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A Guide to Choosing the Best Carpet for Your Stairs

Sally Painter
Carpet on staircase

Choosing the best carpeting for your stairs is easy once you learn how to spot quality in carpeting. You'll want to assess your staircase and the type of carpeting you need.

Straight Stairs Carpet Ideas

A straight staircase is the most type of staircase. When it comes to carpeting, you may prefer the look of a plush carpet or a Berber carpet. Highly prized for its durability, Berber provides a textured look and is able to withstand high-traffic thanks to its loop construction.

Straight Stairs Carpet Ideas

Curved Stairs

Curved stairs are typically found in larger homes. A plush carpet will show off the stairs elegance. You may choose to feature a carpet stair runner instead of completely covering the treads and risers. You can leave the wood or marble edges of the tread exposed for a nice peek-a-boo design element.

Curved Stairs

Spiral Stairs Carpeting

A spiral staircase is a space-saving choice that is often the centerpiece for a room as well as a space-saving choice. You can carpet this type of stairs depending on the width. For example, a small narrow spiral staircase is often better navigated with either wood or metal threads to reduce the possibility of missteps. Wider more dramatic spiral staircases can be carpeted like any other staircase.

Spiral Stairs Carpeting

Stairs With Multiple Landings

One thing to consider when selecting carpet for a multiple-landing staircase is the wear on the landings. The turn in the staircase will also mean that foot traffic patterns will wear carpet at the spot where people turn to go up the stairs. Be sure you select a high-quality carpet for this type of stairs.

Stairs With Multiple Landings

Visual Appeal

It's important your stairs have visual appeal. This can either be to showcase the stairs or to present the stairs as part of the overall decor without drawing significant attention to them. The type of stairs will determine the approach; for example, a grand curving staircase will showcase the design and embellishments. Simple straight stairs or a staircase with a landing or two is a more utilitarian feature that can be played up or down depending on the carpet treatment. One or two step down into a room should be carpeted the same as the room the steps lead into.

Staircase Runners

If you opt for a staircase runner, you'll want a runner for the upstairs hallway and a matching area rug for the foyer. If the upstairs only features a large landing with the rooms radiating from it, then opt for a matching area rug here, too.

Staircase Runners

Stair Treads Carpet

If you want to show off the woodwork, you may like a non-slip padded carpet stair tread style.

  • This type of carpet treatment will protect the wood tread against wear.
  • It will also prevent possible slipping on the stairs, especially when wearing only socks.
  • There are different carpet finishes, such as a plush pile and braided.
  • Some braided stair tread carpets are also available in oval shapes. If your decor style is country or rustic, you may prefer this classic braided rug design.
  • Bullnose treads cover the edge (bullnose) of the stair tread for a sophisticated and finished look.
Stair Treads Carpet

Carpet Color Choices

There are many color choices and patterns when it comes to carpet. Depending on the flooring above and below your staircase, you'll want to select a color that goes with the rest of your home décor.

  • Beige is the most popular carpet color choice.
  • If the walls feature a lot of woodwork, you can safely repeat the wall color in your stairs carpeting color since the wood will provide the defining contrast.
  • A good rule of thumb is to select a color that is one or more values darker than the walls unless the walls are unusually dark.
  • If the walls are white or cream, most carpet colors will go with these neutral colors.
  • A wainscoting staircase wall is a good candidate for same wall color carpeting if the wall above and below are different colors. Choose the darker color for the stairs.
Carpet Color Choices

Carpet Stairs Bridge Two Levels

  • You should use the same carpet for the upstairs hall/landing that you use for the stairs.
  • You should make sure the staircase carpeting goes with the downstairs rooms and continue the carpeting upstairs in the hall and preferably the bedrooms.
  • If the downstairs foyer and upstairs landing/hallway feature the same area rugs, select the most prominent color for the staircase.
  • If the downstairs and upstairs area rugs are different, select a color found in both for the stairs carpeting.
  • For a carpeted downstairs foyer and upstairs hall, you'll want to use the same color of carpeting for the stairs to create a cohesive look.

Wall Colors and Carpet Color Ideas

If you decide to go with a patterned stair carpet, you want to select one that repeats the wall color or at least blends nicely with the wall color. A few examples include:

Animal Print

A dramatic animal print staircase runner may be the perfect choice for a chic and bold glamorous interior design. A leopard print carpet is a good match for a soft tan or golden brown wall color.

Animal Print

Ogee Pattern

If your stairs are narrow, an ogee pattern is ideal for creating an expansive visual to make the staircase appear larger than it is. This carpeting is a good choice for taupe walls.

Ogee Pattern

Traditional Carpet Runner

A traditional carpet design can pick up one or more colors in your decor. This carpet is a good choice for blue or cream-colored walls. If the downstairs carpeting or area rug is blue and the upstairs is tan or taupe, then a carpet that contains both colors will tie the two levels together.

Traditional Carpet Runner

Best Carpet for High Traffic Stairs

When shopping for carpeting, keep in mind that the staircase is considered a high traffic zone in your house. This will require a different type of carpeting than the one you would use in a bedroom that receives low traffic and little impact. The deciding factors for the best carpet for your stairs include the type of fiber, the yarn twist, and pile density.

Best Carpet for High Traffic Stairs

Best Fibers for Stairs Carpeting

The best fibers for stairs are durable, treated for soil/stain resistance and resilient to foot traffic.

  • Acrylic resembles wool and is resistant to soil, stains, mildew, and moths.
  • Nylon is highly durable and resilient in high-traffic areas.
  • Olefin (polypropylene) is strong and durable and often used in Berber carpets if the stairs lead to the basement, this is an excellent choice since it is resistant to moisture, mildew, and staining.
  • Wool carpet is a natural, durable, fiber and naturally fire resistant. It's a prestigious status symbol carpet and an excellent choice for showcase staircase, such as wide curved stairs.
Best Fibers for Stairs Carpeting

Yarn Twist

Carpet yarn is made from fiber filaments. How those fibers are twisted in the manufacturing of the yarn determines the yarn's durability.

  • The twist is defined by the how many turns the fiber makes in a one-inch length.
  • The higher the number of twists, the more resilient the yarn is to foot traffic.
  • Steam or heat-setting is used to lock the twist, so it will remain twisted under foot traffic.
  • Blown yarn is deceptive in its fullness. This type of yarn is created by forcing air into a loose twist to give the carpet the false appearance of fullness.

Carpet Pile Density

The density of a carpet pile is determined by how closely the yarn tufts are woven together. The denser space is between the yarns, the better it will wear.

Carpet Twist and Density

Plush, Textured or Looped Carpet

The carpet style will determine how your staircase appears. For example:

  • A plush carpet will create a velvety appearance on your staircase. Most plush carpets reveal shadows and highlights from the impression of footfalls.
  • A textured carpet is highly durable and created by tight yarn twists (frieze a tightly twisted yarn style). Some are available in two-tone colors for a greater textured knobby look. A frieze carpet has a uniform appearance against footfalls.
  • A looped yarn, such as a Berber will give a highly textured appearance.

Carpet Pad

The carpet pad provides a layer of cushion underneath the carpet. There are several pad choices for stairs, such as rubber flat slab, rubble waffle and various grades of urethane foam. Rubber will break down quicker than urethane foam and doesn't offer as much protection. Opt for a high-density urethane foam padding for excellent protection for your carpet.

Carpet and Pad Warranties

Before you make any carpet and pad purchases, be sure you understand the details of the warranties for both. You'll want to find a carpet and pad that offers a warranty for stair installation to protect your investment.

Buying the Best Carpet for Your Stairs

These are the many things you need to investigate when shopping for the best carpet for your stairs. Once you consider these factors, you can decide which carpet best serves your family and lifestyle.

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A Guide to Choosing the Best Carpet for Your Stairs