What to Use for a Finished Edge at the Top of Stairs in Hardwood Installation


A specialized piece of material is required to properly trim out the top of a staircase. Because this is a high foot traffic area where tripping is a genuine concern, most finishing pieces feature a rounded edge that minimizes the hazard. The most common type of trim is referred to as bull or stair nosing. These custom pieces create a smooth transition between the flooring and the first stair tread. Some designs, like box steps, incorporate a square edge, while others use a rubber cap or plastic runner. There are options to fit every circumstance and situation

Square Edge

  • Box steps, as the name implies, are box shaped and square edged. Occasionally, the finished edge at the top of the stairs is also left square to match this style of staircase. This creates a uniform appearance that highlights the stairs themselves, rather than the transition to the flooring.

Bull Nosing

  • Bull nosing, also referred to as stair nosing, is the most common way to finish the top of the steps. This is a rounded piece of wood, generally 3 or 5 inches wide, that butts up to the flooring and slightly hangs over the riser. This trim mimics the appearance of staircases with rounded treads.

Rubber Cap

  • Rubber caps are used on the top step to keep people from slipping or even tripping over it. They are typically installed over a piece of wood trim or dunnage and are more functional in design than they are aesthetic.

Carpet or Plastic Runners

  • Some homeowners and builders choose to run carpet or plastic runners down the middle of staircases. This material typically goes all the way from the bottom to the top of the steps and is either installed on individual treads or in single pieces that run up the risers as well.

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