For the longest time, stair nosing has been considered a necessary part of any staircase that will receive high amounts of foot traffic. It provides that additional feeling of safety for the user by offering a nice grippy surface to step on. It also protects the stair from the inevitable wear that usually comes with high use.
But good quality stair nosing isn’t cheap, which has led many to look for alternatives that can provide all the same benefits without breaking the bank.
So in this article, we’ll look at our top picks for fantastic alternatives that you should consider in lieu of the traditional stair nosing.
The best alternatives to stair nosing
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If we suddenly found ourselves without any more stair-nosing in the world, what would we be losing?
Not much, while the benefits of stair nose edging are undeniable, from the safety benefits, the aesthetic look, and the increased durability. When you opt not to use stair nosing, the stairs will still function all the same.
So when looking for potential stair edging alternatives, we are looking for something that provides those same core benefits that the stair nose offers without all the added cost and hassle of installation.
Fortunately, you don’t have to look far to discover many great options if you decide that stair edging isn’t right for you. So let’s look at those and put them head to head against the old-fashioned stair nose type.
1. Regular steps
Let’s get this one out of the way right away. Stair noses provide several benefits and enhancements over the traditional stair.
But it’s important to delineate between a luxury and a mandatory fitting. Stair noses very much fall in the luxury category. If you remove the stair nose entirely and have a regular flush-fit stair, you still have a perfectly adequate and functional staircase.
The main benefit of this is simply that it saves money. Stair noses are pretty expensive to purchase, fit and install. So you can bypass the whole process without using a stair nose.
However, without any protection in a high foot traffic area, those corners will wear down quite a bit faster than they otherwise would have had some protection in place.
This is why we don’t necessarily use stair noses for every single staircase, only areas that see heavy use because these are at the highest risk of wear and require the most attention to safety.
2. Steel treads
Stair treads are a trendy stair nose alternative. When we refer to a ‘stair tread,’ we are referring to the part of the stair you step on, that is to say, the horizontal portion.
Stair treads are a textured layer that is applied over the existing stair to the horizontal portion. This can help provide a much safer and more reliable stepping surface than a traditional wood flooring step.
Depending on which material you use and what type of grip pattern has been inlaid into the tread, it can dramatically affect the look and feel of the staircase. This way, you can actively use it to enhance the look of the stairs too.
Stair treads can come in several different materials. The diamond plate tread style is one of the most common types you have probably encountered in more industrial/work-orientated environments.
This is a steel stair tread with a ‘diamond’ pattern embossed into it. It adds tremendous grip and stability, which is ideal if you’re ever carrying heavy objects up the stairs.
It can also help in reducing tripping risk due to there being no stair nose to get your foot caught on while carrying something, and you cannot see correctly.
The steel stair tread nosing will extend over the front of the stair, creating a shallow lip. This adds considerable durability to the stair by protecting the corners.
Steel is generally used for pure practicality and is ideal for commercial, industrial, and outdoor use due to its inherent corrosion resistance.
3. Wood treads
But what if this is a home or office environment, and you want something more aesthetic?
Here wood flooring can often be a far better option. Wood can provide that warm, homely feel or help reinforce that office corporate vibe making it appropriate for many different decoration types.
The pros of using wood:
- Wood is far more affordable than steel or aluminum, making it a better choice for those on a budget.
- A natural texture within the wood can provide extra grip and safety, making it a good choice if you have older adults or children in your home.
- Wood stairs will often need staining or treatment to keep them looking nice. As it’s a porous material, it will start to look dull over time without some coating.
- It doesn’t hold up remarkably well to outdoor use. It will need regular treatment and cleaning to prevent the elements from damaging/warping over time.
- Humidity can also contract/expand wood, creating gaps between the boards that can look unsightly.
4. Glass treads
Glass stair tread nosing is something we’ve seen grow increasingly popular over recent years. As contemporary/office-style aesthetics have grown to be so commonly used in home decor, it’s not uncommon to see apartments make heavy use of glass to help create that sense of space.
Glass is uncommon in industrial settings where a heavy item drop could potentially crack the stair.
The pros of using glass treads:
- Because of its see-through and reflective qualities, it creates a great sense of space and openness in an environment. This makes it ideal for smaller places such as offices or apartments.
- Light can shine through the glass, and it’s very common for people to ‘under light’ the glass tread, which not only looks beautiful and practical if you ever need to navigate the stairs at night.
- Glass is supremely durable and will not deteriorate over time, which makes maintaining them over long periods far easier.
- Their natural water resistance also makes them ideal for outdoor use too.
- As glass can smudge quite a lot, it requires frequent cleaning, especially if people come from outside and walk over it.
- Likewise, if people come in from outside and have gravel or a stone lodged in their shoe, there can be a risk of the glass getting scratched, which is why it’s better suited for more formal applications or home use.
- Glass doesn’t have a naturally grippy texture, so while it can solve the durability issue, it doesn’t help increase safety. If anything, it makes it worse can a coffee or water spill can make glass stairs very dangerous.
5. Concrete treads
You’ll commonly see concrete treads in stairways leading to parking lots or more ‘outside’ areas.
This is because it’s slightly less visually appealing but rock solid (quite literally) regarding durability and weather resistance.
They last for a long time and require almost no maintenance.
But most people agree that concrete doesn’t look very luxurious or appealing unless you are specifically going for some brutalist-style decor.
6. Stair laminate
Laminate stair nosing is very expensive, making it a less popular stair nose alternative to a traditional stair nose. But the benefits it provides are undeniable.
It has supreme stair protection thanks to its tough laminated surface. It’s pretty safe to walk on and will last a long time.
You can buy laminate floorboards in several finishes giving you freedom in picking the right one for your chosen visual look.
7. Hardwood stairs
If the heavy price tag associated with laminate flooring turns you off, a hardwood floor might be a good second-best option.
They do a reasonable job at protecting your stairs and provide an excellent wood finish that is relatively safe to step on.
While they’re not quite as durable as laminate stairs, hardwood is better than using nothing.
One of the big selling points of a hardwood floor is the cost and ease of installation. This is something you can install yourself without any specialized skills or tools, allowing you to save some money.
If all else fails and budget is an outstanding issue, a common trick people use to add an instant sense of safety to a stair is a strip of bright tape.
This might seem relatively inconsequential, but in an area with high foot traffic, highlighting where the stairs are can make all the difference, especially for visually impaired people.
This can prevent accidents and is undoubtedly better than nothing.
The pros and cons of stair nosing
As we can see, there are plenty of alternatives to stair nosing out there to consider, and weighing up all the pros and cons of each can be overwhelming.
Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of stair nosing to help better inform you of how it stacks up against the alternatives we’ve mentioned here today:
- It provides an increased stepping surface area for the rear of the foot, giving a sense of security and safety when using the stair.
- It helps protect the corners of the stair in high foot traffic areas, increasing the stair’s durability and longevity.
- It can often act as a good visual cue to where the stairs are, which helps assist people in navigating them and reducing the chance of an accident.
- From a purely aesthetic point of view, they give it a nice ‘finished’ look, enhancing the visual appeal and decor.
- If the stair nosing is made from steel or aluminum, it doesn’t hold up too well to high foot traffic during rainy weather and can even become dangerous in some scenarios.
- Likewise, spillages such as grease (if used in an area serving food) can also make them very slippery.
- Because they are intended to be used in high-traffic areas, they can sometimes sustain damage like being dented from a drop which can look unsightly and harm the visual look of the area.