Simple Solutions

How to Make Outdoor Steps Safe

By: Joe Truini

Falls are the number one cause of injuries around the home, and slippery outdoor wooden stairs can often be the culprit. To make your stairs safer, install abrasive safety strips (available at home centers) to each step. After cleaning the surface and allowing it to dry, attach the strip near the front of each step to make your home safer.



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7 Comments on “How to Make Outdoor Steps Safe”

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  • Ben Davis Says:
    January 19th, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Hi Joe. I bought several of the Heattrak mats you mentioned above. They work great. My question is this; I live in the city and I want to secure the mats on my wood frond steps using the eyelets, I was thinking of something akin to a drywall screw that would allow me to seasonally screw and then unscrew these things to the steps… ideally would also allow me to plug them in the summer. Any thoughts?

  • Official Comment:

    Joe T. Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Hi Trish, Sounds like you’ve got a very dangerous situation on your hands. The best solution would be to cover the ramp with a snow-melting electric mat. Check out the products at They’re not cheap, but are highly effective at melting snow on walking surfaces. Speak with a Heatrak technical advisor with regards to the width, length and, most importantly, angle of your ramp. I’m sure Heatrak can produce a suitable mat for your needs. Thanks for writing and good luck!–Joe T.

  • Trish Says:
    February 2nd, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    I have a metal handicap ramp that gets very slippery when snow gets on it. I cannot put salt on it, as it falls right through.I have to pound the crap on it to remove the ice. Are there electric rubber strip type of product I could put down and heat it so nothing sticks on it?

  • Official Comment:

    joe t. Says:
    January 6th, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Hi Marilyn, You’ve got a challenging problem. I assume the porch is covered by a roof and the stained wood floor is made of tongue-and-groove fir porch flooring, not spaced decking. It makes sense that it’d be slippery when coated in snow–all surfaces are–but I’m not sure why it’d be slippery in winter when it’s not snow-covered. A painted floor would certainly be slippery when wet, but yours is stained.
    If the flooring is not fir, but some sort of hardwood, such as mahogany, it would be a bit more slippery, but I’m still not sure what to recommend.
    I assume you don’t want to stick down the abrasive strips shown in the Simple Solutions video (neither would I). You could put down an all-weather mat or rug, such as a WaterHog door mat from LL Bean, but it’s important to remove the mat regularly to allow the porch floor to dry out. The mat will trap moisture against the wood, which could lead to rot.
    Sorry I couldn’t be of more help, but if I think of anything else, I’ll let you know. Good luck.–Joe T.

  • Marilyn J Says:
    January 6th, 2011 at 10:50 am

    We have a beautiful long front porch which receives lots of compliments. The flooring is stained but is VERY slippery in winter, especially w/ a dusting of snow on it. We are fully aware so walk carefully but our concern is mostly for anyone who does not realize it is slippery. What is a good solution. We do not want to paint it — as I said, it is stained.
    Thanks for your help.

  • Official Comment:

    joe t. Says:
    October 3rd, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Dana,
    Sorry to hear about your porch steps. The porch paint applied to the bare wood probably contained an abrasive grit, which made the steps slip-resistant. But it sounds like the wood may not have been fully dried when the paint was brushed on, and when it finally did dry out, the paint began to crack and peel off. Brushing another coat on top of the cracked paint won’t help, as you discovered.

    Unfortunately there’s no easy fix. First of all, painting any outdoor wood is never a good idea. Sure, people do it all the time, but painting outdoor wood creates a surface that constantly must be maintained over the years. The proper way to paint outdoor wood is to first, make sure the wood is bone dry. Next, prime all surfaces, ends and edges. It’s especially important to back-prime the back/underside of the boards. Then apply two coats of 100% acrylic latex paint. To make the steps less slippery, mix abrasive grit into the paint prior to application. And caulk any nail/screw holes, cracks and crevices to seal out water.

    Now if you follow these steps, the paint job will last longer, but it’ll only be a matter of time until you’ll have to sand/scrape the steps down to bare wood and repeat the process all over again.

    Semi-transparent stain is always a better option for outdoor wood. Thanks for writing and good luck.–Joe T.

  • Dana Sprague Says:
    October 3rd, 2010 at 10:37 am

    I hired a pro to build my 8ft wide front steps and he used a paint called porch paint that is not slippery, but after the first winter it was all cracked? My grandson applied another coat and it seems to be even worse?

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