This post may contain references or links to products from one or more partners of our parent company and/or subsidiaries of our parent company. For more information, visit this page.
November 9, 2021
Have some questions about putting vinyl plank flooring on stairs? We hear you.
Vinyl plank is gorgeous, easy to install, and is among the most durable wood flooring alternatives out there. But: can LVP go on stairs? Do all types of vinyl plank work? And how do you even install vinyl plank on stairs, especially if you have floating floors?
Worry not: we’ve looked into it for you and are happy to answer all of your questions.
Below, we’ll explain the different types of vinyl plank flooring (and which are suitable for staircases). We’ll go into the specialized pieces you’ll need, answer some commonly asked questions, and even discuss some alternative types of flooring you can use for your stairs if vinyl isn’t a fit.
Finally, we’ll toss in a how-to guide for installing vinyl plank flooring on stairs for the DIY crowd.
So: ready for your introduction to vinyl plank flooring on stairs? Let’s dive in!
Before we talk about putting vinyl plank flooring on stairs, let’s go over the basics. And yes—this is going to directly impact whether or not you can put your desired LVP on stairs, so we want to be super clear!
Vinyl plank—sometimes known as “luxury vinyl plank” (aka LVP) or “luxury vinyl tile” (aka LVT) is a type of PVC flooring—meaning it’s made primarily of plastic. It’s most often sold as a fake wood flooring choice, though tile-look formats aren’t uncommon.
What’s the difference between LVP (luxury vinyl plank) and LVT (luxury vinyl tile)? Well… nothing, really.
“LVT” was the original term for this type of flooring, and many people still use it as a catch-all. These days, though, many flooring experts use “LVT” to describe luxury vinyl flooring that’s cut and patterned to look like tile, while “LVP” is cut and patterned to look like wood.
Some even go so far as to call loose-lay vinyl plank flooring (which generally has a flexible rather than rigid core) “LVT”, but… well, it’s complicated.
Just remember:LVT and LVP are not the same as vinylsheet, which you’ve probably seen in every kitchen or bathroom from the second half of the 20th century. While vinyl sheet is water-resistant, it’s not as durable as vinyl plank.
There are Many Different Types of Vinyl Plank
When it comes to putting vinyl plank flooring on stairs, one of the most important differences between different LVP products is the core layer. This will affect so much of a floor’s feel and performance, including how it performs on stairs.
And if you go with an “ultra-budget” brand like Lumber Liquidators’ CoreLuxe flooring or worse, StainMaster luxury vinyl, your costs are going to be even lower. But: you will be replacing your floors a lot sooner.
So: Can You Install Vinyl Plank Flooring on Stairs? Absolutely.
Ok! Now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s talk about vinyl plank flooring on stairs.
And to answer the first (and biggest question), yes—you absolutely can install vinyl plank flooring on your stairs!
In fact, putting vinyl plank on your stairs is a very practical choice—it’s strong, it can take a lot of foot traffic, etc. And in a high-traffic area, like stairs, every little bit of extra help is essential.
Which Type of Vinyl is Best for Stairs?
You probably know this already, but vinyl plank (rather than vinyl sheet), is better for stairs. That’s because you can install it just like you would install wood planks, while vinyl sheet needs to be glued down in one giant piece (which is almost impossible on stairs).
And How Do You Choose the Best Vinyl Plank For Stairs?
Now: as far as the best vinyl plank flooring for stairs, you’re going to want to consider two things:
The LVP product’s wear layer
The LVP product’s core layer
The best vinyl flooring for your stairs is usually going to have a thicker wear layer, since you’ll want something that can handle a lot of foot traffic. But remember: not all wear layers are created equal. Take a look at our vinyl plank flooring reviews to see how different brands stack up in this regard.
As far as cores are concerned: WPC-core products are great for stairs since they offer a bit more cushioning than other LVPs (so they’re easier on your joints).
If you’ve read our COREtec flooring reviews, you’ll know this brand is the inventor (and still the poster child) for WPC—but they’re far from the only manufacture. These days, even Lowes’ in-house SmartCore flooring is offered in a WPC variety.
However, if your floors see a lot of traffic (we’re talking about kids and pets running up and down for years and years), you might consider using an SPC flooring product for your staircase instead. SPC cores are even more robust than their WPC siblings.
But Is Vinyl Flooring Suitable for Stairs?
We’ve established that you can put vinyl plank flooring on stairs—but is it well-suited for staircases?
That’s really the end of that question, but we’d go a step further. Not only is vinyl plank suitable for your stairs, but we’d actually recommend it.
If you have vinyl flooring already, adding it to your stairs helps to create a matching, smooth flow throughout your house.
What’s the Best Way to Install Vinyl Plank Flooring on Stairs?
Vinyl plank is easy to install, but it must be done properly—especially on stairs. Poor installations can create a risk of the planks coming loose or uneven. And this can be a cause concern on a staircase, where you don’t want any increased risk of somebody tripping.
The best way to be sure that your vinyl planks are secure is by gluing them down. We want to be super clear here—regardless of whether you’re installing floating vinyl plank flooring or a glue-down variety, you always need to glue down vinyl plank on stairs.
Luckily, even if you’re using a click-together flooring product, this is no issue—manufacturers make special, matching pieces specifically for this purpose.
What Special Pieces Do You Need to Buy?
Before we begin, let’s define the anatomy of the stairs.
The riser is the vertical piece of your stair, as in “it rises up and down.”
The tread is the part your foot steps on. You “tread” on the tread. Easy way to remember that, no?
The nose, also called the bullnose, is the rounded edge of your stair that hangs out a little bit over the edge of each step.
When it comes to putting vinyl plank on stairs, this is no different; if you’re buying from a quality company, you should have no issues getting matching bullnoses for your project. And you can simply use normal planks as risers and treads! Some companies, like Shaw, even make specialty vinyl treads.
What’s the Best Vinyl Bullnose for Stairs?
To take things a step further: there are actually different types of vinyl plank stair noses.
Some are square-edged, others round, while still others are only half-rounded. You can even install a bullnose with zero overhang; it only caps the edge of the step to protect the corner.
At the end of the day, it comes down to what aesthetic you like. Some versions are specifically non-slip, so it may be worth looking at those styles first.
Pro Tip: You Can Also Use Aluminum Stair Nosings With Vinyl Planks
It’s no secret that massive shipping delays have caused ongoing supply chain chaos these last couple of years. And unfortunately, flooring dealers aren’t immune to this issue. With the majority of the world’s LVP being produced overseas, things like matching LVP stair nosing have become (in some cases) conspicuously hard to come by.
Luckily, there’s a workaround for this issue. Rather than using LVP noses, you can always use aluminum (and possibly swap for matching when it becomes available).
The tradeoff is style. Aluminum bullnoses create a very industrial look. If that fits your style, or if you aren’t concerned about the appearance of the staircase, aluminum may be a good option for you.
Vinyl Plank Flooring on Stairs: FAQs
Before we get into our how-to (or discuss all your alternatives to installing vinyl plank on stairs) we want to clear up any remaining questions.
How Do You Transition Vinyl Plank Flooring to Your Stairs?
If you have vinyl planks installed on the floor above your staircase, you’ll want to make the transition to the stairs as smooth as possible. The key to a successful shift lies in the molding and nosing.
When transitioning from the floor to the top of the stairs, your top step will need nosing, even though it’s just an extension of the floor. This piece is less about safety and more about creating a uniform look. It’s critical to ensure that the nosing on this area is flush with the vinyl planks. Otherwise, people are likely to trip and fall down the stairs.
What’s the Best Adhesive for Vinyl Plank Flooring on Stairs?
You’ll want to ensure that your vinyl planks are just about as secure as Fort Knox. Since you’ll be relying on glue-down vinyl plank flooring, it’s best to have a pressure-sensitive adhesive.
This means that it requires pressure for the bonding process to activate. Most other adhesives require either heat, water, or some solvent. However, if the adhesive relies on force, it will create a stronger bond. Talk with your installer about the best way to achieve this!
Do the Stairs and Floor Need to Match?
Whether your stairs and your floor match is entirely up to you. You need to decide what look you’re going for before you choose. You can have lots of fun mixing and matching your floors and your stairs.
Matching your stairs and your floor will give you a uniform look. If you are aiming for one particular aesthetic throughout your whole house, then having your stairs and floor precisely the same is probably your best approach.
On the other hand, you can create a unique look if you use a mash-up of different floors and stairs. It presents an excellent opportunity to play with wood floor patterns as well as wood floor colors.
And who knows? Maybe wood floor designs aren’t your thing at all, and you’d rather have tile-look vinyl plank on your stairs. It’s all up to you!
Buy an LVP that’s embossed for added realism and grip
Apply a coat of anti-slip topper or a non-slip spray.
It really is easy as that. Voila: no more slippery stairs!
Can I Install Narrow-Width Vinyl Plank Flooring on Stairs?
The short answer: yes, absolutely. Really, this is just a stylistic question. If you don’t like the look of having more than one plank per stair tread (as you would have to with narrow-width planks), you can always opt for a wide-plank wood flooring look instead.
Can You Put Peel and Stick Vinyl Plank on Stairs?
You can absolutely use peel and stick vinyl plank flooring on your stairs! Remember, though: peel and stick vinyl planks aren’t generally meant for long-term use—especially in a high-traffic area like stairs.
Also, if you opt for this installation style, keep in mind that you need a perfect subfloor underneath. If there are any imperfections, they’ll be obvious under these planks. A special underlayment for vinyl flooring may help camouflage these flaws, but again: peel and stick planks are not generally meant for any real amount of traffic.
Which is Better on Stairs: Carpet or Vinyl?
Considering all the traffic that stairs see every day, they can get pretty dirty. If you need to clean the stairs frequently, vinyl is probably the better option.
However: it all comes down to your individual needs. Carpet is more comfortable than vinyl, and if safety is your priority (when it comes to slip-and-falls), it might be the smarter choice for your stairs.
If you want to take a deep dive into the pros and cons of carpet vs. hard surfaces, we’d recommend reading our carpet vs. hardwood and carpet vs. laminate write-ups. They’ll give you all the info you need!
Pro tip: you can always put vinyl plank flooring on stairs and cover the treads with peel-and-stick carpet tiles if you want the best of both worlds! And if you’re wondering how to install carpet tiles, it’s just like the name implies—so it really couldn’t be any easier.
Is Vinyl Environmentally Friendly Enough to Go in a High-Use Area Like Stairs?
Vinyl is made of plastic, which is not generally an environmentally-friendly choice. Luckily, as low-VOC flooring has increasingly become a priority for many homeowners, more and more low-VOC vinyl flooring options have become available.
The short answer here: most LVP brands are more than eco-friendly enough to use on stairs—just make sure you’re buying brands that have Greenguard or FloorScore certifications. Proximity Mills, for example, makes some FloorScore-certified zero-VOC vinyl plank options.
Should My Tread and Riser Both Be Vinyl?
It’s up to you! You can choose to leave the riser uncovered if you like. It’s a popular look to just paint the riser a different color. Both methods can look amazing; the choice is yours.
Installing Vinyl Plank Flooring on Stairs: The DIY Guide
How can you be sure you’re ready to install vinyl plank on your steps? Why it only takes a few simple steps!
Steps to cover steps? Get it?
Ahem. We’ll move on.
Anyway: it might feel like you’re facing a daunting challenge to get your vinyl planks installed on your stairs, but hang in there. It’s truly quite manageable once you get into the swing of it.
Vinyl plank is some of the easiest flooring to install, even if you’re putting it on stairs. There are no grains to worry about, no carpets to be stretched, nothing at all. It’s miles easier than DIY wood floors or… well, most things, really. When it comes to DIY flooring, you really can’t beat vinyl.
Before starting, make sure you have all the tools you’ll need. Some suggestions are:
An 80-tooth saw blade
A caulking gun
A carpenter square
A tape measure
A lot of an appropriate adhesive
And a clean subfloor is imperative!
Now you’re ready to begin.
Step 1: Install the Stair Riser
Before you even make any cuts to your vinyl planks, measure the height and length of the stair riser. Now measure again.
Yes, always measure at least twice and cut once. It’s a tired saying, sure, but that doesn’t make it any less accurate. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and material if you double-check all your work.
Cut the vinyl plank to fit your measurements. Then, hold it up against the riser to ensure it’s the proper size.
Spread adhesive on the back of the plank, then press it firmly against the riser, following all the adhesive directions. If you feel more secure adding nails or screws in the corners, it’s ok to do so on the risers.
Step 2: Measure and Cut the Stair Tread and the Nose
Next, move on to the stair tread. The tread is the part where your foot lands when you walk up and down the steps.
Using the same methodical process you did for the riser, measure, and re-measure the tread. If your vinyl plank doesn’t include an attached nosing, test the length of that separate piece by holding it up against the step. Your vinyl plank should lay flush against the nosing, so factor that adjustment into your measurements.
Trim the plank and nosing to the correct length you’ll need. If you need to use more than one piece of vinyl plank flooring for the width of the tread, perhaps trim two pieces to have them each the same width down the middle of the tread.
Pro tip: there may be small differences between tread sizes. Take your time and measure each tread individually, or you could wind up with big gaps down the road.
Step 3: Install the Stair Tread and Nose
Before you add any adhesive, give your step a dry test run. Line each piece up in its place. If it all fits nicely together, with no overlap or gapping, you are ready to move on.
Apply the adhesive to the plank, making an S shape, and firmly hold it down on the tread. You can use screws or nails in the corners where they are out of the way for a little extra security to hold the plank in place.
Apply glue to the back of the nosing and gently put it in place along the edge of the stair. Again, be very sure that it lies flush against the plank.
For a stronger bond, sand the underside of the nosing before adding the glue. This will give the step and the glue more surface to hold on to.
Repeat all these steps to complete your steps. (Sorry! We can’t stop!)
Alternatives to Putting Vinyl Plank Flooring on Stairs
Before you settle on LVP, you might want to know what other options you have. As much as we love vinyl plank flooring on stairs, there are so many different types of flooring to consider that perhaps something else will better fit your needs!
If vinyl plank flooring attracts you because of its durability, bamboo is an excellent alternative. The best bamboo flooring will last you an eternity. (OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But certainly, it can last a lifetime!)
What does bamboo offer that vinyl plank flooring doesn’t? For starters, it’s a more environmentally-friendly flooring choice (as long as it’s sustainably harvested). On top of that, you can refinish bamboo flooring, which isn’t possible with vinyl. This can expand the life of your stairs even longer and prevent the need to replace them if damage does occur.
If waterproof stairs are important to you, tile is another fantastic option. And just like vinyl plank, tile is very, very strong and scratch-resistant. They share a lot of attractive qualities.
There are many different types of tile, so you can play with all sorts of design ideas. However, if you have your heart set on a wood look for your stairs, you can even install wood-look tile. You’ll get the same appearance and quality that vinyl plank flooring provides.
The biggest downsides, though? Installation is no walk in the park, and tile can be very slippery. Our advice? If you’re going with tile (rather than vinyl plank) on stairs, make sure it has a high coefficient of friction rating to prevent slips.
Cork flooring doesn’t share a lot of qualities with vinyl plank flooring. It’s different in practically every way, except one: beauty.
One of the significant differences between cork and vinyl is that cork is a sustainable wood flooring product. It doesn’t harm the environment, so you can feel good about covering your floors with cork. In fact, cork isn’t actually wood per se—it’s actually made of sustainably-harvested tree bark!
The best cork flooring is much stronger than you may expect from this material. It can take some decently heavy traffic, so cork can work very well on stairs if you treat the area with care. But best of all, it’s incredibly comfortable to walk on. So if aching joints are an issue for you, cork might be a great option.
Hardwood floors are the apex in flooring. They’re beautiful, long-lasting… and expensive.
That said, while the best hardwood floors will set you back, remember: there’s a huge difference between solid hardwood and engineered hardwood.
What is engineered hardwood? It’s a high-performance type of wood that mixes a robust plywood core with a real, solid wood veneer. It’s generally sold as prefinished hardwood flooring (rather than being finished on-site), which gives it an incredibly durable, UV-cured factory finish that can rival vinyl’s scratch resistance.
The main difference between laminate and vinyl is the material they’re made of. While vinyl is all plastic, laminate has a core made of fiberboard or plywood. They both have an image on top, sealed off with a transparent protective layer, but these images are slightly different. Laminate uses an actual photo layer, while vinyl has a pressed-in design.
When it comes to laminate vs. vinyl plank on stairs, though, this one’s a pretty even toss-up. Both products bring a ton to the table and are categorized as “resilient flooring”—so the choice is yours!
As you can see, vinyl plank flooring on stairs can be a wonderful addition to your home! The benefits of your vinyl flooring don’t need to end at the staircase. Vinyl plank stairs can seem right at home on any staircase in your house, whether it’s in your entrance hall, leading to your basement, or up to the bedrooms.
Courtney is a freelance writer who wears many other hats: kindergarten teacher by day, Broadway diva in the shower. She is a transplant Hoosier who originated in New England. When she isn't writing in her spare time, you will find her reading history books, arguing with her latest knitting project, or being beaten by her kids at most games.
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This post may contain references or links to products from one or more partners of our parent company and/or subsidiaries of our parent company. For more information, visit this page. May 5, 2022 Want to give your laundry room an upgrade and looking for the best laundry room flooring? You’re in the right place! Laundry rooms […]
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