What to Put on Wood Steps That Are Slippery

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Bare wood steps.
Bare wood steps. (Image: we8504/iStock/Getty Images)

Wood steps may provide a warm look for both your home's exterior and interior. Depending on the type of finish the wood has, however, you may find yourself with a staircase that has a slick surface, and this can lead to slips and falls. There are several ways to improve the traction on wood steps so that you don't have to worry about children, elderly family members and pets injuring themselves on the stairs.

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Nonslip Coating Spray

One of the easiest ways to treat slippery wooden steps is to apply a nonslip coating spray. The spray is a clear epoxy that provides a textured finish to ensure better traction on the stairs. You can use the spray on both interior and exterior wooden steps. Thoroughly clean the wood prior to application to remove any dirt, grease, debris or other residue, and sand to smooth any rough spots. You also can find nonslip coatings in paint form if you prefer to brush on the treatment.

Nonskid Strips

Another option for improving your wooden steps’ traction is self-adhesive nonskid strips. These strips have a rough surface that helps prevent slips and falls and are easy to apply. They usually come in a tapelike roll, so you only have to cut off the necessary length, peel off the backing and place them on the steps. Typically, two or three strips positioned parallel with the front of the tread do the trick. While these self-adhesive strips are inexpensive and easy to apply, they can come loose over time and curl up, which may become a tripping hazard. If you prefer a more permanent option, try mesh strips you can screw into the stairs’ tread.

Install Runners

For interior wooden steps, consider runners to improve traction. Runners are narrow pieces of carpet that fit over the center portion of the stairs’ treads. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, so they may add a decorative element to your stairs as they improve their traction. You may install a continuous runner that covers all the treads or opt for small pieces of carpeting that cover individual treads. The disadvantage to using runners is that they cover some of the wood.

Vinyl Mats

Ribbed mats are made of vinyl, fit over the tread and provide a textured, nonslip surface. They usually are designed with angled or curved edges so they fit the shape of treads. They are a particularly effective option for wood stairs with treads that tilt forward because the mats are thicker in the front than they are in the back, creating an even surface that discourages slipping and sliding.

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