Customized Stop-the-Slip Solutions
For Your Outdoor Wood Stairs

Your Stop-the-Slip Solutions Graded:

HandiTreads: A-

HandiTreads are the most effective and long-lasting solution for minimizing the risk of slips and falls on exterior wood stairs. The raised traction buttons of the aluminum tread are uniquely self-cleaning: the pressure from a foot stepping on the rigid raised buttons pushes away the layer of moisture, frost, or up to an inch of snow. This creates solid contact between the tread and shoe, boot, or foot.

Installation of the aluminum HandiTreads couldn’t be easier.  In contrast to the multi-task effort required to install traction tape or grit paint, there’s no need for time-consuming surface preparation prior to installation. Once installed, no maintenance is required for HandiTreads which are guaranteed to last a lifetime.

If you live in an area where it snows, you’ll find that you can use a snow shovel on your HandiTreads without fear of damage to the treads. This is not the case with most other solutions.

Because HandiTreads are a lifetime solution with once-and-done installation and maintenance, their initial cost is higher than other solutions. When calculated over a three to five year performance period, however, the investment in HandiTreads is almost always the most-cost effective solution.

Total Score: A-

Effectiveness: A
Installation & Maintenance: A
Durability: A
Initial Price: C
Long-Term Value: A

Non-Slip Grit Tape: D

For the most part, grit tape that you can buy at Home Depot or Amazon is not appropriate for outdoor use, despite what is claimed. There is no tape-based adhesive that can realistically stand up to rain, snow and the inevitable heat and thaw cycles.

In a limited number of outdoor wooden stair situations, non-slip grip tape can be a short-term solution to reduce slips and falls. Rain and frost are easily dealt with by grit embedded into the tape. However, once it snows the trouble really begins.  You simply can’t use a snow shovel on grit tape. Not only will you pull the tape right off the stairs if you catch an edge, but even a plastic blade will quickly defeat the thin coating protecting the aggregate.

The proper installation of Non-Slip Grip Tape does require a bit of effort as detailed here. First, it’s important that the wood surface, whether stained or painted, is clean, dry and in good shape. Heavily grained, uneven or splintering wood makes it difficult for the tape adhesive to completely bond and the effective life of grip tape is directly related to how carefully and completely it has been adhered to the steps.

There’s no maintenance that can or should be done to the tape other than to be very careful of the edges and corners, which can be easily pulled up. Once a corner or edge begins to peel, the grip tape will quickly deteriorate.

If you’re comfortable with a lifespan on outdoor wood steps of six months to a year, grit tape can be an inexpensive temporary solution.

Total Score: D

Effectiveness: D
Installation & Maintenance: C
Durability: F
Initial Price: A
Long-Term Value: D

Rubber or Door Mat Style Treads: C

Door mat style and rubber treads are two of the most common solutions to slippery outdoor wood steps. The rubber treads often have a texture or design protruding from the rubber that offer very good grip when wetness or light frost exists. Door mat style treads are good at improving grip when wet, but their effectiveness varies based on the material used and the aggressiveness of their texture. They are also less effective with leather soled shoes.

Both rubber and door mat style treads are effective in winter weather only if they are kept free of snow. Care must be taken when using a snow shovel with rubber treads as even a plastic blade can cut the rubber. Snow can be removed from door mat style treads with a shovel fairly easily as long as care is taken not to lodge the shovel under the edge of the tread.

Installation and maintenance of rubber and door mat style treads is a mixed bag on outdoor wooden stairs. Some of the products suggest just placing the “anti-slip” treads on the wooden stairs without any screws or glue permanently attaching the treads to the wood steps. We think this is a horrible idea as the treads might actually become a hazard themselves if you were to catch a toe, or were the treads were to move under the heavy pressure of a person starting to slip.

We can only recommend rubber or door mat style treads if you permanently affix them to your stairs with screws or adhesive. Assuming you choose either of these methods you’ll find that the installation can have its share of difficulties. Both of these types of treads are maintenance free, but they do wear down with use. Depending upon thickness and quality of the material you can expect rubber or door mat style treads to last 2 to 5 years.

Total Score: C

Effectiveness: C Installation & Maintenance: C Durability: C Initial Price: B Long-Term Value: C

Grit Paint: C+

Grit paint can improve the safety of outdoor wood stairs if (1) it’s a high-quality enamel or epoxy paint, (2) it’s applied meticulously and (3) it’s maintained properly. Like grit tape, non-slip paints include an aggregate that creates traction. The best anti-slip paints contain aluminum oxide or carborundum that, while encapsulated in the paint, create a rough, slip resistant surface. We rate the effectiveness of grip paint very high for wet weather, frost, and a dusting of snow.

As previously suggested, the quality of the paint and proper application is critical to the longevity of grip paint. If the wood is in good shape, it is cleaned and prepared properly, and the paint is applied according to instructions, you can anticipate that anti-slip paint will last 2 to 5 years under normal consumer traffic.

Anti-slip paints on exterior wood steps are, by and large, maintenance free. However, if you live where it snows you need to be very careful not to aggressively shovel the stairs painted with grit paint. While the epoxy or enamel coating is durable under normal foot traffic, it’s no match for an aluminum or even plastic snow shovel. Once you start to scrape way the thin paint layer covering the aggregate, the system will quickly degrade.

The cost of a high-quality grit paint can run between $50 and $100 a gallon. In addition, you’ve got the consumable cost of paint brushes or rollers, trays, sandpaper, masking tape, and drop cloths. When all costs are factored, and depending upon the number of stairs, grit paint can be one of the most expensive solutions.

Total Score: C+

Effectiveness: B Installation & Maintenance: D Durability: C Initial Price: C Long-Term Value: B