Choosing the best carpet for your stairs is a little trickier than choosing a carpet for the rest of your home. This is because not only do you have to consider your style and colour preferences, but the carpet you select must be of appropriate durability and thickness.
The best carpet for your stairs will be one that meets the criteria outlined below. There is a number of different styles available on the market and with the proper selection and installation, carpet on your stairs can create a beautiful finished look.
You should use the highest quality carpet and cushion you can afford for your stairs. Stairs experience the most foot traffic in our homes and thanks to gravity, they take even more impact when we are descending them. Going with the highest quality can save you money in the long run as it will not have to be replaced as frequently.
As mentioned, stairs are the highest-traffic areas of our homes, therefore it is crucial that the carpet you select is durable enough to not only look good after it has been installed but that it stays that way for years to come. This means that the carpet that is suitable for your bedroom may not be suitable for your stairs. The general rule of thumb is to go with the highest durability you can afford in the style you prefer, that is unless the highest grade is too thick for stair installation.
First, we need to clear up the myth that thickness equals quality and durability. In fact, some of the most durable carpets have the thinnest profiles and some of the thickest carpets are full of air.
Thickness is an important factor because if a carpet is too thick it can be a safety hazard because when a thick carpet is wrapped over the nosing of the stair, it can act as a ramp for your foot, with nothing substantial to support your foot underneath. It is also difficult for installers to work with as it is harder to wrap around the nosing and install through the railing.
The ideal carpet pile height is ½ inch or less with a carpet padding of 7/16 inches or less and pile density rating of at least 8 pounds.
It is important to note that there is a difference between staining and soiling. Compared to a living room, stairs are not subjected to common household spills, aka the potential for staining. Therefore, if the carpet you are choosing will only cover your stairs, stain resistance will not be a top priority, however soil resistance will be. Humans transfer oil and residue onto the carpet from our feet and our household pets do the same through their paws and fur. If you prefer to be barefoot at home or you have household pets, a soil resistant carpet will be a must.
Style and Appearance
Any style of carpet can be installed on stairs however the main concerns for homeowners include being able to see the backing of the carpet when it is wrapped around the nosing as well as being able to see the seams where it has been joined together around posts. Even most entry-level or builder grade carpet will not show the backing when it is wrapped around the edge of the stair, unless – perhaps – the absolute lowest grade product was used, or it was poorly installed.
When you pick up a carpet sample and bend it, you can see the backing between the rows, this is called “smiling” in the flooring industry. However, if smiling occurs it means the carpet is being bent the wrong way. Simply turn it so the rows are running from the top of the sample to the bottom (not left to right), you will see, the smiling effect will no longer happen because the loops fold over the bend in unison.
Carpet pile has a specific direction and that direction must run lengthwise from the top of the stairs to the bottom, not sideways. This prevents you from being able to see the “rows” of fiber when you bend the carpet over the edge of the nosing. Ensuring the carpet pile runs from the top to the bottom of the staircase also enhances the carpets performance.
When it comes to railings and posts, if properly installed, seams where the carpet has been joined around the posts should not be too noticeable. Carpet types that are better for hiding seams include styles with longer piles, such as: friezes and saxonies.
If your stairs are open on one side or both your carpet will have to be bent in two directions. First, as we mentioned, your carpet will run lengthwise from the top to the bottom of your stairs as well as widthwise over the side of your stairs. This is where you run the risk of “side” smiling to occur.
A high-quality Berber style carpet with larger loops is the best option to avoid side smiling. High quality Berbers have less space between the rows, limiting the amount of backing that will be visible.
There are two methods to install carpet on stairs: waterfall and French cap. Waterfall is the easiest and fastest installation method. It includes bending the carpet over the edge of the stair and bringing it straight down to meet the tread of the next step. The French cap methods is when the carpet is wrapped around the edge and is tucked under the lip, which contours the shape of the step. This method does require more time and skill however, the result is a much more tailored look.
Historically, carpet manufacturers have excluded stairs out of their warranty. Although it seems strange as most houses or residential buildings have stairs, it is important to note if choosing a carpet with warranty that covers stair installation is of value to you. That being said, more manufacturers have started including stairs under their warranty. Again, if this is important to you make sure you let your salesperson know so they can show you carpet options that covers stairs under warranty.
Care and Maintenance
To go along with the warranty topic, many carpet manufacturers require your carpet to be professionally cleaned every 12-18 months or your warranty could be void. Not only will a yearly professional steam cleaning and regular maintenance ensure your warranty stays valid, it will prolong the life and appearance of your new floors. Check your warranty for specific details and remember to keep copies of cleaning invoices in case you need to ever make a claim.