To a distracted child, an infirm family member or an elderly grandparent, a slippery flight of stairs is a bona fide danger. Behind your back, young children may innocently see the stairs as playground equipment, while teens can be too busy texting friends or chatting on the phone to hold the railing. Nothing is more important than your family’s safety, so make your stairs anti-slip -- while you work to instill everyday safety practices.
Well-installed, tightly fitted carpeting may be the safest stairway finish. Whether your family trudges up and down the stairs in shoes, house slippers, socks or bare feet, they’ll have more grip underfoot from Berber or wool, for example, than from hardwood, tile or vinyl. Installing carpeting on the stairs, especially a spiral or winder set, is a challenging job that's best left to a pro.
If you can't have or don't want full carpeting, a runner might well be the next best answer to slippery stairs; install one right down the middle, over each riser and run. But keep it tightly in place with the right hardware and supplies; tackless strips, carpet glue, staples and a rod designed to hold the material along the back of each step will keep the runner itself from becoming a tripping hazard.
Basically, a non-skid pad is a rectangular piece of rubberized material that you place under a slightly larger carpet stair tread. It allows for quicker, easier installation than full carpeting or even a runner, and for more exposure of nice stairway material, such as hardwood. When installed improperly, they can -- ironically -- cause a fall. If you choose this safety route, install the pads following the manufacturer’s instructions, such as thoroughly cleaning the stairs before application, and using carpet treads designed for the purpose.
The rubberized or sand-like aggregate material added to slip-resistant paint isn’t just for wet decks or exterior walkways; use it on wooden indoor -- or outdoor -- stairs, too. The grip it affords is superior to paint without the added "sand." Unlike plain latex or oil-based paints, you have to stir the slip-resistant paint often to redistribute the aggregate when applying it. Choose a chemical-free, child-friendlier, no volatile organic compound paint whenever and wherever your home requires a coat of liquid color.
Although it's not the ideal solution for smaller feet, by placing a strip of slip-resistant tape along the top of each stair’s tread, near the nose, the bigger members of your family will be a bit more surefooted. If little ones traipse on your smooth stairway, place another gritty, foot-grabbing strip of tape near the center and back of each tread for additional safety. It's not the most attractive answer to slippery stairs, but it can work as a quick, temporary resolution.