When you upgrade an existing staircase, or even build a new one, you have more material options on the table than you might anticipate. We have researched all of the different types so you can choose what is best for your home.
Some of the best staircase materials include:
- Mixed woods
The pros and cons of these variations will depend on your anticipated stairwell traffic, preferred aesthetic, and budget. Metals, for example, can be versatile and beautiful, while woods can bring a level of elegance into your space. Even unusual materials, like glass and rubber, can be used to make a statement in an unconventional home. Keep reading to learn more!
Types Of Stairs - By Material
Building a new staircase - or replacing an old one - lets you add another pop of individuality in your home. Your material options, then, can include:
Steel is one of the most common materials used to build interior staircases. Both lightweight and heavy-duty, steel can hold up against heavy foot traffic while also being relatively simple to install. While these stairs are relatively easy to traverse, you may want to invest in a railing or material that lends traction to the actual steps.
Anyone in your family who struggles with their mobility may need assistance making it up and down these steps.
That said, just because these stairs are made out of metal doesn't mean that they can't be elegant. Steel is the ideal material to use if you want to install a floating staircase or if you're interested in an etched stair design.
Aluminum, when used to build a staircase, essentially serves as aluminum's less expensive cousin. Because they're made out of lightweight metal, aluminum staircases are especially easy to install both inside and outside of the home, though you will most often see them affixed to docks or in outdoor workspaces.
If you plan to install one of these staircases outside of your home, make sure to treat the metal so it can better withstand the effects of the local weather.
That said, there are some downsides to aluminum staircases. If you don't purchase textured aluminum, these staircases can be difficult for residents with mobility issues to navigate. Similarly, aluminum tends to be flexible, meaning that it may lose some of its stability over time.
Hardwood staircases made out of materials like oak are among the sturdiest non-stone staircases available in residential spaces. Best when used in interior staircases, oak - be it red or white - is a showstopper, especially once it's been professionally treated. This wood is easy to navigate, though it can be more expensive than some other materials to install in your home.
Pine is a softwood that tends to be more affordable to install than oak and other hardwoods. Pine staircases are versatile in their appearance, making excellent additions to your home both as showpieces and as practical installations.
These staircases are prized for their durability, though the softwood does tend to give in to damage before hardwood might. Comparatively, though, pine and other softwoods are easier for professionals to install, as the material is simpler to manipulate.
If you're reluctant to invest in one type of wood over another, especially when considering costs, talk to area professionals about creating a mixed wood staircase. Mixed wood staircases are highly customizable, meaning that you can work with contractors to bring in woods that better suit your budget.
In terms of appearance, these staircases also offer a unique touch to any foyer or front room that they're installed in.
Mixed wood staircases often bear many of the same benefits as traditional wooden staircases. For example, these staircases will be relatively simple to navigate, courtesy of the wood's high-traction surface. You'll want to try and avoid pairing hardwoods with softwoods, however, during the installation phase.
Hardwoods, like oak, tend to hold up for longer against wear and tear. If you combine soft and hardwoods in a mixed wood staircase, then the softwood may need replacing long before the other steps do.
Concrete is a relatively traditional staircase material. Construction teams installing these types of staircases inside your home tend to use dry mix concrete poured over a wooden skeleton. Comparatively, teams installing staircases outside of your home will use ready-mix concrete, even if they still rely on wooden supports to create the base of the staircase itself. Some teams take this a step further and pre-pour staircases using a mold.
Concrete is a reliable staircase material. When it's waterproofed before installation, this material can stand up to rain and other foul weather. Concrete also shows little sign of wear even after long-term use. The traction most people get when navigating concrete stairs tends to prevent accidents, as well.
Stairwells made out of concrete are even relatively affordable, considering their size. While installation costs will vary based on your preferred dimensions, you can usually have a concrete staircase installed for between $900 and $5,000.
To learn more about the costs of stairs, check out our post, " Can You Buy Pre-Made Stairs (and How Much Do They Cost?."
Marble staircases are among the most elegant of the practical staircases available to the average homeowner. These staircases are lovely to look at, simple to navigate and can make excellent statement pieces in your foyer. They can even hold up when exposed to significant wear, as marble does not readily show signs of damage.
That said, you're not going to be able to install a marble staircase without facing some significant expense. Marble is not cheap. The cost of installation and general maintenance, however, is marble's only real downside. The durability of the material, paired with its overall appearance and maneuverability, makes it a welcomed addition in most residential spaces.
Glass staircases make amazing accent pieces in a front hall. In terms of practicality and expense, however, these staircases may not crack the top ten. These staircases are exceptionally difficult for most people to navigate, and they readily show stains and dirt.
What's more, glass staircases are not particularly stable. If you want one of these staircases inside of your home, you'll need to make a point of both carefully cleaning and maintaining your steps to ensure maximum usability.
Acrylic staircases are on the more expensive side when it comes to your material options. That said, they're also among the most aesthetically pleasing. These staircases are highly customizable, coming in a myriad of colors and designs. Acrylic staircases make it easy for light to pass through them and tend to modernize a home.
Again, though, acrylic staircases are relatively expensive to install. The material on its own is somewhat fragile, meaning that a construction team will need to spend a good amount of time installing the stairway's support system.
What's more, this material isn't meant to contend with heavy traffic. Acrylic tends to show dirt and chip easily, meaning that you'll need to invest in regular maintenance if you want to keep your staircase in pristine condition.
You most often see rubber staircases installed on playgrounds or outside of homes. These staircases also make ideal additions in homes where residents need assistance navigating between the house's multiple levels. Rubber staircases, with this in mind, tend to be easy for folks of all stripes to navigate.
While not always the most aesthetically pleasing, these staircases are still affordable and designed to suit their surroundings.
What Type of Concrete is Used for Stairs?
Different construction crews will use different materials and molds to craft concrete stairs. When you first sit down for a consultation, you can discuss your available options and determine which may suit your needs best. Some of the most common types of concrete to appear in residential homes include:
- Dry mix concrete
- Ready-mix concrete
Dry mix concrete tends to serve smaller, indoor staircases well, as it can rely on wooden supports to remain in place. If you'd like to install an exterior staircase, consider discussing the benefit of ready-mix concrete poured into an external mold.
Not only does the mold promote long-term stability, but ready-mix concrete tends to stand up to weather-wear for longer than a dry mix would.
What Type of Wood is Best for Stairs?
When you install a wooden staircase in your home, you want to be certain that it will hold up to substantial wear. With that in mind, you need to choose a wood that both looks good and has a reputation for sturdiness. While oak and pine are among the best woods to use in these scenarios, your other options can include:
- American cherry
- Brazilian cherry
Note that while all of these woods make excellent staircase materials, some are lighter - and more expensive - than others. Mahogany is both the lightest and most expensive wood listed here, making it an excellent addition to your home if you can afford it. With that in mind, budget for your staircase ahead of time.
What Metal is Used for Stairs?
When professionals install metal staircases in your home, they most often rely on steel. Steel staircases have the benefit of being both lightweight - most of the time - and highly durable. This means that professionals can more easily install metal staircases in your home and that you won't have to worry about replacing damaged steps anytime in the near future.
Metal staircases are also flexible in a manner of speaking. While they're not likely to give beneath the weight of any passersby, professionals can install steel staircases in a variety of styles throughout your home. If you're interested in a spiral or floating staircase, this lighter metal may let you achieve the aesthetic of your dreams.
That said, professionals can opt to use alternative metals to build staircases in your home. If you're looking to save money on your installation, you can request an aluminum staircase. Be sure, however, to discuss the pros and cons of these steel alternatives with experienced professionals.
If you anticipate placing your staircase in a high-traffic area, it may be worth the extra money to put a heavy-duty material to use.
Is It Safe to Put Tile on Stairs?
If you want to remodel an existing staircase, you may consider fitting that staircase with tile. This process can have varying resulted based on the kind of tile you choose to decorate your stairs with. Glass tile, for example, doesn't lend itself to hiding an older staircase's stains, and it tends to be relatively fragile. Only invest in glass tile if you want to use a staircase for primarily decorative purposes. Other tiles to avoid using on staircases include:
- Ceramic tile
- Porcelain tile
- Limestone tile
- Travertine tile
If you want to tile your staircase, it's in your best interest to use more durable tiles. Tile materials that tend to keep your staircase safe while also lending to its overall appearance include:
- Cement tile
- Marble tile
- Granite tile
- Quarry tile
- Metal tile
- Resin tile
Note that these materials are most effective when they're not asymmetrical, as a symmetrical tile is easier to install up and down a staircase.
Determining what kind of staircase you want in a new home or what materials you want to replace an older set of stairs can be challenging. You have a plethora of options available to you, and all of them have their pros and cons.
At the end of the day, determine what kind of stairway material you want to invest in based on your preferred aesthetic, maneuverability, and your budget. Once you have these details ironed out, you can sit down with a local team of contractors and discuss which stairway materials might suit your home best.
To learn more about stairs, check out our post, "How Wide Should Stairs Be?"