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The Top 7 Alternatives to Carpet on Stairs

Although carpet is one of the most popular staircase options, it’s not to everyone’s liking. Carpet staircases benefit from anti-slip resistance, a range of styles and designs, and carpet can be cost-effective. However, carpet also has its downsides, it can stain easily, look old-fashioned, collect dust and become difficult to clean (especially if you have pets). We have provided a range of alternative ideas and types of stairs below to help you transform your staircase. 

Carpet Runners 

  • Pros: great range of colours and styles available, easy to clean, affordable 
  • Cons: can become stained, light cleaning is required from time to time

While you may not want carpet as your main stair flooring choice, you may want to consider a carpet runner as an alternative. Carpet runners are often easier to clean than fully carpeted stairs because they can be removed (in most cases) and placed into a washing machine. It’s recommended that you wash your carpet runner on low heat to ensure the colour and size aren’t affected. Please note that this solution is only appropriate for smaller carpet runners. 

We’d also recommend pairing your carpet runner with stylish stair rods from Stair Rods Direct. We provide stair rods and brackets in a variety of styles and materials, including wood, pewter, brass, and chrome. 

If they cannot be removed (if they’ve been fixed to your stair treads), they can still be washed and cleaned using standard carpet cleaning products – but it’s always worth speaking with your provider if you need any maintenance tips. Carpet runners are an affordable and great idea when it comes to refurbishing your staircase.

Wood Stairs

  • Pros: affordable, timeless design, can be painted to achieve the desired finish, can add carpet runners for a truly unique design
  • Cons: can be a slip hazard

Arguably the most common alternative to carpet for stairs, wood is a versatile and cost-effective solution. Most domestic staircases in the UK are made from wood and it’s not uncommon to simply leave the staircase in its natural wooden form. You can opt to paint your staircase yourself, in fact, we have written an article on how to paint stairs to help you complete your staircase project in the UK.

In terms of what kind of wood you want to use, hardwood is a strong choice. There is a risk of slipping on hardwood floors but this can be countered using anti-slip tape alongside or near to the nose of the stair tread. However, you can alleviate this risk by installing stair nosing, which is something we provide at Stair Rods Direct.

Stone Stairs

  • Pros: a truly traditional design, incredibly durable, low maintenance 
  • Cons: expensive, requires sealing every few years to maintain durability and appearance

We mentioned the benefits of stone in one of our articles looking at the best stair flooring ideas. Stone is a strong and long-lasting alternative to carpet on stairs and comes with a number of benefits. Firstly, stone offers a truly authentic and timeless design element to any staircase. Available in a range of colours and textures such as granite, limestone and marble, stone stairs can completely transform the interior or exterior of your property.

Bear in mind that stone is more expensive than other stair and landing materials, so be sure you have a budget in mind and stick to it. Another worthwhile note is that although stone is a great alternative to carpet on stairs, it does still require maintenance to keep it in good condition through the years. We’d recommend sealing your stone stairs (and landing if you have one in place) every two years to alleviate the risk of damaging its appearance and durability. 

Tiled Stairs

  • Pros: range of colours and textures available, heavy and durable, 
  • Cons: not appropriate for certain staircases due to weight, can be expensive

Tiled staircases are not as common as other finishes in this list, but there’s no reason why they cannot be used. Tiles, like laminate planks, are available in a range of sizes, textures, and designs, ideal for those looking for something specific and unique for their staircase. Options include arty mosaic tiles, stone, and ceramic finishes. Tiles are heavy and durable, so be sure to check the structure (in this case, your stairs) are capable of sporting the weight. If you’re looking to install tiles for safety reasons, you should consider toilets that are anti-slip or have a textured finish for more grip.

Tile is another popular stair finish. Tiles are available in a range of materials and styles, from small and artistic mosaic tiles to terrazzo, stone, and ceramic tiles. Like stone, tiles are heavy, so be sure your stair structure can support them before installing. To prevent slipping, consider using textured tiles or anti-slip tape.

Leather Stair Treads

  • Pros: versatile, stylish, soft to the touch, range of designs available 
  • Cons: not as durable as other flooring options, not fit for use in certain commercial environments (those seeing heavy foot traffic)

Leather stairs offer a comfortable and sophisticated alternative to carpet on stairs. Like laminated flooring, leather can be printed and designed in a number of styles and colours to match your interior design elements. It’s not uncommon to see leather floors in classy commercial spaces, such as private offices and upmarket retail spaces. Some suppliers will also create designs with engraved borders for a truly authentic finish.

Cork Treads and Risers

  • Pros: soft to the touch, inexpensive, looks great in many homes
  • Cons: stained cork flooring can look uneven, sensitive to temperature changes, can fade, become dented and scratch easier than other alternatives 

Cork is one of the more sustainable alternatives to carpet staircases. One of the main benefits of cork is that you can apply it to both the treads and the risers of your staircase. Being a cushioned and springy staircase alternative, cork is arguably the closest alternative to carpet if you’re looking for comfort. The finish is a traditionally low-maintenance look designed to be comfortable and durable. Be sure to use a hardnose on cork flooring because it is prone to chipping at the corners. 

Laminate Alternatives 

  • Pros: affordable, huge range of colours, styles and sometimes textures
  • Cons: can look tacky if not bought from a trusted supplier, certain materials (MDF) are prone to warp in the event of spillages or heat

Laminate flooring is among one of the most popular alternatives to carpet on stairs for many reasons. Laminate floors are notably less expensive than other carpet alternatives and offer a brilliantly affordable alternative to expensive carpeting. Available in a range of styles and textures, laminate flooring has the potential to stand its own against the lies of wood and stone staircases. However, it’s essential you buy laminate flooring from trusted suppliers and avoid cheap materials such as MDF, plywood, and plastic. 

Still Looking for an Alternative to Carpet on Stairs in the UK?

If you’re struggling to find an alternative to carpet on stairs, why not take a look at our article on how to paint wooden stairs? Or if you’re not completely against carpet, you can explore our range of carpet runners for a timeless, elegant finish to your staircase.