quickly than those in other rooms. Despite a fairly low surface area, these carpet sections will be exposed to far more consistent foot traffic than living rooms, hallways, and other areas.

Designed to be resilient and one of the most durable options, industrial-grade carpets are common for high-use areas prone to stains. They are usually more expensive but will also last longer than many exclusively residential carpeting.

Pick a Neutral Color and Style

Your stair carpet should blend with the appearance of the rest of your home. Picking a color that clashes with your existing laminate or hardwood floors could leave you dissatisfied, even if your carpets are high-quality. A darker carpet won’t show dirt and stains as much as lighter shades, while more neutral colors will blend in with a wider range of home decor schemes.

We recommend going with a professional carpet installer for numerous reasons. Aside from the better quality of labor, getting an in-home consultation from a licensed pro will help you pick a more suitable color for your home.

Review Carpet Warranties

Warranties are an essential component of any flooring installation. The length of the warranty can also be a helpful indicator of a carpet’s durability. When you purchase a carpet of any type, it will be sure to come with warranties to cover you for factory defects or faulty labor (if you opt for professional installation).

Warranties on carpeting for stairs are still considered to be a rarity in the industry. Some carpet manufacturers offer this coverage, as carpeting has generally improved, but you should not expect all stair carpeting options to be covered. If you’re purchasing carpet for other areas of your home, then looking into warranties is a good idea, regardless.

Wear and Quality Assurance

This is the most basic warranty and covers that the carpet won’t fall apart. It doesn’t guarantee the carpet’s performance, so it typically won’t be of much use to you once you’ve installed your carpeting.

Texture or Appearance Retention

Appearance retention warranties are more performance-based and are what you should generally focus on when purchasing carpets of any kind. These will assure you that your carpet fibers won’t unravel or degrade for a set amount of time. The typical maximum term you’ll see available for such warranties is 20 years.

If a carpet doesn’t come with a texture or appearance retention warranty, it could be a red flag. Expect to replace any carpet without this warranty within five to 10 years of installation.

Stain and Soil

As the name suggests, this warranty concentrates on stains on a carpet and how easily they are removed. Staining, as most people know, happens when a discoloring substance comes in contact with your carpet. These warranties will have some exclusions, including mustard, pet urine, or similarly damaging stain sources. Using harsh chemicals to clean your carpeting, like bleach, will often void stain warranties.

Soiling warranties, often offered separately from stain protection plans, cover discoloration from long-term exposure to dirt or similar substances. Some carpet manufacturers also offer no-exclusion warranties, which you should ask about before installation.

Fade

Finally, a fade-resistance warranty covers the carpet from losing its color or vibrance. Several factors can cause a carpet to fade, such as air pollutants and direct sunlight exposure.

Consider Your Installation Method

The waterfall method involves bringing the carpet over the tread edge and straight down the riser to connect with the next tread, creating a waterfall effect. This installation option, which creates a traditional feel and appearance, is ideal for thicker carpets that are difficult to wrap around the tread edge.

Alternatively, the French cap installation method provides a more refined finish. Your carpet installers will cut the carpet individually for each step and fold it over the edge. This makes replacing single sections far easier should they become damaged, but initial installation can be time-consuming and generally more costly. This will be true for both professional and DIY projects.

Research the Carpet Cost Per Square Foot

Cost is a key consideration ahead of any home renovation. Current industry averages for carpet pricing are between $2.50 and $12 per square foot. Labor fees are typically between $1 and $2.50 per square foot to install the entire carpet.

Remember that carpet costs can differ based on the carpet quality, material, and design. Here, we’ve included some basic material cost information for different kinds of stair carpeting.

  • Polyester: $2 to $3.50 per square foot
  • Nylon: $3 to $7 per square foot
  • Olefin: $2 to $3 per square foot
  • Wool: $5 to $10 per square foot

These costs reflect industry average rates for materials alone and are not indicative of the eventual cost of professional installation.

Carpet on the stairs
Image attribution: Unsplash/Muzammil Soorma

Why Choose Carpet for Stairs?

Homeowners opt for carpeted stairs for both aesthetics and practicality. The right carpet can enhance your stairs’ appearance while making them safer.

Increased Safety

Hardwood floors look great, but wooden stairs can present increased risks of falling injuries from slipping. Installing carpeting on your stairs can be a great choice to reduce this risk. Especially if you have a home with elderly relatives or young children, a high-quality new carpet overlay for your main staircase can be a solid investment.

Noise Reduction

Hardwood and laminate stairs or flooring can make a lot of noise when people walk on them. Installing a quality carpet can muffle this and help maintain a quiet home.

Aesthetics

A quality carpet on your stairs can enhance your decor and blend with any existing flooring. Whether you’re looking to install wool or nylon carpet, you’ll be able to find a style or color to match your home.

Protection for Your Stairs

Whether you have hardwood, vinyl, or laminate stairs, the daily use they’re subjected to is sure to wear them down quicker than flooring in other parts of your home. Carpeting will mitigate the effects of sustained foot traffic and will be less hassle than refinishing your stairs.

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Final Thoughts

If any of the above reasons for installing carpet on your stairs mesh well with your specific needs as a homeowner, we recommend a nylon Berber carpet option. These are readily available through hardware stores and professional flooring installers alike. Nylon wears well and can be installed with padding underneath or glued directly to your floors.

Regardless of the flooring type you choose, you should consider all the factors listed above before making your final decision. These include:

  • Aesthetics
  • Cost
  • Durability
  • Thickness
  • Warranty offerings

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Carpet for Stairs FAQs

What is the best color for carpet on stairs?

Dark shades can make small spaces, like hallways and stairs, feel smaller, especially if the stairway already lacks natural light. No matter your exact reason for installing carpet on your stairs, this addition will typically not be the focal point of your staircase. Neutral, lighter carpeting shades will be more of an accent piece that won’t detract from your stairs’ current appearance.

How much does carpet for stairs cost?

The typical staircase (12 stairs) is 54 square feet in total when you include the total area for both the tread and riser on each step. Given the price points we’ve listed, you can expect to pay $108 to $540 for material costs alone. Expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $1,000 for labor and materials combined. This range accommodates the potential of higher-quality wool carpeting or French Cap installation.

What is the hardest-wearing stair carpet?

Polypropylene and nylon carpeting are your two best options for stairs. Any heavy-traffic area within your home would be well-suited for either carpet type. Polypropylene is relatively stain-resistant, while nylon has a relatively long lifespan for the price you’ll pay.

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