When it comes to selecting a wood species to use for your staircase, you need to tread carefully (see what we did there?). Today’s contractors, homebuilders and do-it-yourselfers use a wide variety of wood species when creating interior stair systems, and many of them vary broadly in terms of appearance, strength and durability.
Because each wood type brings with it its own benefits and drawbacks, recognizing what makes each wood type unique may help you narrow down your list of options. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular wood types used in stairs.
Oak (Red & White)
Oak is one of the most common wood types used in modern staircase and furniture construction. Red oak, in particular, is ideal for stairs, though both red and white oak are suitable for this type of use. In terms of aesthetic differences, red oak has mild pink undertones, while white oak has more of a pale brown appearance.
Often used for stair treads, risers and stringers, American cherry wood is an exotic and popular option. Attractive and dense with a reddish hue, American cherry differs from Brazilian cherry, which does not, in fact, come from a cherry tree at all. It is, however, harder than its American counterpart.
Available in soft and hard varieties, maple makes regular appearances on staircase treads and handrails alike. Even “soft” maple is harder than other soft woods, but hard maple typically reigns supreme when it comes to constructing stairs.
Walnut has a rich, dark and sophisticated appearance, and it’s also rugged and exceedingly durable. Dark brown or chocolate in appearance, walnut is a popular choice for stairs among contractors and homeowners alike.
If you plan to paint your stairs, you may want to consider poplar, which has a reputation for being hardwearing, pliable and reliable.
Homeowners who have hickory floors and cabinetry may want to continue the trend by opting for hickory stairs. Dense, solid and sturdy, hickory effectively merges good looks with strength and durability.
Southern Yellow Pine
Popular in country-style homes and farmhouses, southern yellow pine is versatile, striking and immensely strong for a softwood. It’s also readily available, making it an affordable option in most areas.
Alder wood has a distinctive appearance, boasting a light red hue that resembles a more rustic version of cherry wood. Abundant on the West Coast, alder wood is straight-grained and even-textured.
Sapele is an African wood that resembles mahogany. Great for stair treads, sapele is highly versatile and typically has a fine texture and an interlocked grain.
As you can see, your options are numerous when it comes to what wood to use when constructing your staircase. While it’s important to choose one because you like the way it looks, you also want to make sure it will hold its own against weight, moisture and heavy usage.