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Best Carpet for Stairs? Best Padding for Stairs?

By Alan Fletcher aka “The Carpet Professor”


Carpet installed on Stairs and down Hallways usually takes the most abuse in almost every residential setting. It’s because they are inherently narrow and foot traffic is concentrated right down the middle.


Active children, pets and especially teenagers and their friends are a main reason why carpets installed on stairs tend to wear out faster than other carpets installed in your home. Kids and pets love to run up and down the stairs as fast as they can which is a very common scenario for most families. 


What can you do to alleviate the problem? You can choose to install a more durable grade of carpet and a higher density pad. Here are some smart options that may help you deal with this common problem without breaking the bank!


Best Carpet Fiber for Stairs?

For stairs, you can choose any carpet style you like, but the most durable residential carpets are made from 100% Nylon. There are various types of Nylon fibers available and some are more durable than others. The “soft” Nylon styles are not quite as durable as the standard Nylon carpet styles. 


For this reason I would steer clear of the softer Nylon carpet styles like Tactesse, Caress, or Lisse’, especially if you have heavy foot traffic in your home.


Learn more Carpet Fibers | How to select the right carpet fiber


Carpet Fibers Not Recommended for Stairs


Residential carpet made from fibers like Polyester or P.E.T. Polyester, Triexta (aka) Sorona or PTT or Smartstrand, and Olefin (aka) Polypropylene, are less durable than nylon and are prone to matting and crushing of the pile. Choosing a carpet with a low pile height will be more durable too. Keep the pile height less than 3/4" for best results.


Learn about Carpet Specifications - Face Weight, Pile Density, Tuft Twist



Choosing the Right Carpet Pad, Padding, or Carpet Cushion for Stairs


Choosing the best carpet for your stairs may be best served by first choosing the right carpet padding for your stairs. You see, it’s the padding that takes most of the beating from foot traffic and good quality padding can help your carpet tolerate more abuse for a longer period of time.


The right carpet pad will usually be of a higher density rating, not thicker. Most residential homes use a 6 to 8-pound padding density in all areas and are no thicker than 7/16". However, on stairs you might want to go with an 8 to 10-pound density rating.


To make it even better, use a higher density and also go with a thinner padding. This can increase the lifespan of the carpet installed on stairs even more, perhaps use a 3/8" thickness.


Most residential homes use padding with a thickness of 1/2” or 7/16”. This is standard in the industry because most people like a carpet that is somewhat soft or spongy underfoot.


On stairs, if you use padding with a thickness of 3/8”, your stairs will not feel quite as spongy underfoot but the carpet will be able to tolerate more abuse than if you go with a thicker padding and/or choose a density rating of 6-pounds or less.


So to make it clear, using a padding with a density rating of 8 to 10 pounds and a thickness of 3/8” will give you the best case scenario for carpet installed on stairs to be able to last as long as possible and tolerate a high level of foot traffic.


If it were me, I would go with a 3/8” padding with a 10-pound density rating for the stairs in my home. To get the absolute most durable scenario, I would probably select a cut-pile style, commercial-grade carpet made of Polypropylene or Nylon. 


Commercial grade carpets generally require a padding with reduced thickness and a higher density-rating than do a standard plush-style residential carpets. Check with your dealer for manufacturer requirements.



What Type of Padding is Best for Stairs?


There are many types of pad to choose from, but the best bang for your buck is a standard 3/8”, 8-pound density Rebond foam type pads. Flat slab or Waffle style Rubber pads are much more costly and while they do a good job, they are not as good a value as a standard urethane foam Rebond style pad. 


Wool, Felt or Synthetic Fiber pads breathe well, dry quickly, resist mold and mildew and are best used in basements or on concrete slabs where there may be some moisture concerns or for use under commercial-grade carpets. 


Learn more Selecting the Right Carpet Pad, Padding, Cushion


Learn more Carpet and Pad Price Chart | Carpet Cost


Learn about Carpet Specifications - Face Weight, Pile Density, Tuft Twist



What Grade of Carpet Should I Choose?


This is where it gets difficult to advise you because there are so many variables to consider. Learn more What Carpet Style or Grade Should I Select? Carpet Cost Comparison


If money were no object then all you would have to do is buy the best grade of carpet available and not have to worry about how long it lasts. When it wears out just replace it. 


But in the real world, we all have a limited budget to consider and we all want to get the most value for our hard-earned dollar. So you need to consider the following questions carefully before you can determine what grade of carpet you might need to buy. 


  1. How long do you want your new carpet to last?  5, 10, 15, 20 years?

  2. What is your level of foot-traffic in your home? Low, medium, moderate or high?

  3. How much carpet do you need to purchase?

  4. How much money do you have to spend on this project?


How long do you want your new carpet to last?


How long do you want your new carpet to last? If your answer is 5 years or less than you don’t have to spend so much to get the job done. If you are planning to move soon or if you have small children or active pets, it would be wise to plan on replacing your carpet in about 5 years. This means spending less now and replacing your carpet more often.  


You can buy lower grades of carpet and have it installed with basic pad for less than $20 per square yard. Shop around and if you are not picky about style and colors you could do it for less than $15 if you buy from a retailer who has rolls of carpet available in-stock and ready-to-go! These are often known as second-quality goods and can be a great deal if you choose wisely.


However, most homeowners want their new carpet to last at least 10 years. If you want a certain style and color to match your décor then you might need to order your carpet from a carpet sample at a retail store. They will place your order directly with the manufacturer for the size, style, grade and color you choose. These carpets are first-quality goods, come with a full manufacturer's warranty. You will have to pay at least 50% down for it in advance, including shipping costs. 


Most carpet orders from the mill take a week or two to be shipped to the retail store where you purchased it. In the winter when roads are temporarily closed or impassible due to ice and snow it can take much longer for your carpet to arrive as truckers can only do so much when bad weather happens.


If you want 15 to 20 years of wear and tear from your new carpet you are going to have to pay much more for a higher grade of carpet, pad and installation. The more durable the carpet and padding, the higher the cost. With carpet installation, you need to make sure that the carpet installers are well experienced with the grade of carpet you have selected and that they are well experienced in doing the type of installation you are having done. 


Learn more How To Find a Qualified Carpet Installer


The more foot traffic you have the higher the grade of carpet you will need to order.



What is your Level of Foot-Traffic in your home?


I have created a free carpet foot-traffic test to help you determine what grade of carpet you need to choose for your home. Here is the link: Alan’s Carpet Foot-Traffic Test


Learn more What Carpet Style or Grade Should I Select? Carpet Cost Comparison



How much carpet do I need to buy?


If you are just doing your stairs, then here is a chart to help you determine how much carpet and pad you need to order. 



How to Measure for Carpet on Stairs


Measuring for stairs can be a little bit tricky, but as long as your staircases are not unusual they shouldn’t be too tough to estimate. To make it easy I have created a handy chart to help you figure a basic estimate of how much carpet you need to carpet your stairs.



1. What is your stair step and riser measurement?


Most step and risers will measure about 18 inches total. In diagram #1 below, it shows you where and how to measure the step and riser. You need to calculate these measurements in inches.



2. Measure the width. How wide are your stairs?


There are several types of stairs. Most stairs are about 3 feet wide. Some are much wider. Not all stairs measure the same width. 


Some stairs are open on one or both sides and you will need to measure the widest points. 


Diagram #2 below shows how to properly measure the width of "box" style stairs. The Stair Yardage Chart below is for estimating purposed only. If your stairs have carpet that goes over one or more of each side of the stair, then that will need to be considered and calculated appropriately. 










Most staircases have about 12-14 steps. Some are split into two 6 or 7-step flights with a landing at the midpoint. The Stair Yardage Chart will reveal how many yards you typically need for a standard 12-14 step staircase. 


If you have more or less steps than 14, you will have to take that into consideration, and it will not include any carpet you may need for landing areas unless you include them in your stair measurements.


Now that you have measured your stairs and have the answers to the two questions about your stairs, use the chart below to calculate how many square yards of carpet you will need to buy


Some dealers prefer use the square feet method when ordering carpet. See the SY to SF conversion calculations methods below to learn more.



Square Yards to Square Feet Conversion Calculation

SY  x  9 = SF  -   Example: 50 sy = 450 sf

Square Feet to Square Yards Conversion Calculation

SF   9 = SY  -  Example: 450 sf = 50 sy



Learn more about How to Measure for Carpet in 4 Simple Steps


Can I Choose a Commercial Grade Carpet for my Stairs?


Yes! Most people prefer to use the same grade, color and style of carpet throughout their entire home. However, there is no reason why you have to!

You can opt to install a higher grade of carpet on your stairs to make them last years longer. There are many colors, styles and quality levels to choose from with commercial-grade carpets.


Choosing a commercial grade carpet could be a wise choice for your stairs, especially if you have heavy foot traffic. Commercial grade carpets have a shorter pile-height and the tufts are much more densely packed than residential grade carpet styles. The result is a carpet that can take a real beating and hold up extremely well. 


Commercial grade carpet is what they typically use in banks, movie theaters, office buildings and airports because it will tolerate heavy foot traffic, resist stains and cleans easily. These carpets are usually glued down with using any padding.


Commercial-Grade Carpet Styles


When choosing a commercial grade carpet you can consider carpets made with Polypropylene, Olefin, PET Polyester or Nylon and still enjoy excellent results for your high-traffic stairs. 


With commercial grade carpet, the carpet pile is manufactured so dense and has a lower pile-height which allows these carpets to be extremely durable even in heavy foot-traffic applications.


However, I don’t recommend choosing a looped Berber or a level-loop style commercial grade carpet for your stairs because of the high chance for snags. A Cut-Pile or Plush style would be a good choice for stairs.


All Commercial-grade carpets require using padding with reduced thickness and a higher density rating than do typical residential-grade carpets. Residential-grade carpets are designed to be softer underfoot and be more suited to those homeowners who desire a carpet that is soft and plush.


In fact, the softer a carpet is, or the more a carpet feels underfoot, the less durable the carpet will be.  Those homeowners that want a soft carpet with a plush feel underfoot will end up with a carpet that does not last as long or tolerate heavy foot traffic. 



Learn more Popular Carpet Styles | Which Carpet Style Is Best Choice?




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Best carpet for stairs Alan's Preferred Carpet Dealers

Carpet Scams are Everywhere! It's getting harder every day to find honest & reputable Carpet Dealers! That's why I have compiled my own special list of hand-picked carpet dealers who are locally owned, give free measures and estimates, offer fair and square prices, have knowledgeable sales staff, and hire qualified installers. Don't take chances... See who I recommend near you!




















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