Stepping into Safety
Neither rain, nor sleet nor dark of night should keep you from safely
climbing your outdoor steps. During summer months, when steps are generally
dry and covered only in the rays of the sun, they are easy to see and quick
to climb. This may be exactly the right time to take another look at a part
of your home that is often overlooked until someone has a spill.
Making your steps safe is actually quite simple, and something a
"do-it-yourselfer" can accomplish in a short time, and at moderate expense.
One of the simplest ways to make steps safer is to make sure your steps are
well lit. Bright, powerful lights aimed at the path to your door are a good
way to prevent falls.
What about those nights when you're the first person home, long after the
sun has set? Consider porch lights that go on automatically. Some
automatic lights run on timers, while others have ambient light sensors or
motion detectors. Lights that run on timers will turn on and off at
particular intervals. One drawback timers have is how easy it is to forget
to reset the timers as the days grow longer or shorter. If you tend toward
the forgetful side, purchase outdoor lights that have built-in ambient light
sensors. This allows the lights to come on as the daylight diminishes,
which is also helpful for early evening storms, when skies turn dark.
Another option is a light that includes a motion detector that triggers the
light to turn on as you approach the house.
Railings are also helpful in preventing falls. Consider wood or metal
railing assembly kits available at your local home supply store.
Instructions are provided, and generally the only additional tool required
is a drill. When shopping for railings, remember to bring the dimensions of
your steps and a quick freehand drawing of the area for easy reference.
Lastly, the use of slip-resistant surfaces is also helpful. You have
several options in this area. Anti-slip tape has a rough surface like
sandpaper, and comes in one-inch, two-inch or four-inch widths. Generally,
the two inch tape works well for steps. The tape should be installed on
dry, clean surfaces, when the weather is warmer than 50 degrees. Cut the
tape to the length that matches the width of the step and fasten the first
strip about an inch from the front edge of each step. Additional strips of
tape should be fastened at one inch intervals behind the first strip. Three
strips of tape provide good traction for most steps. Be sure to press the
strips firmly against the surface of the step with a wallpaper seam-roller
or a pastry rolling pin.
Rubber stair treads with molded anti-slip surfaces are another option for
preventing accidents on stairs. These treads are about two feet wide and 10
inches deep. They can be fastened to wood steps with tacks or staples, and
to masonry steps with a waterproof construction adhesive or an adhesive
Finally, you can coat your steps with a skid-resistant paint. This paint
contains a gritty material that provides a rough surface to walk on. The
grit can be added to water-based or oil-based paint at most home supply
stores. Be sure to use an exterior paint that is designed for heavy-wear
surfaces, which will typically be labeled "porch and floor" or "porch and
A safe home is important to homeowners. With a few easy steps, your steps
can be easy and safe to climb.
Sources: Gene Austin, The Washington Post