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Carpet vs Hardwood for Stairs? What’s Best?

A collage of a carpet and hardwood stairs.

Carpet or hardwood stairs. Which is better? Well, of course, more often than not, ‘better’ is in the eye of the beholder. ‘Better’ as in easier for cleaning? Well, that would be hardwood.

‘Better’ as in safer? ‘Better’ because it is easier on the pocket, ‘better’ because it is more aesthetically pleasing, ‘better’ how?

Carpet vs. Hardwood for Stairs? What’s Best? Although they come with safety issues, hardwood stairs are best based on longevity, ease of maintenance, and practical investment.

Carpet stairs or hardwood stairs. Which is easiest to clean?

Carpeted stairs are hard to keep clean

A photo of a carpeted stairs.

Clearly, carpeted stairs are more easily dirtied than hardwood stairs. Carpets hang onto dust like misers hang onto money.

Grime, grease, dogs’ hair, cats’ fur, that stain from that night when you ill-advisedly tried to herd a young lady, a pizza, a half-drunk bottle of wine, and two glasses up the stairs, all these gravitate to carpets like the buttered side of bread to a filthy floor.

More seriously, carpets also hold out open arms to allergens to complicate the lives of allergy sufferers. To keep everyone happy, healthy, and the house relatively clean, carpeted stairs need to be vacuumed once a week at a minimum.

Hardwood stairs are slippery

Earlier, when I said ‘herd a young lady, a pizza, a half-drunk bottle of wine, and two wine glasses up the stairs,’ I instinctively visualized carpeted stairs.

I can’t imagine anyone would be dumb enough to try that little exercise on hardwood stairs.

Yes, to keep them clean, all that hardwood stairs need is the odd sweeping, an occasional mopping, maybe even a quick wipe with a wet cloth once in a blue moon.

That’s all nice and dandy, but what isn’t so great is that these surfaces can be slippery.

Now some folk will pipe up and say, ‘Hold on there, buddy. Hardwood stairs don’t have to be slippery; just don’t polish them none.’ Well, okay, fair point.

However… who can deny the simple beauty of a pale-colored hardwood staircase? Besides, without that polish, hardwood stairs tend to stab unwary bare feet with painful splinters of wood set in all sorts of exotic shapes and sizes.

Hardwood stairs don’t work for light sleepers and creeps

A photo of a hardwood stairs.

Others might not think there’s any need to cater to creeps, probably because they’re not creeps, but let’s leave that conversation there. However, what about light sleepers? Carpets naturally suppress sounds, whereas hardwoods act like timber amplifiers.

As a confirmed couch potato who frequently tries to get a good nap on my favorite settee after a hard hour watching CSI, I find few things are quite as disconcerting, not to mention annoying, than being deeply and safely nestled in the warm embrace of Hypnos, when foul creaking from hardwood stairs rudely jerks me awake.

“For sleep, riches, and health to be truly enjoyed, they must be interrupted.”
Jean Paul
Paul, J. Retrieved from

Methinks Monsieur Jean Paul must have been nuts. Hardwood stairs are the enemies of peace and quiet, from which point of view they are suitable only to sound an alarm in the event of a house invasion.

Carpet vs. hardwood stairs cost comparison

Putting aside the edge case of comparing Russian oligarch-expensive carpeting to skid-row-cheap hardwood, carpets are generally hands down cheaper to buy than hardwood alternatives.

But–and it’s a big but–there’s much more to this than just the initial cost. Take carpeting, for example.

As I pointed out earlier, carpets quickly get dirty and therefore require cleaning on at least a weekly basis.

This adds to the wear and tear on the carpet, so much so that sooner rather than later, carpets look tired, worn out, and defeated long before their hardwood counterparts.

So, even though it might seem like a good saving, the small matter of installation each time you replace your carpets begins to mount up.

Field experts reckon that hardwood stairs last at least three years longer than carpeted stairs.

This means that when comparing hardwood stairs to carpeted stairs, the latter are already at a considerable disadvantage, being that it might be said they cost three times the ticket value of the item under consideration.

A wrinkle in comparing the costs of carpeted vs. hardwood stairs

A photo collage of a carpeted and a hardwood stairs.

A strong impact on cost comparison is the amount of traffic expected on the stairs. In a house where there are adults and a couple of teenage kids, traffic will be relatively light, and carpeting should last a lot longer.

On a Brady Bunch-type house, however, the wear and tear on carpets will be phenomenal, and as long as parents have got great medical insurance to balance against broken bones (say $5,000 at least per hospital trip), they may opt for hardwood stairs. The shmucks.

Hardwood stairs as an investment

Research into what type of floor boosts homes’ resale values reveals that hardwood floors significantly boost–as long as the homeowner has chosen the right kind of wood.

Of course, this adds proportionally to the initial cost of investment, but it’s an investment.

This means you understand you’re going to put more money into flooring upfront, but you do so with the reasonable expectation of a greater return in the future.

In the meantime, of course, you have fewer maintenance costs to worry about, and you won’t be needing biannual visits from a professional carpet cleaning company.


What are the different types of hardwood flooring?

Popular hardwoods for floors are bamboo, teak, beech, birch, ash, hickory, maple, white oak, red oak, walnut, and cherry.

What are the different types of carpets?

There are a gazillion types of carpets, but fortunately, they boil down to three basic categories; cut and loop pile, cut pile, and loop pile.

Carpet vs. Hardwood for Stairs? What’s Best?

Hardwood stairs rule okay for those who can afford them and don’t have a young family or anyone else who might find slippery stairs challenging.

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