How to Make a Stair Visible

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Poor lighting and low visibility create an accident waiting to happen.
Poor lighting and low visibility create an accident waiting to happen. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Failing to notice a step can be a painful experience, resulting in stubbed toes or a back-jarring drop you were not expecting. Highlighting the edges of stairs is one way to increase their visibility. The United States Access Board states that every tread should have a "high visual contrast strip marking the full width of the tread," one of several straightforward and effective ways to make a stair visible.

Things You'll Need

  • High visibility strips
  • High contrast paints
  • Paint brush
  • Photo-luminescent strips
  • Screws and screwdriver
  • Low-voltage LED lights
  • Photo-luminescent lights

Wash the stair treads and risers to remove dirt, scuff marks, loose paint and grease, unless the stairs are covered in carpet. Clean surfaces exhibit greater contrast and are more easily seen. Paint the edges of the cleaned treads in a color that contrasts with the risers.

Attach a high-visibility strip to the edge of the first and last treads where they overlap the risers. Use screw-on strips to cover carpet, and either screw-on or self-adhesive strips on bare wood or masonry. Use a color that contrasts with the color of the stairs. For example, if the stairs are yellow, use a high visibility red or green strip.

Compliment the high visibility strips with photo luminescent strips that emit light at night. Modern photo luminescent strips charge quickly using either natural or artificial light during the day and re-emit the light once darkness falls.

Attach small lights to the stair tread or riser. One light at each end of the step may be sufficient, but add as many as you consider necessary. Use low-voltage LED lamps if you want bright illumination, and consider photo luminescent lights if you prefer softer "moon light" lighting to locate the stairs rather than illuminate them.

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