Make your stairs safe — and keep them that way — with these common sense ideas that make stairs easier to climb and help prevent falls.
Any stairway becomes instantly safer and easier to negotiate with under-tread and handrail lighting. Slim LED light strips ($7.50 per lineal foot) can be nestled under tread nosings to illuminate steps; lighted handrails ($50-$150 per lineal foot) come in many styles. You’ll need an electrician to connect strips and handrails to a low-voltage power source.
Mats made with recycled rubber provide extra traction and are ideal for locations where you go from wet outdoors to dry indoors, such as basement and back entries. They’re inexpensive ($49 for six mats) and have decorative designs that help them blend with any setting. These mats are heavy enough that no adhesive is required.
Smart Ways to Make Your Stairs SafeSqueezing in a Handrail
Older homes have many features that aren’t built to the standards of modern codes. This narrow stairway needs a handrail for safety — a low-profile, pig’s ear-style handrail mounts without brackets and looks like a piece of elegant moulding. A 6-foot length of easy-to-grip pine handrail is about $30.
Smart Ways to Make Your Stairs SafeDon’t Let Little Things Trip You Up
You’ll want to keep stairways clear of small items and clutter that could cause a misstep, but that’s always a challenge with active little ones. This family added a clutter-catching set of shelves that makes it easy to stash runaway shoes and knickknacks, conveniently positioned right along the stairway.
Smart Ways to Make Your Stairs SafeTighten Loose Banisters
Over the years, railing systems endure a lot of tugging and torquing. Eventually, banisters may loosen. To fix, detach the banisters from underneath the handrail, then unscrew them from the treads. Clean off old glue and, if necessary, stuff wood shims in the screw holes (toothpicks work). Re-glue and re-attach. Here, pieces of tape help realign the banisters perfectly.
Smart Ways to Make Your Stairs SafeSafety You Can See
Keep your footing when walking down dark basement steps with anti-slip treads featuring reflective visibility stripes. Made to be permanently applied, these tough no-skid treads ($15 each) have a silicon-carbide grit finish and can be used indoors or out. Painting the steps white helps make the anti-skid treads even easier to see.
Smart Ways to Make Your Stairs SafeDon’t Create Optical Illusions
Carpet runners help with traction and soften footfalls, but you won’t want to create an optical illusion with your patterned runner. Busy and colorful is fine, but make sure the pattern allows the eye to differentiate the nose of the tread from the step below.
Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
Smart Ways to Make Your Stairs SafeHandy Handrails
Most residential building codes require a handrail on at least one side of a stairway. But a handrail on either side is an extra measure of safety, especially for households with small children and older adults (the distance between two handrails can’t be less than 31.5 inches). Most codes require that the ends of the handrail return to the wall to prevent straps and clothing from snagging on the open ends.