The staircase is one of the most frequently trodden areas of any household – allowing you to move between the rooms on the ground floor and upstairs with ease.
As soon as little ones start to crawl and walk, they often make a beeline for the stairs. Always looking to explore and push boundaries, it’s an exciting mountain for them to climb and not something they’re usually allowed near without mummy or daddy!
However, the staircase is not only a common source of injury for tottering toddlers and babies…
Elderly relatives are not as nimble as they used to be. They can often struggle to climb up or down steps or, in some cases, they might be terrified of losing their balance and falling.
The staircase can provide an obstacle for your four-legged friends, too. For example, if you have wooden stairs and your pup loves nothing more than to rush down and greet you as soon as you get home from work or the school run, they could easily slip and hurt their paws or back!
Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to make your wooden stairs safe and accident-free for the entire family.
1. Consider adding a carpet or runner
Wooden stairs are easy to clean – requiring little more than a quick sweep with a brush or hoover, or a wipe down with a slightly damp cloth or mop.
However, they can be slippery – making life harder for the kids and grandparents, plus dogs and cats.
Carpeting your wooden flight of stairs will provide a little extra grip and cushioning in the event of a fall, which is helpful for younger children who are still getting used to being on their feet, as well as older children and adults who can pick up pace on the stairs.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to cover every step entirely in carpet, a stair runner is the perfect compromise. This will be fitted down the centre of your staircase, exposing the wooden edges of each tread and riser, but providing sufficient traction for your family when using the stairs.
2. Install stairgates at the top and bottom
Installing safety gates will prevent youngsters (and pets) from crawling and climbing where they shouldn’t – helping you to avoid stair-related injuries.
Ranging from fixed stairgates to pressure stairgates and roller stairgates, there are several options available, in a choice of sizes, all of which need to be fitted tightly to the wall or bannister.
If your stairs are used throughout the day, it’s worth choosing one that can be opened and closed quickly.
If your partner or older children need to access the stairs, make sure they close the gate behind them every time.
And if you need to carry things, or your child, up and down the stairs, look out for a safety gate that can easily be opened using one hand.
3. Fit handrails at the appropriate height
As your kids grow older, you’ll eventually be able to remove the safety gates. However, it’s a sensible idea to install a child’s handrail support so they can stabilise themselves when climbing up and down.
You’ll find plenty of options online – including child-friendly supports that can be attached to your existing handrail. These are typically lower down and narrower, making them perfect for little hands to grab.
If you’re worried about older family members or friends with disabilities tumbling down your wooden stairs, consider fitting a handrail on both sides of your stairs and grab handles on the top and bottom landings.
4. Use a bannister safety barrier
Though many parents often forget about baby-proofing the bannister and railings (spindles), you must take the necessary steps to ensure your little ones can’t squeeze their toys or themselves through the gaps.
To prevent your child from getting their hands, feet or head stuck, try fitting a bannister guard that covers the length of your balustrade – top to bottom. This could be made from netting or plastic, depending on your personal preference and budget.
Bannister guards are also a safe choice for puppies and kittens – preventing them from falling from a great height so you don’t incur a hefty vet bill for medication or treatment.
5. Declutter your stairs
Wooden stairs are slippery enough and no parent wants to tread on a piece of Lego barefoot, or trip over a shoe whilst carrying the washing (or a child!) up or down.
With that said, all clutter – shoes, bags, ornaments and deliveries – must be cleared off the stairs to prevent accidents, whether that’s a broken bone, toy or long-awaited Amazon parcel.
If you have the space, why not build a shoe rack under the stairs so there’s no excuse for leaving them on the staircase? Or perhaps you could fix coat hooks along the wall in your hallway or porch, instead of draping them over the bannister.
6. Keep the stairs well-lit
Have you ever tried to walk down the stairs in the dark?
Whilst adults and older kids can usually guide themselves using the handrail (and the flashlight on their phones), a poorly-lit stairwell can be extremely dangerous for young children and pets – not to mention senior relatives whose eyesight might not be as good as it used to be.
To enhance the safety of your wooden stairs, we recommend installing extra lighting.
For instance, fitting LEDs on every step will ensure everyone can see where they’re putting their feet – spotting any potential hazards before it’s too late.
An excellent alternative would be to paint your wooden handrail in a light colour to make it stand out in the dark.
And installing motion sensor lights will benefit everyone (dogs included), by lighting up their pathway when using the staircase at night.
7. Maintain the condition of your wooden stairs
Taking the time to maintain your staircase will not only enhance its looks but it can also make it safer for your household.
The spindles should be correctly spaced (with gaps no wider than 100mm), so children and pets cannot squeeze their heads or bodies through. If you spot any loose or missing spindles, replace them as soon as possible.
With frequent use, handrails can become wobbly. If this rings true with you, tighten up the screws or replace the bracket with a new, sturdier one.
And if your wooden stairs start to show signs of wear and tear, consider cladding over the treads and risers with non-slip oak. This will give your tired staircase a much-needed boost in the aesthetics department whilst enhancing its safety.
Need expert advice?
The team at Abbott-Wade are staircase specialists.
We have been helping clients to refurbish and replace their staircases for many years and would love to help you make your wooden stairs as safe as possible.