My house is typical of a house built in the 1980′s. It was filled with carpet and vinyl. A few years ago I put bamboo floors on most of the first level of the house. But it just doesn’t work to have a bamboo floor and carpeted stairs.
Staircases are hard to change. Unless you want to rip out the whole staircase and start over, there are some real limits. If you are lucky, you may have a staircase that is made with hardwood. If you steps are carpeted, however, you will probably find some rough looking wood underneath.
I was able to get a good result with a combination of bamboo and some low-nap carpet. I used the same bamboo flooring to create risers (the vertical back part of the step).
Bamboo Flooring for Risers
The bamboo flooring was a bit thick, so I cut it down to half the thickness. The flooring was pre-finished, so I cut the back off. It is quite a difficult and dangerous cut to make. I was able to make the cut with my table saw with a special jig that I made to hold the board. Don’t try it unless you know what you are doing and don’t blame me if you get a new nickname like “Stubby.” Once the thickness of the wood was reduced, I cut it to length and attached it with construction adhesive and a few small finish nails. It took two widths of the flooring to cover each riser. To finish it off, I used beige colored grout on the joints between the risers and the stringers (the side board that holds the steps).
It is possible to cover the tread of each step with bamboo, but I could not figure out a good way of dealing with the front edge. I considered using the flooring material and building it up two layers thick to wrap around the front edge. But it ends up looking too thick. I really wanted a slimmer bull nose look.
I opted to cover the treads with a low-pile carpet with a simple modern pattern. I cut each piece of carpet to size and attached it with carpet mastic (glue). The pine treads were already bull nosed, so I simply wrapped the carpet around the front edge. The mastic takes time to dry, so I used a few staples to help hold it in place. I also used a strip of wood and some clamps to help hold the carpet around the bottom of the tread.
The Finished Look
The look works pretty well, creating the illusion that the while staircase is made of bamboo. When you look straight on to the steps from the bottom, you mostly just see bamboo. It is easy for your mind to assume their must be bamboo under carpet treads. And the carpet does do a good job of providing a walking surface.