Stair overlays, or covers, are handy products for improving the look and/or slip-resistance of existing stairs. They go right over the old step treads, the horizontal board that you walk on. Some covers also conceal the old step risers, the vertical boards between the treads.
Overlays for slip-resistance typically rest on top of the treads and may be secured with a removable fastening system or adhesive. Overlays that are designed primarily for aesthetics often cover the old treads and risers completely, so the staircase looks totally renewed.
01 of 07
Hardwood Overlay System
A full hardwood stair tread overlay system includes form-fitted tread covers and matching (or painted) riser boards. Both pieces attach directly to the original wood staircase, after any carpeting or other finished flooring has been removed. The best systems use 100-percent hardwood materials, resulting in the look of traditional hardwood stairs.
Staircase overlays are a great way to overhaul your stairs without rebuilding. They offer the look of custom hardwood stairs at a much lower price. Installing an overlay system requires some basic carpentry skills and tools for quality results, so it's best for beginners to hire out the installation, but skilled DIYers can certainly tackle it themselves.
02 of 07
Laminate Stair Treads
Laminate stair treads (and risers) are the engineered-wood version of hardwood stair cover systems. They offer a lower-cost alternative to hardwood with a similar look. Laminate systems often are sold in sets and may or may not include riser boards.
These overlays are essentially the same material as laminate flooring, consisting of a fiberboard (HDF or MDF) core covered with photo layer (for the natural wood look) and a urethane wear layer. The pieces install over bare wood stair parts with construction adhesive.
03 of 07
Rubber Stair Mats
Rubber stair mats are similar to the familiar heavy, perforated, rubber doormats but are sized for individual stair treads, and they have a more decorative look. Their primary purpose is to add slip-resistance to wet or icy outdoor stairs. They also work well for basement stairs, deck stairs, and garage steps.
Rubber mats are simply set in place without fasteners or glue. Most types have a scrollwork pattern that mimics old-fashioned ironwork. They can be pulled up and hosed off for easy cleaning.
04 of 07
Composite Anti-Slip Stair Tread
Composite tread covers are made of compression-molded fiberglass and resin. They cover the entire tread, including the nosing, to provide excellent slip-resistance. They can be installed over concrete, metal, or wood, using construction adhesive or screws.
Composite tread covers are suitable for all outdoor stairs as well as basement stairs, garage steps, and stairs near swimming pools. Because they cover the entire tread, they can hide surface damage and other imperfections, but they must be used on structurally sound steps; they cannot replace treads.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Carpet stair treads or covers are slightly smaller than a standard stair tread and attach to the treads using hook-and-loop (Velcro) strips. Half of each strip is stuck to the tread; the other half is attached to the underside of the carpet tread.
These man-made, sisal-like mats are relatively inexpensive and offer an easy way to add much-needed grip to slippery wood stairs. They don't add much aesthetic value, but they improve safety without completely concealing the tread.
06 of 07
Clear Non-Slip Strips
Clear, non-slip strips are a plastic material with a sticky backing that you apply directly to hardwood stair treads. They provide slip-resistance without obscuring the wood.
Clear tread strips typically come in kits that include a small handheld roller tool to help you flatten the strips and bond them to the step treads.
07 of 07
Bullnose Self-Stick Carpet Staircase Tread Overlays
Unless you are a carpet installer, it is difficult to curl ordinary carpet over the nose of a stair. Since the carpet is so stiff, it keeps wanting to uncurl. This product solves that problem. The front section is pre-curled and easily snaps over the stair nose. The rear part of the overlay may or may not be secured with peel-and-stick adhesive.
Bullnose carpet stair covers are removable and are designed for traditional hardwood stairs. They do not cover the entire tread and do not include riser pieces.