Replacing Carpeting on Stairs with Hardwood

You’ve finally had it with your stairs. The carpet on them is old, dirty, worn down and slippery. Ideally, you’d love to replace that old carpet with hardwood that will match the rest of your house. But how much work will that take?

Many homeowners dream about this kind of project — updating stairs from carpet to wood can result in a huge transformation for the look of a home. Stairwells are one of the highest-traffic areas of your home and can be a feature item with a distinct look.

However, this is not an easy project that you can do yourself in a weekend. Stairs are built in a particular way and have to be safe, as you’re crossing between floors and want everyone to make it safely. Matching the wood can also be difficult unless you have a professional’s eye and skill.

Not a DIY project

Stairwells are different in every home, depending on where they stand. Some staircases are curved, while others take a sharp turn into a basement; some are freestanding with bannisters while others are encased in walls. The methods for changing out carpet on the treads and risers on each of these are different.

It’s important to find a good contractor, especially if your stairs are curved. To convert your stairs to hardwood, a contractor has to measure and cut the right size risers and treads, fit them and secure them safely to the framework of your stairs, and go through the wood finishing process. These conversions are custom-made and take time to install, so the old saying applies here: cheap isn’t good and good isn’t cheap. Your home is an investment, and cutting corners on custom work likely won’t pay off. But a good contractor will do a good job that will pay dividends over the lifetime of your home.

If you already have hardwood in your home, a good contractor can help you match the stains and wood type so you don’t have conflicting wood styles in your home. If you have tile or carpet, a professional can still help you choose the best color and wood type to complement your existing flooring.

Choosing the right materials

Like other home improvement projects, much of the work comes before any tools come out of the toolbox.

You have a number of choices about the style and scope of work you want on your stairs. Luckily, stair treads are available in almost every hardwood species, so you have a wide range of choices.

One common difference between hardwood staircases is whether the risers are stained as well as the treads. The treads are nearly always stained, but sometimes the risers are painted white. Home design magazines and blogs like Better Homes and Gardens have a variety of design suggestions for creatively painted stairs. The contrast between the stain and white paint can be very striking, lending to a modern look in homes, but the white paint will also inevitably be kicked or scuffed. While scuffs can be cleaned or painted over, it’s worth considering whether you want to avoid the extra work.

Choosing the right sheen and finish are important considerations, too. High gloss sheen is not recommended for stairs, as it can be slippery. For stairs, we recommend Bona’s Traffic Anti-Slip finish, as it has the same protective benefits as other Bona finishes but is formulated to avoid slipping. That’s especially important on stairs. More than 1 million Americans injure themselves on stairs every year, with 23 percent of patients saying they slipped, according to Reuters.

Something else to consider is whether to add to the scope of your project by replacing your bannisters. In older homes, many staircases have traditional wooden balustrades, which can look a little outdated. More modern homeowners are opting for wrought-iron balustrades instead. It can be an efficient option to replace your balustrade at the same time as converting your stairs, saving time and inconvenience later.