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6 Types of Stair Treads – What to know before choosing various types.

Zigzag stairs with American red oak treads and top rail.

Know your options before selecting the perfect stair tread for your project.

Whether you’re building a new home or renovating an existing one, designing a staircase to fit your design style and lifestyle is an important consideration. Once you have decided on a type of stairs it is time to decide what type of stair tread to choose. There are plenty of tread styles and materials to choose from to complement your home’s design. Whether your home is modern, contemporary, rustic or a traditional there is a style to fit your requirements.

At Keuka Studios, we design our staircases to accommodate your preferred style stair treads.

What types of stair treads are there?

Various Types of materials are available and include – Wood, Glass, Tile, Composite, Stone, and Steel.

1. Wood Treads

With wood, it is important to consider if your project is for the interior or exterior of your home.  Many wood species do not hold up well in the outdoor weather elements so choosing an appropriate type of wood should be carefully considered.

For interior staircases, there are a variety of woods available to choose from for your project that will add different aesthetics to your decor. Some of the more popular varieties are Red Oak, White Oak, Hard Maple, Walnut and Distressed Woods.

Red Oak is readily available has a reddish-brown appearance and is considered hard and heavy with medium bending strength. It adds a sense of warmth to the decor.

Floating stair treads against stone wall. Treads are Red Oak with Steel stringer structure.

White Oak is slightly lighter in color than red oak and is a heavy hardwood with medium bending strength.  White Oak has become very popular in modern design as it tends to have a straighter more linear grain than red oak. Using white oak lightens up a room. It is not recommended for aesthetic outdoor tread applications as it turns black quickly with weather (although it does resist rot quite well). 

Keuka Studios custom stairs and railing made with white Oak Treads and glass railing.

Hard Maple is a creamy white with a slight reddish-brown tinge and is generally straight-grained it has a high resistance to abrasion and wear making it a good solid choice for stairs and landings.

Maple staircase with maple handrail.

Walnut is a tough hardwood, the sapwood is creamy white, while the heartwood is light to dark brown. The dark wood is typically the most sought after so expect to pay more as much of the sapwood will be unusable.

Distressed Wood is often just reclaimed lumber from an old barn or factory where years of heavy use have added some character to the wood. Alternately, it could be newer wood that has been mechanically stressed and finished to give that distressed look. Either way, it can add a textured, rustic appeal. This can be desirable in a high traffic area as any additional wear over time will just add to the character of the wood.

Distressed wood treads on rustic industrial staircase.

In addition, it is popular to whitewash or bleach wood to give it an antique distressed look while lightening the surface of the wood. Sometimes pigment is added prior to the finish coat allowing the natural grain to pop more.

Antiqued knotty pin was selected for the treads on this staircase to complement the wide aged pine board flooring on this Nantucket home. Pine is a softer wood that will more easily wear over-time than hardwoods.

For exterior staircases, ironwoods are recommended such as Ipe or Cumaru. Additionally, although much softer redwood and cedar are good options since they stand up better than other species to the elements. To maintain the natural beauty of these woods they require regular oiling and care, or they can be left exposed to the elements to age to a grayish appearance.

Keuka Studios can provide stair treads and landings in your wood of choice, to be finished on-site by your contractor.

2. Glass Treads

Choosing glass stair treads with a steel floating stair stringer system will create a stunning architectural element in your home. There are dozens of varieties of colors, patterns,  textures, and finishes available in glass. One important consideration is to choose a tread that has a non-slip surface. In addition, would you prefer LED lighting for the treads? The combination of glass tread combined with LED lighting can add a dramatic effect to the overall aesthetic of the staircase. At Keuka Studios we have the capability to create steel stair stringers to accommodate glass treads and hide the LED lighting wires. 

Glass Stair Treads on floating steel stringer stairs with led lighting.

3. Tile Treads

Tile stair treads can be a beautiful and durable alternative to wood. They have the advantage of not needing oiling or ongoing maintenance since they won’t decay or attract insects. Many of today’s tiles simulate the look of wood. We can design and fabricate steel stair tread pans to accommodate the selected style tile tread or pavers.

tile treads with custom stair support and stringers.

4. Composite Treads

Composite materials resist fading, scratching and mold, they don’t rot, crack or splinter. They are durable and require minimal maintenance. For this project below to accommodate composite decking on floating stairs, we designed a steel support system for the treads and the railing posts connect to the steel stringer below the steps.

Composite treads on floating cable railing staircase.
Exterior Deck Staircase with composite decking.

5. Stone Treads

Stone Steps come in a variety of materials. The most common stone tread currently trending is bluestone treads for outdoor stair applications. Bluestone treads have a grayish-blue color and are typically 2 inches thick. They add durability and beauty to any outdoor staircase with minimal maintenance required. In addition, they blend naturally with the adjacent landscape. 

6. Steel Treads

Metal stair treads are strong and offer a rustic industrial styling. Steel treads pair beautifully with open beam architecture and are often preferred on spiral staircases. With metal treads, it is important to provide some sort of slip protection. This could be in the form of a diamond plate surface, metal grating or a series of hole patterns in the treads.

Spiral staircase with steel treads.

At Keuka Studios, we custom fabricate stairs and railings to fit your style and space. We make our stair stringers to accommodate the type of treads you choose. We can provide you with wood, glass and steel treads for our staircases. All you have to do is choose your style.

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