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Best Carpet & Pad for Stairs?



Carpet installed on Stairs and Hallways usually get the most wear and tear. It’s because stairs are inherently narrow and foot traffic is concentrated right down the middle and along the front edge. 


Using a higher grade of carpet and padding on your stairs can increase carpet durability and increase longevity significantly. Some homeowners choose to install a commercial grade carpet.



What is Your Level of Foot-Traffic?


Okay, it's no surprise that carpet on stairs takes a beating and tends to wear out fastest. You can fix that by installing a more durable carpet and padding. But what about the rest of your home? 


I have created a simple test to help you determine what grade of carpet you need to choose for your home based on your level of foot traffic.



Best Carpet For Stairs


Children and Pets, especially teenagers and their friends can be one reason why carpets installed on stairs tend to wear out faster than other carpets installed in your home. 


Kids and pets love to run up and down the stairs as fast as they can which is a very common scenario for most families, including mine.  


What can you do to alleviate the problem? You can choose to install a more durable grade of carpet and a higher density pad. 


Here are some smart options that may help you deal with this common problem without breaking the bank!




Best Fiber for Stairs?


Commercial Carpet on StairsFor stairs, you can choose any carpet style you like, but the most durable residential carpets are made from 100% Nylon. 


There are various types of Nylon fibers available and some are more durable than others. The “soft” Nylon styles are more expensive and not quite as durable as a standard Nylon carpet style. 


For this reason I would steer clear of the soft Nylon carpet styles if you have heavy foot traffic in your home and want the most durable carpet fiber.



Worst Carpet Fibers?



Residential carpet made from Polyester or P.E.T. Polyester, Triexta (aka) Sorona or PTT or Smartstrand are less durable than nylon and are prone to matting and crushing of the pile. These are not a good choice for stairs.



Olefin (aka Polypropylene)


Many inexpensive looped Berber styles are made from Olefin and would not be a good choice for stairs. However, Commercial grade carpet made from Olefin, aka Polypropylene, is what they typically use in banks, movie theaters, office buildings and airports. When configured properly, Olefin can tolerate heavy foot traffic. 


In commercial applications they glue the carpet down, without using a pad. This is a major factor in making this type of carpet so durable. If you do use a pad, it needs to be low-profile with high density. A 1/4" Felt pad is a common choice.


Choosing a commercial grade carpet with a low pile height will be very durable on stairs. Keep the pile height less than 3/8" for best results. There are hundreds of styles and patterns of commercial carpet to choose from.

Best Padding for Stairs


Choosing the best carpet for your stairs may be best served by first choosing the right carpet padding for your stairs. 


You see, it’s the padding that takes most of the beating from foot traffic and good quality padding can help your carpet tolerate more abuse for a longer period of time.


The right carpet padding will be of a higher density rating, but not thicker. Most residential homes use a 6 to 8-pound padding density in all areas and are no thicker than 7/16". 


However, on stairs you should to go with an 8 to 10-pound density rating and a thickness of 3/8" or less.



To make carpet on stairs even more durable, use a higher density and thinner padding. This can increase the lifespan of the carpet installed on stairs. Perhaps use a 10 pound density Rebond with a 1/4" thickness? 


Felt or Wool PaddingIn the main areas, most residential homes use padding with a thickness of 1/2” or 7/16”. This is standard in the industry because most people like a carpet that is somewhat soft or spongy underfoot.


On stairs, if you use padding with a thickness of 3/8” or less, your stairs will not feel quite as spongy underfoot but the carpet will be able to tolerate more abuse than if you go with a thicker padding and/or choose a density rating of 6-pounds or less.

So to make it clear, using a padding with a density rating of 8 to 10 pounds and a thickness of 3/8” or less will give you the best results on stairs.


This added support allows carpet installed on stairs to last as long as possible and tolerate a higher level of foot traffic. To get the absolute most durable scenario, I would probably select a cut-pile style, commercial-grade carpet made of Polypropylene or Nylon. 


Commercial grade carpets always require a padding with reduced thickness and a higher density-rating. Check with your dealer for carpet manufacturer for warranty requirements.



Types of Padding for Stairs?


Prime Urethane Foam PadThere are many types of pad to choose from, but the best bang for your buck is a standard 3/8”, 8-pound density Rebond pad. 


Flat slab or Waffle style Rubber pads are much more costly and while they do a good job, they are not as good a value as a standard urethane foam Rebond style pad. 




Wool, Felt, Cloth or Synthetic Fiber Pad?

These pads all breathe well, dry quickly, resist mold and mildew and are best used in basements or on concrete slabs where there may be some moisture concerns or for use under commercial-grade carpets.



What Grade of Carpet for Stairs?


This is where it gets difficult to advise you because there are so many variables to consider. If money were no object then all you would have to do is buy the best grade of carpet available and not have to worry about how long it lasts. 


When it wears out just replace it. But in the real world, we all have a limited budget to consider and we all want to get the most value for our hard-earned dollar. So you need to consider the following questions carefully before you can effectively determine what grade of carpet you might need to buy.

  1. How long do you want your new carpet to last?  5, 10, 15, 20 years?

  2. What is your level of foot-traffic in your home? Low, medium, moderate or high?

  3. How much carpet do you need to purchase?

  4. How much money do you have to spend on this project?





Carpet Longevity?


How long do you want your new carpet to last? If your answer is 5 years or less than you don’t have to spend so much to get the job done. 


If you are planning to move soon or if you have small children and active pets, it would be wise to plan on replacing your carpet in about 5 years. This means spending less now and replacing your carpet more often.  


You can buy lower grades of carpet and have it installed with basic pad for less than $20 per square yard. 


If you are not picky about style and colors you could do it for less than $15 if you buy from a retailer who has rolls of carpet available in-stock and ready-to-go! 


These are often known as second-quality goods and can be a great deal if you choose wisely.



Most homeowners expect 10 years


Choose a higher quality and your carpet can last years longer. As long as you match your level of foot traffic with the number of years you want your carpet to last.


If you want a certain style and color to match your décor then you might need to order your carpet from a carpet sample at a retail store. They will place your order directly with the manufacturer for the size, style, grade and color you choose. These carpets are first-quality goods, come with a full manufacturer's warranty. 


You will have to pay at least 50% down in advance, including shipping costs when you place your order. 



Shipping Costs and Delays


Truck full of CarpetShipping Costs have increased dramatically due to the cost of fuel. Many carpet orders have been delayed by months due to a lack of drivers.


Most carpet orders from the mill usually take two to four weeks to be shipped to the retail store where you purchased it.


In the winter when roads are temporarily closed or impassible due to ice and snow it can take much longer for your carpet to arrive as truckers can only do so much when bad weather happens.




Revise Your Carpet Budget

If you want 15 to 20 years of wear and tear from your new carpet you are going to have to pay much more for a higher grade of carpet, pad and installation. The more durable the carpet and padding, the higher the cost. 


With carpet installation, you need to make sure that the carpet installers are well experienced with the grade of carpet you have selected and that they are well experienced in doing the type of installation you are having done. 



Commercial Grade Carpet for Stairs?


Commercial Grade CarpetMost people prefer to use the same grade, color and style of carpet throughout their entire home. However, there is no reason why you have to! 


You can opt to install a higher grade of carpet on your stairs to make them last years longer. There are many colors, styles and quality levels to choose from with commercial-grade carpets. Choosing a commercial grade carpet could be a wise choice for your stairs, especially if you have heavy foot traffic. 


Commercial grade carpets have a shorter pile-height and the tufts are much more densely packed than residential grade carpet styles. The result is a carpet that can take a real beating and hold up extremely well.



Commercial Grade Carpet for Stairs?


Commercial grade carpet is what they typically use in banks, movie theaters, office buildings and airports. It is because it will tolerate heavy foot traffic, resist stains and clean easily. Commercial carpets are usually glued down without any padding underneath. 


Commercial-grade carpets require using a pad with reduced thickness and a higher density rating than residential-grade carpets. The thickness and density of the pad required will depend on the type and style of the commercial carpet you select. Usually 1/4" thickness and a density of at least 128 ounces (8-pound). Consult with the carpet manufacturer for more information on what pad is required.





Commercial Grade Carpet Styles

When choosing a commercial grade carpet you can consider carpets made with Polypropylene, Olefin, PET Polyester or Nylon and still enjoy excellent results for your high-traffic stairs. With commercial grade carpet, the carpet pile is manufactured more dense and has a lower pile-height which allows these carpets to be extremely durable even in heavy foot-traffic applications. 


I don’t generally recommend choosing Looped Berber or Level-Loop styles for your stairs because of the higher chance for snags. Cut-Pile or Plush styles would be a smarter choice for residential stairs.


Commercial-grade carpets require using padding with reduced thickness and a higher density rating than do typical residential-grade carpets. Residential-grade carpet and pads are designed to be softer underfoot and be more suited to those homeowners who desire a carpet that is soft and plush.  



Learn more: 
 - How to choose new carpet and flooring like a pro!


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