Stair Tread Finishing Options

Stair Tread Finishing Options

Discover the best stair tread finishing options to improve safety and appearance, including non-slip solutions and durable finishes.

Did you know that the right finishing option for your stair treads can drastically improve both the look and safety of your staircase?

Take the time to look at your stair tread finishing options.

Stair tread finishing options include:

  • staining to highlight the wood's natural grain
  • painting for a more vibrant or uniform look
  • and applying a clear polyurethane finish to protect the wood while maintaining its natural color. 

Each finish offers different levels of durability and aesthetic appeal to suit your style and needs.

In this post, we’ll explore the best methods to finish hardwood stair treads.

Let's keep your home both beautiful and safe.

Plus, we’ll discuss how carpet stair treads can bring safety and comfort to your home. 

What kind of finish do you put on stair treads? 

When it comes to stair tread finishing options, there are several methods you can consider, each with its unique benefits and aesthetic appeal.

Here are the most popular choices: 

1. Stain and Polyurethane Finish

Staining your stair treads is a classic option that brings out the natural beauty of the wood.

After staining, applying a polyurethane finish adds a protective layer that strengthens durability and shine.

This method is ideal for showcasing the grain and color of hardwood. 

2. Oil-Based Finish

Oil finishes penetrate deep into the wood, providing a rich, warm look.

They are easy to apply and maintain, but they may not offer the same level of protection as polyurethane.

However, they can be easily refreshed with additional coats over time. 

3. Water-Based Finish

Water-based finishes are a popular choice due to their low odor and quick drying time.

They provide a clear, non-yellowing finish that preserves the natural color of the wood.

This option is also more environmentally friendly compared to oil-based finishes. 

4. Varnish

Varnish is a versatile finishing option that provides a hard, protective layer.

It is available in various sheen levels, from matte to high gloss.

Varnish is durable and resistant to water and heat, making it a practical choice for high-traffic areas. 

5. Shellac

Shellac offers a natural finish that is easy to apply and repair.

It gives a warm, amber tone to the wood and dries quickly.

However, it is less durable than polyurethane or varnish and may require more frequent maintenance. 

6. Lacquer

Lacquer provides a very durable finish with a high-gloss sheen.

It is commonly used in professional applications due to its quick drying time and the smooth, hard finish it provides.

However, it can be more challenging to apply for DIY projects. 

Benefits of Different Stair Tread Finishes 

Each finishing option for stair treads offers unique benefits, contributing to both the aesthetic and functional aspects of your staircase.

Here’s a closer look at the advantages of each: 

Aesthetic Appeal 

Stains and finishes increase the natural beauty of hardwood, highlighting the grain and color.

Whether you prefer the rich warmth of an oil-based finish or the clear, natural look of a water-based finish, there is an option to suit every style. 


Polyurethane, varnish, and lacquer finishes provide a hard, protective layer that resists scratches, dents, and moisture.

These finishes are ideal for high-traffic areas and homes with pets or children. 

Ease of Application 

Some finishes, like shellac and oil-based products, are easy to apply and touch up, making them suitable for DIY projects.

Water-based finishes dry quickly, reducing downtime and allowing for faster project completion. 


Non-slip finishes and treatments, such as anti-slip tapes and textured finishes, boost the safety of your staircase without compromising on style.

Carpet stair treads from Oak Valley Designs not only improve safety but also add a touch of elegance and comfort to your stairs. 

How do you finish stair treads so they are not slippery? 

Safety is a big concern when it comes to staircases.

Slippery stairs can pose a significant risk, particularly in homes with children, pets, or elderly residents.

Here are some ways to keep your stairs from being slippery: 

1. Non-Slip Coatings

Applying a non-slip coating is one of the most effective ways to keep safety.

These coatings contain aggregates that increase traction without changing the look of the finish.

They can be used in conjunction with other finishes, like polyurethane, to provide both protection and safety. 

2. Anti-Slip Tapes and Strips

Anti-slip tapes and strips are an excellent solution for existing stair treads.

They are easy to apply and come in various colors and textures to match your decor.

These tapes provide an immediate improvement in traction, making stairs safer to use. 

3. Textured Finishes

Using a textured finish is another way to reduce slipperiness.

Some varnishes and lacquers are available in textured formulations that enhance grip.

These finishes are particularly useful for outdoor stairs or areas prone to moisture. 

4. Rugs and Carpet Stair Treads

Installing carpet stair treads can significantly reduce the risk of slipping.

These treads are available in a variety of styles and materials, allowing you to choose an option that complements your interior design.

Oak Valley Designs offers a range of high-quality carpet stair treads that combine style and safety. 

5. Regular Maintenance

Take care of and maintain your stair treads.

Regularly cleaning the treads and reapplying finishes as needed can prevent the buildup of dirt and grime that can make stairs slippery.

Periodic inspections can also help identify any wear or damage that might pose a risk. 

Moving Forward 

Choosing the right finishing option for your stair treads is crucial for achieving a balance between aesthetics, durability, and safety.

By understanding the various options available, from traditional stains and varnishes to modern non-slip coatings, you can make an informed decision that meets your needs.

Whether you’re looking to finish stairs or make your home safer, Oak Valley Designs offers a range of products to help you achieve the perfect look and functionality.

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