Stairs and landings take a lot of abuse from regular traffic, which is most often concentrated toward the center of each step. In addition to foot traffic, it is not unusual for heavy items to be dragged upstairs or downstairs to lighten the load.
A carpet labeled heavy domestic or extra-heavy domestic has been more rigorously tested than other types of carpeting and will better withstand the demands of stair use. Even if you're using a more durable carpet type, pair the carpeting with a good quality, hard-wearing under pad, particularly around the nosing and edges of each step. If price is a concern, invest in a premium quality underlay and a slightly lesser quality carpet; the underlay will help to prolong the life of the carpet.
Natural or Synthetic Fibers
Carpet choices fall into one of three categories: natural, man-made blends and synthetic.
Wool is naturally fire retardant, has an inherent insulation factor, and is stain resistant, requiring less care and maintenance than even synthetic materials. Wool carpeting is commonly used in high-traffic commercial spaces, such as hotels and conference centers, for these reasons.
Synthetic materials, all man-made, include nylon, polyester and polypropylene. One of the primary benefits of man-made fibers is cost, which is generally less than natural fibers.
Blended fibers, often 80 percent wool to 20 percent synthetic fiber, combines the resilience and warmth of wool with the hard-wearing, more investment-friendly properties of synthetics, making them an optimal choice for stairs.
Carpet Pile Selection
A low, dense pile carpet is the most forgiving on stairs, hiding footprints and vacuum marks and not flattening underfoot. Berber, woven and loop-pile carpets all contain looped fibers. Good quality carpets that use heavier yarns and fibers and have a tight weave can better withstand tears and pulls. However, if you have pets with claws, especially those that like to scratch at surfaces, a better option is a twist pile, which will not snag or fray like a loop.
Even durable, stain-resistant carpets and runners can show dirt and wear and tear over time. Light colors are most prone to showing stains, while very dark tones will show dust and fluff; mid-tones are the most forgiving.
Solid colors are an option, but adding a stripe or design adds interest, injects some life and color, and also helps disguise long-term use. Consider the shape of the stairway when selecting the pattern as some will be difficult to match as the stairs rise and turn. For more complicated layouts, consider a weave that incorporates many colors, as do many Berbers.