Natural carpets as an option for flooring are on the rise. But with such a niche product getting more attention than ever there is a prevalence of misinformation surrounding the subject. One of the most frequently asked questions has to be “is sisal carpet safe to use on stairs?”. This is due to a rhetoric that has circulated the flooring industry for years that it is slippery on stairs. Let’s look into this question and whether or not there is truth behind the concern.
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The rumour goes that many years ago a retailer (who will not be named) was offering sisal carpet and a fitting service. They were asked to fit sisal carpet on a staircase and an elderly woman slipped, ending up hospitalised. The victim of this accident proceeded to sue the retailer and won. Since this point they refused to offer natural carpet as a solution for stairs.
Unfortunately, due to so much time passing since it began this is a difficult question to answer. But there is one reason why this rumour may persist. Sisal carpet for staircase runners and flooring generally, can be notoriously difficult to fit. Because of this a lot of carpet fitters would rather keep away from it and recommend something else if possible. In a lot of cases, carpet installers will avoid admitting that they have not got the skill to work with sisal carpet, and instead will attempt to put consumers off by advising them that it is dangerous on stairs.
This does not mean necessarily that installers are fibbing, in fact if fitted incorrectly this is technically true. However, the key to fitting sisal or any other natural flooring for that matter on stairs is to do with the direction it runs in.
Looking at the infographic above you can see that the key is in the direction the weave runs across a stair. For a carpet like this to be fitted correctly, the width of the weave must be running across the width of the step to give more grip under foot. This is because what is known as the ribs in the carpet run in the direction of the carpet’s width when it is cut off the roll.
An important note to make here is this is not always the same for all natural carpets. The direction the carpet must run highly depends on the weave and material itself. As an example, seagrass carpets must be fitted with the length of the weave running across the stair rather than down it. This is because of how the carpet is manufactured and to make sure maximum grip underfoot is achieved.
If you look closely and compare the two images of the sisal stair runner and the seagrass carpet you will notice a difference in which direction the longest fibres run in the weave. This is an example of how the weaves in carpets differ and make all the difference to slipperiness. All natural flooring is slip tested to EU standards and if fitted correctly is safe on all stairs.
The truth is that if the rumour were ever true, the carpet installer likely made a mistake with the carpets running direction. Always ensure before ordering a natural carpet for stairs that you have the area measured by a professional first. This way you can tell them the carpet you are hoping to have installed and they can advise how much to order and let you know if they have worked with the material beforehand.
The difficulty in fitting sisal carpet for staircase runners and carpet is well known in the flooring industry. One of the most challenging factors that has to be considered when installing this material is acclimatisation.
Acclimatisation means that the carpet has to have time to get used to the temperature within the place it will be installed before it can be done. This requires fitters to plan ahead and make sure the carpet is on site prior to their visit. The reason this has to be done is because the natural fibres that the carpet is made from can expand and contract in different temperatures and conditions.
The other problem this creates is that as the carpet cant simply be stretched and fitted like standard carpet, if it is not installed and stuck down properly a sudden change in temperature could result in the carpet either curling up from the walls or expanding and creating air bubbles. If this happens the carpet fitter will likely have to re visit the location and fix these problems at their own cost and time.
Because of these potential issues, carpet installers must employ what is called a double stick system. This involves using a heavy duty underlay which would be adhered to the floor and the carpet adhered to the underlay. This process typically takes more time, effort and skill to carry out correctly.
Factors like these mean that not just any carpet fitter is able to fit sisal carpet. Due to fitters not wanting to lose a customer they often advise against its use and reference an old rumour.
Sisal carpet for staircase runners like many other natural flooring solutions has a variety of benefits.
First of all it is a sustainable product. In the environmental situation we find ourselves in, it is more important than ever to make eco-friendly choices. As this product is all natural it has very low impact on the planet, unlike carpets from man made materials like polypropylene.
Unlike artificially produced carpets it is also biodegradable. This means once the carpet has run its course (typically 10-15 years+) it won’t sit in landfill or degrade into harmful microplastics that stay in our ecosystem for hundreds of years to come.
Being entirely natural, it is also free of VOCs and toxic chemicals found in many synthetic offerings on the market. If you are an asthma sufferer or have chemical intolerances especially, this type of carpet would negate the symptoms that come with standard carpets that off gas harmful chemicals into the air of your home.
An article from the Environmental Working Group take a detailed look into carpet chemicals and their negative links to human health.
When speaking to expert carpet fitters skilled in natural flooring installation we can determine that it is in fact safe to install sisal carpet as a stair runner or fully fitted on a staircase. But does that mean you should just go ahead and tell your fitter to install it.
The likelihood is that if a carpet installer says it’s unsafe they probably aren’t able to fit it correctly anyway. Make sure to find someone who has years of experience and knowledge so the carpet is installed correctly. That way you will know that your sisal carpet will be safe against slips and other tripping hazards.
Meaning that when considering sisal carpet for staircase runners make sure you use someone with prior experience with the product.
The best way to find installers who fit these types of carpets is to ask the natural flooring supplier you buy from. They will know better than anyone the plight of finding a reliable fitter who will work with this product. Oftentimes they will have contacts around the country you can use for measurement and installation.
Hopefully this has made clearer the question of is sisal carpet safe to use on stairs. But, the next question is should you get flooring installed on your staircase? Here are some reasons why we think you should consider giving some TLC to an often neglected area of the home.
Getting hands on and personal with the interior design of your home can be exciting. However, more often than not the last place people consider in design plans are their stairs and hallways.
Most of our time is spent either in our bedrooms, kitchens or living rooms. This means that these spaces receive the majority of attention. If the living room is the heart of the home, the hallways and stairs are the veins that connect it. You probably spend more time than you think in these areas of the home.
They are connecting points between all rooms in your home, so continuity in design is important for a beautiful home.
Another good reason to give consideration to a staircase carpet runner is the lack of natural light and colour in hallways and stairs. Most housing designs mean that stairways and halls are without windows. This can lead to a general dingy and cold feeling when passing through them.
Adding textures with warm natural colours like those in natural carpets can breathe new life into a home. The presence of a rustic, natural flooring underfoot can also give a certain pleasure when passing through.
When experimenting with vertical design in your home you are usually limited to walls using artwork and pictures. Although these can be tried and true methods that look great, they have limitations. When it comes to hanging art on a wall there are often rules around the height of pictures and colours you can experiment with in any given room.
With staircase runners however, there is much greater flexibility. Twisting, turning or going straight up, stairs offer more vertical real estate than any wall in the home. Being an overlooked area in terms of design also works to your advantage here. Without an overarching design theme in most stair and hallways you can get pretty creative with the designs you choose.
Stair carpets and runners come in many colours and patterns, using those to your advantage can give a fresh feel. This versatility means you can find fun ways to transition from room design to room design through these spaces.
We have all done it. Be it your home office, or small teenage bedroom, we have all obsessed over how to get that small space looking perfect. Designing in tight and small spaces can be the most enjoyable. A BBC article about this phenomenon of how limits can boost your creativity is a great insight into this.
When given constraints people tend to get incredibly creative with solutions and ideas. What more difficult area can you think to design for than a narrow hallway or stair case? And don’t say a cupboard because believe me I have been down that rabbit hole!
So, if you’re feeling restless and want a new design project for your home, why not give your staircases and hallways a bit of attention. A hallway runner or fully fitted staircase carpet might just transform them from gloomy to spectacular.