Help for slippery steps
December 26, 2012 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Help us make these wet, slippery, wooden steps safer!

We're spending the holidays with some friends who have extremely slippery steps. The steps are made of treated wood, and when they get damp, they're basically frictionless. What can we do to make them safer, both in the short term and in the long term? This potential project is complicated by the weather, which is currently misty to rainy, and it will probably be that way for some time.

Note: Our pals have authorized us to look into the problem, and we'll definitely talk to them again before we do anything. We're not going to make any surprise improvements to their property!
posted by palmcorder_yajna to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
How about these rubber stair treads?
posted by dottiechang at 1:24 PM on December 26, 2012

Would slip-resistant strips work?
posted by erst at 1:25 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

The best solution would probably be to repaint them with some sort of gritty paint, but that will need to wait for good weather. In the short term, I'd buy some stair tread carpets and tack them down with finish nails. If you can't find tread carpets, cut up an indoor/outdoor doormat.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:26 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

They make varnish-type products that you paint on, some specifically designed for decking (eg - Trusty Step or Safe Tread)
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:31 PM on December 26, 2012

Best answer: Metal stair nose treads as well. Stair noses take a lot of wear. Combine these with the grit tape or indoor/outdoor carpet.

Sample site. You can probably find an equivalent at local large home improvement warehouse.

The nice thing about these, you can screw them on even in poor weather.
posted by Xoebe at 1:34 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If for any reason you are unable to find any of these useful suggested products easily, you can use the suction-cup stick-on anti-slip patches for showers and bathtubs temporarily.
posted by elizardbits at 1:35 PM on December 26, 2012

Slip resistant strips are great! We used them on our wooden ramp and its no longer a death trap when it rains. They're inexpensive and readily available at hardware stores.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 1:35 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I put grip-tape on the slippery stair treads and it works well.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:41 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Right now, since the wood is wet, you may just want to sprinkle them with fine gravel.
posted by fifilaru at 2:21 PM on December 26, 2012

Because of the weather, I'd go with the Kadin2048 Solution. Use cut up carpet for a temporary fix. When the weather is nicer they can use any of the above recommendations (no-slip strips, gritty paint, new stair treads, etc.). My mum's steps have the slip-resistant strips that erst linked to and they work well.
posted by deborah at 2:29 PM on December 26, 2012

We've got about 10 wooden steps leading up to our house. They get slippery when wet and ice up in the winter. Our solution was to use some leftover lightweight chickenwire, stretched over each step and stapled on the underside. Depending on your aesthetic, it might be a little hilbilly for you, but I can confirm it works brilliantly, particularly with ice.
posted by tim_in_oz at 2:41 PM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A quick, do it now solution could be to tack down some shingles on the treads with a nail gun, and then look at applying a more elegant grit in warmer and dryer weather.

What has worked well for gripping both my hubby's longboard and the wood steps on my father's sailboat: Apply a thick coat of clear varathane, sprinkle down some sand while the varathane is still wet (a salt shaker works well for this), let dry and seal with 2-3 more coats of varathane.
posted by kaudio at 3:06 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Similar to kaudio, you could also use roll roofing and staple/nail it down on each tread. A quick, cheap fix, but water will get under the stuff, so have your friends take it off as soon as good weather returns, to minimize rot.
posted by dbmcd at 4:50 PM on December 26, 2012

Best answer: It is likely that the slipperiness is caused by a thin build up of mold, mildew and algae. This combination gets as slippery as grease when it gets wet. You can remove it with deck wash from your local big box hardware store. Or you can make your own deck wash from a mixture of laundry bleach, a bit of detergent and water. Soak down the stairs with the deck wash, let sit for 15 minutes to allow the bleach to do its work and then scrub with a stiff bristle brush. Flush with a garden hose. This should eliminate the slipperiness. You can try this just with household items on hand and it doesn't matter if it is raining at the time. You might need to repeat this treatment once or twice a year during the rainy season.
posted by JackFlash at 5:10 PM on December 26, 2012

These rubber treads worked really well on our wooden porch steps.
They are thick and heavy and stay in place.
posted by valannc at 9:54 PM on December 26, 2012

A crummy rental I lived in had terrible steps and I finally did just as kaudio suggests, nailed down some shingles. It didn't look great, but it beat the hell out of landing on my ass.
posted by looli at 10:09 PM on December 26, 2012

I'll back the slip-resistant strips. Just today, I was descending some rained-on LA Metro concrete steps. I noticed that they would be completely frictionless if it wasn't for the gritty, sandpaper-like strips embedded in the edge of each step. The friction worked really well, by the way. The steps were small enough so that most feet would be guaranteed to hit the strips.

Since the steps you speak of are wooden, you could tape on the strips instead of pouring around them.
posted by Xere at 10:49 PM on December 26, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all! We went ahead and cleaned the bejeezus out of the steps with deck wash, and that eliminated about 65% of the slipperiness. Actually, it eliminated all of the slipperiness for a bit. Then it rained, and more of the ichorous, green-brown algae-mold leached up out of the wood. So we're doing it again. Eventually, I think our friends are going to end up applying shoes or some sort of textured paint to the steps, but the deck wash will mitigate the sliminess enough to keep people from falling ass-over-teakettle when they come here for New Years. Yay, Team Ask!
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:48 PM on December 30, 2012

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