Why choosing the right wood for your staircase matters

When it comes to planning and designing a timber staircase, extra consideration should be taken towards choosing the right type of wood that will serve you or your customer best. It will largely come down to personal taste and style, as well as how much footfall the stairs will experience daily.

Hardwood or softwood stairs?

Though their names suggest otherwise, hardwood and softwood are actually characterised by how the trees reproduce – not their strength. Typically, most types of hardwood are denser and more durable than softwoods, though there are some exceptions.

Hardwood comes from deciduous trees that shed their leaves annually, while softwood comes from evergreen trees that retain their leaves all year round.

Which is more expensive?

Usually, hardwood is more expensive than softwood. This is because:

  • It takes longer to grow, so trees can’t be harvested as quickly

  • It can only grow in specific locations, whereas softwoods are often far more adaptable

  • It is harder to cultivate

  • It takes longer to dry

  • It is harder to work with

Benefits of hardwood

Thanks to its strength, durability and beautiful appearance, hardwood makes for a popular choice amongst Multi-Turn customers when designing their made-to-measure stairs. It’s easy to clean and requires little maintenance, providing it has been treated and finished correctly, which makes it a great option for all stair parts including treads, risers and balustrades.

Benefits of softwood

Softwood is a good quality, reasonably priced alternative to hardwood. With options like pine more porous than a lot of other woods, it’s a good option if you want to paint, stain or varnish your stairs to get the desired finish. As it can be grown quickly and easily, softwood is a more environmentally friendly choice if you want something more sustainable.

Consider levels of footfall

As a naturally high traffic spot, your choice of wood needs to be functional whilst also complementing the wider interior of your home. Wood is naturally hardwearing, particularly if you choose a tough hardwood such as oak or walnut.

Wooden treads may look amazing on their own, but can be difficult for young children, pets, the elderly or those with mobility issues to navigate safely due to the risk of slipping. In this case, adding carpet or a stair runner could be the best solution.

Types of wood


Commonly recognised by its pale golden or whitish colour and knots, pine is an effective, lower-priced alternative to hardwood. Whitewood pine tends to be paler, while redwood pine has a subtle red tinge due to its higher resin content. Because it’s so versatile, pine staircases can be painted or stained to achieve the desired look and finish.


We use both European and American species for our oak staircases here at Multi-Turn. Both are very durable with an open grain which produces a stunning appearance. Oils and varnishes can be used for finishing, with clear and coloured options available.


Characterised by its rich brown colour and unique grain, walnut is considered to be a superior timber choice. Though hardwearing, it is easy to work with and can be finished precisely, combining wonderfully with glass and metals to produce statement stairs.


Perfect for traditional staircase designs, sapele has a truly grand appearance which, when polished, complements white primed stair components beautifully. It comes in varying natural shades of rich golden to dark reddish-brown but can be stained to produce a much darker finish. With a straight grain, sapele is fairly close in appearance and durability to mahogany.

Ultimately, the choice is yours! Stairs can be a rewarding financial investment, so it’s important to consider the options available to you. If you have any questions about an upcoming staircase project, get in touch with our team on 01962 712299 or email web-enq@multiturn.co.uk.