Design & DIY

Prevent slippery wooden steps

When it rains, our wooden steps develop a slimy coating. How can we make them less slippery?

Apply non-skid adhesive strips to each step or coat them with floor paint with added grit. If you go the floor-paint route, make sure the steps are bone dry, then paint the underneath and ends, as well as the tops. If you don’t do that, moisture will sneak its way back into the wood; then, when the warm sun draws it out, off peels your paint. Most manufacturers make a floor paint with grit in it, or you can add some builder’s sand (up to 250 ml to four litres of paint) yourself. If you use the strips, stick them down (again on dry steps) at the front of each step, which is where your foot is likely to slip off and send you flying.

Reluctant to paint your expensive western red cedar? There are numerous wood cleansers available at hardware stores, including some with eco-friendly claims. An even friendlier solution is to pour hot water (the hotter the better) over the steps to kill the mildew and then use old-fashioned elbow grease and a stiff brush to scrub it off. (It should go without saying that the latter is your only option if your steps are near the lake.)

When you’re building a new set of steps, make the treads out of two or three narrow boards with 1⁄4-inch gaps for drainage instead of one wider board. You’ll get less cupping, less slime, and fewer pratfalls.