House Grail is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

What is the Best Wood for Stair Treads? Top 5 Options Explained

top view of stairs with dark stair treads

When you’re designing your home, it is easy to forget about the stairs. However, you don’t want it to look like the stairs were an afterthought. Preferably, you should put just as much energy into the design of the stairs as you do the rest of your home. Otherwise, they may look out of place, which can subtract from your home’s overall design.

Luckily, there are many different options for stair treads. You can choose from a variety of different wood species, all of which will provide your stairs with a unique look. There are pros and cons to each species, and one isn’t necessarily better than another. It is all about what you’re looking for and what your plans are.

divider 4

The Top 5 Best Woods for Stair Treads

1. Oak

oak wooden bar blocks stacked at carpentry woodwork workshop with tools
Image Credit: Gorlov-KV, Shutterstock

Oak is the traditional species to use as stair treads. It matches just about any design style and is an extremely versatile piece of wood. In many cases, there are many different sub-species that you can choose from as well, such as red oak or white oak. These can provide the character your home needs while still using the traditional oak wood.

Furthermore, oak is quite durable and readily available. While it can be more expensive just because it takes an oak tree very long to grow, its durability often makes the extra cost worth it.

Just be sure you’re ready for the higher upfront cost. Plus, on the downside, many people use oak wood on their stairs, so it can make them seem a bit ordinary—there isn’t much surprising about oak wood.

2. Hickory

Image Credit: Jumpstory

While oak stair treads are by far the most common option, hickory is also not unheard of. This sort of wood is quite common for stair treads. It looks nice, and it is one of the most durable woods on this list. If you’re concerned about the longevity of the wood, then you may want to take a look at hickory stair treads.

In many cases, you can use hickory alongside just about any home design. It has a natural appearance, which allows it to blend in seamlessly with most design elements. However, it looks particularly good in rustic settings, as each tread will show some variance in color.

3. Maple

different kinds of maple wood
Image Credit: optimarc, Shutterstock

Maple was once very popular for use throughout the home. However, it has gotten less popular over the years as designers have moved back towards oak and hickory. The tan and white hues of maple make it a great way to add style and texture to a home, though it isn’t going to blend in as well as other options on this list.

Maple isn’t as durable as hickory, but it can withstand quite a bit of foot traffic. It’s also priced in the middle range when it comes to wood tread options, similar to both hickory and oak. Therefore, the main deciding point is which one you like best.

There are also several species of maple. Each has a different look, so be sure to do some browsing before you settle on a particular type.

4. Poplar

poplar woods
Image Credit: Pixabay

With its darker grain appearance, poplar fills a role in home design that other woods can’t. it has a much richer color than other options on this list, which makes it great for those that really want their staircase to stand out.

Plus, it is also one of the cheapest options available. You’re going to pay for that in durability, though, as this type of wood is one of the least durable out there. It may not be best for high-traffic areas for this reason.

If you’re looking for a cheaper dark wood, though, you really can’t beat poplar.

5. Walnut

walnut wood texture
Image Credit: DWilliam, Pixabay

Walnut is another very dark, rich wood. Compared to other types of wood we’ve discussed, it has a lot more character and its dark brown color is difficult to beat. Because of this darker coloration, it hides dust and dirt much better than other options. Therefore, it is great for high-traffic areas that you don’t necessarily want to clean constantly.

Furthermore, there are some walnut options that provide even more character. Often, these are called character walnuts, and they offer irregular grain patterns that can really make your stairs the wow factor of a room.

However, walnut stairs are extremely expensive—more so than even oak. They also aren’t as widely available, which can make them more challenging to get your hands on. You aren’t going to find as many varieties of walnut, either.

Walnut also tends to be less durable than other options and you’ll need to replace it sooner. That plus the higher cost often makes people steer clear unless you just really like the look of the walnut.

divider 1

Can You Use Any Wood for Stair Treads?

Typically, if the wood is usually utilized inside homes, you can find stair treads made with it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that any wood should be utilized for stair treads, though. Usually, you’ll only find harder woods used for this purpose, and for a good reason.

Softer woods usually can’t withstand the constant wear and tear that often comes with stairs, which usually see more wear than other parts of the house.

For the most part, it comes down to what you like. Certain people are just going to like certain types of hardwood better. If you have other wood in your home, you should think about how your stairs complement that wood. That’s especially important if you have hardwood leading up to the steps. You want the wood to at least match somewhat, though it doesn’t have to be exactly the same.

wooden house with stairs
Image Credit: Adrian Hernandez, Unsplash

What to Look For

There are quite a few factors to keep in mind when you’re choosing a type of wood for your stair treads. Here’s a quick rundown of the decisions you’ll need to be making to choose the best stair tread for you:

  • Price. Different sorts of wood cost different amounts. Therefore, you’ll need to consider your budget when you’re installing wood onto your stairs. For instance, walnut may look nice, but it is also very expensive. Luckily, there are many budget options as well, such as maple.
  • Durability. Your stairs get a lot of wear and tear. Therefore, they often do best with some sort of more durable wood. Otherwise, you may find yourself needing to change the wood sooner than you’d expect.
  • Aesthetics. Most people are going to choose wood based on how it looks. That’s a perfectly fine metric to consider, as long as the price and durability are considered as well. Choose something that matches the whole theme of your house, since your stairs are likely going to be one of the main focal points.

divider 7


Choosing wood for your stair tread can seem overwhelming. After all, there are many different options on the market that you have to choose from. However, each type of wood has its own aesthetics and looks. Therefore, you’ll likely be able to narrow down your list pretty fast.

On top of aesthetics, be sure to also consider the price of the wood and its durability—you don’t want to fall in love with something outside your price range or choose a wood that you’ll need to replace sooner than you’d like.

Featured Image Credit: Steven Ungermann, Unsplash


Related posts

OUR categories

Project ideas

Hand & power tools