Choosing the Correct Material for Tread Stairs

Stairways are an integral component in many different industries and commercial applications.  Integrating safety into stair designs is crucial in meeting the facility needs.

While traditionally stairs are made from poured concrete, metal stair options are becoming increasingly popular.  Metal stairs and tread stairs offer flexibility in design, ease of installation, and increased durability over poured concrete options.

The question then becomes what material is best for integrating safety and functionality into metal stairways?

Metal Tread Stair Options:

  • Plate – Solid metal plates are manufactured in specific sizes and designs to meet individual applications.  Offering a solid walking surface, these tread stairs are available in steel, aluminum, and stainless steel options.  Aluminum and stainless steel offer all-weather corrosion resistance.  Steel tread stairs can be hot dipped galvanized for increased corrosion resistance.  Solid metal plate tread stairs can be formed to various shapes to include integrated nosings and risers.  Tread stairs can be welded into support stringers or manufactured with pre-drilled and countersunk holes for bolting attachment.  Additionally, it is common for the front of formed metal stairs to be painted with a contrasting color for increased visibility.
  • Bar Grating – Bar grating tread stairs provide an open metal construction useful for allowing light, air, and liquids, debris, and other matter to pass through.  Grating is available in Steel, Aluminum, and Stainless Steel.  As with the solid plate tread stairs, steel bar grating can be hot dipped galvanized for increased corrosion resistance.  Bar grating is available with various sized openings and with different bar sizes.  By specifying the bar size and bar spacing, grating treads can be designed to conform to meet increased weight loads, provide greater free-span distances, or meet specific regulatory requirements such as the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Bar grating treads can be manufactured with integrated nosings and, like their solid plate counterparts, be welded into position or constructed with mounting plates for bolted assemblies.
  • Perforated Plate – To take advantage of the open construction available with bar grating tread stairs, solid metal plates can be offered perforated in a wide variety of hole sizes and spacings.  Perforating metal tread stairs provide the flow through advantages of bar grating with the solid walking surface of a plate tread.  Perforating also significantly reduces the weight of the metal tread stairs creating lighter designs and making installation easier.  As with other tread stair options, aluminum, stainless steel, and steel plates are available in perforated options.  While perforating metal plates offer many design advantages, it will reduce the structural strength of the metal by approximately two-thirds.
  • Plank – Aluminum plank tread stairs are another design possibility.  Aluminum planks are extruded into products with excellent strength-to-weight ratios and are available in either unpunched or punched options.  Plank products are cost effective and their rigid extruded construction provides greater durability than swaged-locked or press-locked bar grating alternatives.   Punched plank options are available in a standard 19/32” x 3” rectangular option or in ADA-compliant diagonal punched option.  While limited to aluminum alloy only, planking is a light-weight, strong, and cost effective option in many different applications.
  • Expanded Metal – Expanded metal products also allow flexibility in design for tread stair usage, however, their light-duty nature makes their suitability as a stand-alone tread stair limited.  Able to be formed into various shapes, styles, and configurations, expanded metal tread stairs are adaptive and light-weight for low-load, light-duty stairways.  Expanded metal tread stairs are more often used for retrofitting existing stairways than as stand-alone tread stairs themselves.

While metal tread stairs provide superb flexibility in design, create durable, long-term stairs, and are easily constructed and installed, they can become very slippery, especially under wet and oily conditions.  In 2010 alone, 635 fatal falls occurred in the workplace.  It is therefore essential that slip-resistance be incorporated into any metal tread stair design.  With proper safety surfaces included in metal tread stair designs, safe, durable, and economic stairs can be included in project site.

For more information on slip-resistant products and how to incorporate the SLIPNOT surface into metal stair tread designs, please visit our website at  SLIPNOT Metal Safety Flooring manufactures products that exceed OSHA and ADA requirements for slip resistant standards.  Contact them at: (313) 923-0400, (800) 754-7668 or via email at

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