Bullnose vs. Waterfall Carpet on Stairs

Carpets on stairs are a beautiful sight to look at, especially when they are done correctly. They also come with excellent benefits like; protecting family members from falls, protecting the hardwood stairs from scratches and whatnot, muffling the sounds the steps make, etc.

Now, you are done choosing the perfect carpet for your stairs, but you are finding it challenging to pick the best installation choice. There are two primary installation choices which are the bullnose and the waterfall.

Is the bullnose or the waterfall carpet style the best option for you? Both of them are impressive, but one indeed does have more advantages. Keep reading to find out more about these two options available to you.

Bullnose vs Waterfall Carpet on Stairs

Parts of a staircase

There are three essential parts of a staircase that you should know to understand the two installation methods properly.

  • The tread

This is a vital part of the staircase. It is the horizontal part that you step on when ascending and descending the stairs. Without it, one cannot precisely go up and down the stairs.

  • The nose

This is also called stair nosing. It shoots out from the tread and is above the riser. It is used to make the steps’ edges more durable and avoid slips and is utilized mainly in staircases for public settings.

  • The riser

This is the wall of the step. The vertical platform goes from the first step to the next step. The riser is usually opened or closed, depending on the style of the staircase.

Waterfall carpet installation

Just like the name implies, this carpet looks precisely like a waterfall cascading down the stairs. This installation method involves bringing the carpet over the tread while attaching it to the edge of the tread and bringing it to meet the next tread without connecting it to the riser.

The waterfall is a natural and casual look, suitable for carpets that are too thick to go over the edge of the tread or patterned carpets because the waterfall effect arranges the pattern smoothly. It is commonly used compared to the bullnose method.

Bullnose carpet installation

This is also referred to as the Hollywood method because it is rumored to have originated from the movie sets of early Hollywood days. This method is more elegant and is usually used on a visible staircase for all to see.

It involves wrapping the carpet around the edge of the tread with the nosing meeting the riser. It is then stapled securely underneath the stair nose. The result is always a professional-looking staircase.

The Hollywood stairs method can also be called the contoured stairs, French capped stairs, etc. This adds to its level of elegance.

Differences between the Bullnose and Waterfall method

The two methods have slight differences, except for the significant fact that they are made for two different audiences. As usual, one is always more advantageous than the other.

We would be examining which one of the two is mostly used, the most expensive, and the one that provides enough protection for your actual stairs.

Customer favorite

The waterfall installation is mainly used out of the two methods. People tend to prefer the traditional look that it provides compared to the elegant look of the bullnose method. It is also the fastest and easiest to install.

The bullnose method is more labor-intensive, which is why customers run from it. It also requires more carpet, which says a lot about the cost. So, the waterfall method has the upper hand when it comes to the customers’ favorite.


The cost of a particular item usually determines the number of people that purchase it. The bullnose method is more difficult to install and is a very glamorous style. Due to this, you find this style mostly in upscale homes. As written above, it also uses more carpet, and more carpet equals more cost.

On the other hand, the waterfall is a more straightforward way of doing things. It does not require much, and one does not need to spend so much on carpet or labor costs. Bullnose (Hollywood) is more expensive. Even the name alone denotes that.

Stairs protection

There is always the recurrent question; “will my stairs still be in good shape when and if I decide to take off the carpet?”, “will I have to renovate?” well, the good thing about using the bullnose method is you would not have to renovate.

The bullnose stair tread acts as a form of protection to your actual stairs. In damage cases, the tread takes most of the hit, and all you need to do is replace it instead of renovating your staircase.

The treads also help prevent fall slips and absorb shocks because of the extra layer. Not only does this method look highly pleasing to the eyes, but it is also safe.

More on FlooringWest

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Factors to consider when choosing between bullnose or waterfall

  • Before picking between these two, you should know the look you are interested in. Are you going for a striking look (bullnose) or something less flashy (waterfall)? Something that fits your home perfectly.
  • Remember that the interior of your home also plays a key role. If your house interior is on the upscale side, you might want to go for something that best suits the interior.
  • You should also consider the carpet style. Is it thick or light? Does it have patterns, or its just plain? This will help you to pick the best method for your staircase.
  • The style of your staircase also matters. It will be a complete contrast if you pick something not in sync with your staircase style.


So there you have it, the bullnose and waterfall carpet is perfect for their purpose. If you want an installation method that is easy, fast, smoothly patterned, and traditional, the waterfall carpet style is your best choice. If you are on the opposite side and looking for something more glamorous, labor-intensive, and stylish, then the bullnose carpet style is your best choice.

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