HometipsMetal stairs vs wood – which is best?

Metal stairs vs wood – which is best?

Regardless of whether we are considering internal or external stairs, there are two materials that prevail in such building context: wood and steel. Indeed, the frequency of use may vary between the two, but their use is inevitable.

There are other counterparts e.g. glass or plastic, but nothing as commonly used as steel or wood. Of course, this is in relation to frames of the stairs, not the cladding material in form of unpolished granite stone or concrete.

To the main question: which is better wooden or metal stairs?

There is no one definitive answer. You can build some solid oak stairs that, if impregnated with special agents, will last a lifetime even if outside, exposed to vast elements. There are timber frames still cladding castles from the middle ages spanning whole centuries, so wood should not be underestimated as a building material.

wood stairs walking man

Metal, of course is even more durable. But it’s not indestructible. Once again, if left untreated it can fall to corrosion, especially during heavy humidity, rainfall or freezing conditions.

Think of the location . . .

Whether you choose stairs from metal or wood will also depend on the location. If you’re building a construction for a busy shopping centre, you preferably want to use strong steel beams that are cladded in burnished and anti-slip marble. If, however, the stairs will lead to a local pub visited by max 20 people per night, then an oaken support will probably be enough.

The cost of stairs could impact your decision

Costs are also a big factor. Once again, if you wish to save some money then opting for wood might be the best idea. But not always – treated oak can be a very expensive material compared to stainless steel for example. On the other hand, glued plywood or cheap processed wood will cost a fraction of steel counterparts.

wooden staircase at home

Aesthetics and general context to consider

Function aside, you should also be mindful of the aesthetics.  No doubt it all depends not just on the place of application e.g. inside or outside, but also the design context. If you build a wooden stairs frame that leads to a bank in the London city centre, not only will it appear odd, but it may sustain more damage that stairs from concrete and steel. Not only due to the traffic & elements leading to erosion, but also other issues. Wood doesn’t really deal well with spilt beer, urine or vomit . . . three things that commonly adorn the streets of London city centre.

Meanwhile, if you have a museum that is located in your town suburbs, located in a house up a hill, then constructing a timber frame might be the best and most aesthetically fitting solution.

Internal and external stairs – discussing the applications

Internal stairs are built to ensure efficient communication between the floors of the building. Yes, elevators and escalators have been implemented in a lot of buildings in the last 50 years, but sturdy, classic stairs must always be present for safety precautions.

metal staircase outdoor

This means that stairs connect the ground floor with the first floor or a usable attic, the basement with the ground floor, or ground floor with the mezzanine. Of course, in each of the above-mentioned cases different solutions and materials for the production of stairs will be applied.

When it comes to stairs connecting different floors in a building, they are most often made of reinforced concrete & steel frame and then covered with wood, tiles or carpet.

On the other hand, classic attic stairs are made of wood, while scissor stairs are made exclusively of metal. It all depends on where the stairs will be located and how they will be used; by how many people etc. In other words, all factors above will need to be considered.

Concrete, wooden or metal outdoor stairs?

The uses of external stairs can be very different. First of all, it is worth mentioning that concrete stairs are usually located in front of the main entrance to the building.

stone stairs made of granite

They usually consist of only a few steps, but are large in width, coinciding with the width of the terrace or porch. Wooden stairs are also suitable for outdoor use. Most often they are found in summer houses, outdoor lookout points, leisure centres etc.

Another solution you could go for are metal stairs, with steps made of truss or plastic with increased durability. But above all, we mostly recommend granite or quartz as a step cladding material. If left unpolished, this material can act as a non-slip surface.

Metal or wooden stairs indoor?

It is difficult to clearly define which material for the manufacture of stairs is better for indoor uses. As we already mentioned, it all depends on where the stairs will be installed, and thus how often they are used and how much exposed to moisture or harsh sun.

It is also important to consider the interior design. Although thankfully, natural wood has entered the mainstream domain of home decoration in recent years, even in modern homes. The contemporary trend is to utilise man-made and organic products to create a unique balance e.g. wood stairs combined with concrete looking quartz worktops or industrial copper, metallic elements scattered throughout. So no matter whether you’re going for that traditional, rustic appearance or a strictly modern one, wooden stairs will be as fitting as metal ones. 

spiral metal staircase in a public modern building

When answering the question of ‘metal or wooden stairs’, it is necessary to mention modular stairs, the structure and railing of which are made of metal, while the steps are made of wood or stone. This combination gives the stairs an attractive, unique appearance which as we said, combines that traditional and modern look.

After all, wooden elements warm the interior up, while metal painted in a fashionable colour gives them that contemporary, industrial edge which is topping the interior design trends in 2023.

In addition, the metal structure provides the stairs with stability and safety of use, and at the same time does not adversely affect the comfort of using the stairs. Walking barefoot on metal steps would hardly be particularly pleasant, but wood suits that role perfectly.

For more tips on indoor home metal stairs solutions, and a prognosis of 2023 trends, we highly recommend you visit this blog. The post is a fantastic overview of how metal stairs should be utilised in your current or future home design. There are advantages, disadvantages and neutral outlooks on stair implementation within you home.

Do we recommend stairs from stone?

Stairs as a whole, definitely not – the structure would be far too heavy and therefore unstable. You home shouldn’t resemble the pyramid of Giza. Full stone body and cladding only works in public places, alleyways, streets etc. Granite stairs composed of steps alone, based upon a metal frame, are a very good idea.

stone stairs made from natural granite

Not only do they look classy and luxurious, but they can be also left unpolished, therefore the anti-slip protection will be ever present. Because even if the granite is wet, or has a stain on top, it will not become slippery. This is especially important in a home context where children constantly run up and down the stairs.

Not to mention that stone stairs can be beautiful. You can select a number of colours raging from plain black to mineral rich varieties that are incredibly pleasing to the eye and will impress you, your guests and the visiting family. Or perhaps important clients when they enter the office for a meeting.


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