How to Install a Stair Runner

Installing carpet runner on stairs will protect them from damage

Day
A carpet runner installed on a staircase.

A colorful carpet runner cascading down a flight of stairs is more than just a decor upgrade. Installing a carpet runner helps protect stairs from damage and wear. This guide will help you complete this DIY project in about a day. 

Tip: If this project seems more complicated than you would like, another option is to use stair tread covers instead.

What You'll Need

1
Measure the stairs

Take measurements of the stairs before selecting your runner area rug to be sure you'll choose a rug with sufficient length and width.

• Select one stair tread and measure its depth and the riser (or step) height. 
• Multiply the height by the number of risers and the depth by the number of treads. 
• Add the two figures together then add 6 inches to account for waste; the total is the length of the runner carpet you will need to cover the stairs. 
• If you need more than one runner, add an additional 12 inches to the total to account for seams where the two carpet pieces will join. 
• Measure the horizontal width of the tread from end to end. Divide by 2 to find the center line and mark the measurement with a pencil. 
• Line the center of the runner with the center line on the tread, then mark the tread on each side of the runner. 
• Measure the exposed area of tread on each side of the runner marks to make sure they are even. Use a yardstick to repeat the same markings on each tread of the stairs.

Tip: Consider choosing an outdoor-rated runner carpet for increased durability in this high-traffic area.

2
Install carpet pads

Your rug padding should be narrower than your runner by at least one inch. You must create a rug pad for each stair tread and install individually to either sit flat atop each tread or wrap over the nosing. Do not attempt to cascade the length of the rug pad as it won’t provide the correct support.

• Align the top edge of the rug pad against the back of the tread and use a yardstick to make sure it is straight. 
• For a flat top installation, mark a cut line on the rug pad ½-inch from the front of the stair tread. Use the fabric scissors to cut along the line and use the created pad as a guide Cut as many rug pads as needed for the number of treads. 
• Cut three strips of double-sided carpet tape and place them at each edge and in the middle of the carpet pad. Fold the pad in half, then line up the half mark on the top of the tread. Repeat as needed to cover all the treads. 
• For a wrap installation, mark the rug pad at 3 inches longer than the depth of the tread. Use fabric scissors to cut along the line, then snip off the two front corners at a 45-degree angle. Use the created pad as a guide and cut as many rug pads as needed for the number of treads. 
• Center the pad on the bottom tread and align the long edge to the riser above, leaving a fingertip-width space between. Drive one staple into the center, then place two more evenly spaced on either side. 
• Smooth the pad over the tread and over the nose. Pull tight without stretching the pad, then staple the pad to the underside of the nose, one staple at the center line, and two on either side. Trim the extra fabric with scissors. Repeat as needed to cover all the treads.

3
Install runner carpet

• Cut a strip of double-sided tape slightly shorter than the width of the rug and press the tape along the top edge of the riser of the first tread, placing it just under the nose. 
• Line up the top edge of the runner rug with the tape and press firmly. Use the staple gun to staple the rug in place, starting in the center and then at every three inches on either side. Be sure there is a staple in each of the outer edges. 
• Smooth the rug against the riser, then press the bolster chisel into the rug at the crease of the next tread. Staple the rug to the bottom of the riser in the center of the rug and then at every three inches on either side. 
• For a waterfall installation, pull the end of the rug over the next tread and staple as above. Continue this installation over the successive treads until you reach the end of the runner. 
• For a wrap installation, smooth the end of the rug over the nose of the next tread and use the bolster chisel to press the rug tightly underneath the nose. Staple the rug every three inches and be sure that the each of the outer edges is stapled. 
• Repeat the process of stapling the runner to the base of the riser as above, then continue over successive treads until you reach the last tread you can cover. 
• If you are adding a second runner, after you have stapled to the bottom of the last finished riser, trim the trailing edge of the first runner, leaving a 2-inch piece free to overlap. 
• Overlap with the second runner, carefully aligning the sides of the two runners and pressing the finished edge against the riser. 
• Staple into the second runner as above, then continue the installation process as described above for the remaining treads to be covered.

4
Finish off the project

A neat edge along the last runner will give the stairs a tailored look and ensure there are no trailing carpet pieces that might pose a hazard after installing carpet on stairs.

• At the base of the final step, press a bolster chisel along the rug to tighten the rug and create a crease. 
• Measure three inches out from the crease and mark the spot on the rug. Use a yardstick to draw a straight line across the rug at that point, then cut along the line. 
• Fold the end of the runner under and press it tightly against the final riser to create a hem. Staple into place against the riser. If the final riser ends in a moulding, fold and staple the hem so that it sits above that piece.

5
Add stair rods (optional)

A stair rod is an attractive decorative element you can add to your stair runner installation. Stair rods are comprised of a long tube that attaches to a pair of brackets installed on each side of the runner. They are attached directly to the tread and while not completely necessary to hold the runner, they can be used to hide any small bumps after installing carpet on stairs. You can find stair rods in a variety of finishes and materials, but slim metal rods are generally preferred to accent the rug without being intrusive.

• If using decorative finials with the stair rods, attach each to the outside edge of the corresponding rod bracket. 
• Line up one bracket against either edge of the runner and slide it back until it sits in the crease where the riser and the tread meet. 
• Hold the brackets in place and mark the spot where you will drill holes for the screws. 
• Fit a 1/16-inch drill bit to a rotary drill and create a pilot hole at each mark. 
• Screw each of the rod brackets into place. 
• Press the rod into the crease on top of the carpet and secure it into the brackets. 
• Repeat as needed for the other treads.


add stair rods, optional