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February 17, 2022
It’s fairly common knowledge that you can put carpet on stairs, but what’s the best carpet for stairs?
Do you have to use a high traffic carpet for stairs? Or can a comfier carpet do the same job?
We know you have a lot of questions, so we created this guide to help!
Below, you’ll learn about the benefits of choosing carpet for stairs in the first place. Then we’ll talk about the most important factors to consider when looking for the best carpet for stairs, along with a few tips strictly focusing on different styles.
Finally, we’ll wrap up with some answers to some FAQs and an overview of which of the best carpet brands actually make carpet for stairs!
Carpet, on the other hand, has great sound dampening qualities (one of the major benefits of carpet vs. hardwood). You can silently walk up or down stairs without waking up the rest of your house, which is especially ideal for parents with young children (or children with older parents).
Carpet Is Also a Safe Option for Stairs (Because It Provides a Softer Landing if You Fall)
Carpet for stairs is also great for anyone who:
Is at risk for falling (children and elders).
Has vulnerable joints.
Carpet cushions the impact forces on your feet, back, and joints. Even the least comfortable carpet is probably a little softer than anything the best hardwood floor brands can put out (and it’s generally much more affordable).
How to Select the Best Carpet for Stairs
Before and while you look for the best carpet for stairs, you should consider each point below.
Assess Your Needs…
Not all staircases are the same; different homes and families will of course have different uses for their stairs.
For example, stairs that go from the first level of a home to a bedroom will likely see more foot traffic than stairs to an attic or basement. Carpet in the first situation should be durable enough to handle daily wear and tear while the second set can probably be a little less durable (so you may be able to save a little money or choose a comfier product).
Alternatively, maybe your staircase leads from your entryway to the main gathering area of your home. In this case, you might want something that makes a statement without sacrificing durability.
…But In General, Focus on Carpet Durability
Unsurprisingly, the best carpet on stairs is going to be the most durable. In most cases, stairs see a lot of daily use and they’re also subjected to a lot more physical force on a per-step basis.
People put more oomph into each step while climbing a staircase. Basically, it requires more force to walk up stairs than it does to walk forward on a level plane—and your flooring bears the brunt of this extra force.
Naturally, this absolutely devastates delicate carpet (and any other type of weak flooring); but fortunately, the best carpet brands make products that can withstand this kind of daily beating.
Loop Pile Is Better Than Cut Pile (But Both Can Work)
Individual fibers of cut pile carpet are cut at the ends for a comfier feel and plusher appearance.
But the fibers of loop carpets are literally threaded back into the backing (i.e. the carpet’s base) to create little loops. The resulting carpet is more durable than cut pile carpet, but at the expense of comfort.
Since loop carpets are generally more durable, they’re a better option for stairs. In fact, this is exactly why many people choose berber carpet for stairs. However, you can absolutely install cut pile carpet on stairs too—especially if it’s made of a more durable fabric—it just might not last as long as a loop carpet.
However, polypropylene and polyester that isn’t solution-dyed aren’t going to last as long as the other options. Nylon is arguably the best all-around performer, especially the type 6,6 variety; while wool is the only good all-natural option. If you want to know which brands sell which, check out our best carpet brands guide.
Carpet Pile Density Is Important
Another factor that goes into the best carpet for stairs is pile density, which simply refers to how much fabric exists within a square foot or yard. Higher density carpets are usually more durable than their low-density counterparts; however, don’t forget about carpet material either.
For example: a low-density nylon carpet is likely more durable than a high-density polypropylene carpet because nylon is a much stronger material.
The Best Carpet for Stairs Has a Low or Medium Pile
Okay, there are actually 2 reasons why low pile carpet is the best carpet for stairs, or at least the better one:
Low pile carpet, and particularly carpet with a pile of ¾” or less, is more durable than deep pile carpet because the fibers are less likely to snag or compress, either of which can wear down a carpet over time.
Deep-pile carpet offers a bit more cushion, which is great when you’re walking around on level flooring, but can actually throw you off-balance on stairs (and just about the worst place to lose your balance!).
A Thin and Firm Carpet Pad Is Ideal
This goes hand in hand with the previous section. A thick and/or spongy carpet pad can throw people off-balance on stairs, so a thin, firm carpet pad is safer.
That said, thicker carpet pads absorb more impact force so they might extend your carpet’s lifespan because they’re facing less wear and tear. So, finding the right balance is important.
If you have no idea what a carpet pad is, it’s kind of like an underlayment for vinyl flooring! It goes underneath a carpet to provide stability and/or comfort.
Pick a Color That Hides Dirt and Stains…
Moving away from carpet construction, carpet color is important because carpet on stairs will show dirt and stains more readily than anywhere else.
This goes back to the whole people-take-heavier-steps-on-stairs thing. Basically, when you walk on stairs, any dirt on your shoes or feet is getting pressed into the carpet…
…But Soil and Stain Resistance Will Save You a Lot of Trouble
So: If you buy a white carpet, you’re going to notice dirt and grime fast. Darker carpets are the smarter choice.
However, soil and stain-resistant carpets help avoid this issue. So in this sense, they’re the best carpets for stairs.
The Type of Staircase Matters (Sort of)
There are 3 types of staircases, broadly speaking:
Technically, any type of carpet can be installed on any of the above staircases. The only thing that really changes is the ease of installation, with curved and spiral staircases being significantly more difficult (and expensive) to work on.
So why are we pointing this out? Style. Certain carpet patterns and textures don’t work very well on curved or spiral stairs, whereas most styles are compatible with straight staircases. This is all 100% personal preference though.
Stairs With Multiple Landings Require Special Attention
If a staircase has multiple landings, footstep patterns may emerge over time as the carpet receives an uneven distribution of force. Ideally, you’ll want a high-traffic carpet for stairs like these.
A carpet that’s resistant to matting can combat this issue (like berber).
Open Stairs Present a Unique Obstacle
Open stairs don’t have railings or guides at the edge of each step. Since carpet can’t be installed properly with an exposed edge, it has to wrap over the side of each step in order to be secure. Otherwise, even the best carpet for stairs will inevitably lift.
Remember That Even the Best Carpet on Stairs Will Show Uneven Wear and Tear Over Time
Most people tend to gravitate towards the middle of a staircase when traversing it. Over time, that middle will show a lot more wear than the rather untouched edges of the carpet.
Buying high traffic carpet for stairs will limit the damage.
And Remember That Not All Carpet Warranties Are the Same
If you’ve ever looked into vinyl plank flooring on stairs, then you know that not all types are rated for stair installations. The same can be said for carpet.
If you’re not sure if a product can be installed on stairs, check the warranty. The best carpet for stairs will state it there.
Other brands tend to omit anything referring to stairs in their warranties or shoehorn exclusions in the fine print. Lees carpet, for example, has a single line in its warranty that says its wear coverage does not apply to stair installations.
What Type of Carpet Is the Best Carpet for Stairs?
We’ve already covered many types of carpet: different pile styles, different materials, different pile lengths, and so on. But is there a singular option that should be considered the best carpet for stairs?
Berber Is the Best High Traffic Carpet for Stairs
Berber is threaded to be the best high traffic carpet for stairs. Its overall durability allows it to handle daily wear and tear like a champ, and like any type of carpet, the color and pattern options are nearly limitless.
That said, there are reasons not to choose berber carpet for stairs, too. As far as comfort goes, berber is actually one of the worst carpets you can pick. It’s designed almost exclusively for durability and affordability; it’s not trying to win any cozy competitions (yes, we know that’s not a thing).
But Other Types of Carpet Can Be Used Too
Many types of carpet aside from berber can make a claim to the best-carpet-for-stairs crown.
Sure, a decent cut pile carpet may need to be replaced after a decade or two. But for many buyers, 15–20 comfy years of plush carpet is better than 20–30 years of rough Bberber carpet.
And that’s assuming you only get a “decent” cut pile carpet! If you invest in a more resilient cut pile option, you can get the durability and comfort you desire. Again, this option may not last as long as berber or another loop carpet—so you’ll have to replace it more often—but you’ll at least get a comfier staircase, which can pay off in terms of chronic pain.
One thing worth adding here, though: peel-and-stick carpet tiles aren’t suitable for staircase installations. These are meant to appeal to the DIY flooring market and are designed to be replaced after X-amount of years.
Stair Carpet Ideas and Tips
Before we decide which type of carpet is the best carpet for stairs, let’s cover a few style tips!
For example, did you know that you can place a rug on carpet? It can create great design and texture combinations. A more relevant example would include matching exotic hardwood staircase fittings with a similarly high-end, luxury carpet with similar tones and hues.
Match Your Carpet to Your Staircase or Existing Flooring
Most staircases are made of hardwood. Naturally, you don’t want to buy carpet that clashes with the hardwood of your stairs or the surrounding flooring (if you’re only placing carpet on the stairs themselves). So what should you watch out for?
The type of wood flooring or fixtures don’t matter (i.e. hardwood species, grain, etc.). In theory, there’s a matching carpet for every type of hardwood out there. What does matter is matching the colors of wood floors or hardware with the right carpet. In other words, the best carpet for stairs will complement your existing hardwood, not fight it.
If you have light wood floors, you may want a darker carpet to create a nice contrast. Or if you have darker hardwood, like ebony flooring, a lighter or vibrant carpet for your stairs might make more sense.
Most staircases have a uniform look to their steps, but modern flooring ideas love to challenge existing styles.
Stair runners segment each step on a staircase into thirds (usually) and use a different type of flooring through the center path to create more elaborate designs. Carpet is, of course, one of the most popular methods to achieve this design!
Sidenote: if you’re curious, you can also create stair runners with different types of tile.
Keep It Neutral or Make a Statement With Bold Colors
Maybe aside from PVC flooring, no other type of floor offers as many style options as carpet. The options are nearly limitless, with the best carpet brands offering a massive range of different textures, colors, and patterns benefitting any decor style.
Stripes Create the Illusion of More Space, Patterns Add Flavor to a Dull Aesthetic, etc…
The best carpet for stairs doesn’t have to be one solid color! Different carpet patterns can completely change the mood and aesthetic of any room they’re placed in.
Stripes can make a space appear larger while patterns can provide anything from an air of opulence to a trendy spark.
Best Carpet for Stairs FAQs
Here are a few answers to some common questions about the best carpet for stairs.
What Carpet Density Is Best for Stairs?
In general, the denser the better. However, it’s entirely possible to install lower-density carpet on stairs without issue.
Wool carpets, for example, tend to be less dense than synthetic fiber products, but wool carpets are also among the best carpets for stairs. Many factors (like material strength) are at play when it comes to quality carpet.
What Kinds of Carpet Are Good for High Traffic Areas?
If a product is classified as high traffic carpet for stairs, then it’s suitable for just about any high traffic area!
Low-to-medium pile carpets and loop carpets are usually the best options for high-traffic areas. But, they also sacrifice the comfort that deep and/or cut pile carpets offer.
What Color Carpet Is the Best for Stairs?
Whites, off-whites, and various shades of beige tend to be the most common color choices for carpet. However, these aren’t the best carpets for stairs as they’ll likely show soil and stains. As such, stairs benefit from darker colors.
As far as what color, though: it’s purely subjective.
How Much Does It Cost to Install Carpet on Stairs?
Carpet costs anywhere from $0.25 to $35/sq. ft.; it heavily depends on the type of carpet as well as the brand. If you were to look at the most common carpets, however, you’re more likely to spend between $1–$7/sq. ft.
But you also have to factor in installation costs, which typically run between $1–$6/sq. ft. for normal installations (similar to the cost to install laminate flooring, by the way).
Unfortunately, stair installations tend to cost more because they’re a bit tougher. So, expect to pay towards the higher end of that spectrum—but the good news is that stairs require less material than a typical room.
Is Berber Carpet Outdated?
Hardly! Berber carpet is actually one of the most common carpet types available!
Is Industrial Grade Carpet Worth Buying for a Home?
It can be.
Industrial grade carpet sacrifices comfort, but from a practical standpoint, it is the best carpet for stairs. It also tends to be moderately inexpensive because it’s mass-produced in fewer styles than what you might find in residential carpet catalogs.
Are VOCs in Carpet Worth Worrying About?
Yes. The EPA and American Lung Association both consider volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to be harmful to humans, pets, and the environment with long-term exposure.
The flooring industry has largely caught on, though, and zero- and low-VOC flooring products are becoming the norm. Low-VOC carpet is widely available from the best carpet brands, too.
Proximity Mills is all about creating a “new standard in flooring” by offering high-performance features at more affordable prices. They’re not a budget brand, nor are they trying to be, but the company enjoys solid reviews and offers a fantastic collection of carpets (and other floors).
All their carpets are made with type 6,6 nylon—the most durable carpet material available—and are thus rated for staircase installations. And not only are these considered high-traffic carpets for stairs, but they’re warranted to last for at least 20 years regardless of pile type.
For the same reason that Doma is one of the best vinyl plank flooring brands, they’re listed here. Doma makes absolutely stunning wool and wool-blend carpets that are as durable as they are stylish—so they should easily be counted among the best carpet for stairs.
In fact, Doma flooring’s whole schtick is to be as bold and fashionable as flooring can be. While you can certainly find styles that you’d find in any carpet catalog, most of Doma’s products really jump out with vivid colors and trendy styles.
If you want carpet that really stands out, Doma is arguably the best choice because there are hardly any other companies that offer such a wide range of looks in the same price range.
Newton is kind of like the Chick-fil-A of flooring (hear us out!). Their menu (i.e. catalog) is relatively small, but what they do make is really good for the price.
Newton flooring costs about the same as your typical budget brand, but because they offer such a limited catalog (of fairly popular styles, by the way), they’re able to produce low-cost products with high-end features.
In particular, their solution-dyed polyester carpet is about on par with triexta products from well-known brands, but arguably better for stair installations because the carpet fiber is so dense.
Anderson Tuftex exclusively makes type 6,0 nylon carpets, most (if not all) of which are suitable for installations on stairs. Now, these carpets aren’t as durable as Proximity Mills’ type 6,6 options but they’ll work and they’re similarly priced (though, some options are considerably more expensive).
And with that, we’re done! We hope this guide gave you some great ideas for finding the best carpet for stairs. The key takeaway: high traffic carpet for stairs is probably the best call, but that doesn’t mean berber carpet is your only option.
You can absolutely balance comfort with durability, just remember that a plusher carpet with a cut pile probably won’t be able to stand up daily wear and tear the same way a low pile loop carpet can.
Oh, and as always, it matters where you look for the best carpet for stairs too! Big box stores are probably the easy option, but they rarely carry the best products and it’s very unlikely that you’ll speak to an actual flooring expert.
Christian is a freelance everything-writer, editor, & SEO guy. When he’s not writing about flooring and remodeling, he’s either writing news for the California American Legion or writing fresh content for his camping & EDC blog (or, you know, actually camping).
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