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How to Install Stair Runners in Just a Few Hours!

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Learn how to install stair runners! Now that the carpet has been removed and the stairs are looking good with paint and stain, it’s time to add one more layer of style.

Learn how to install carpet runners

Why are most stair runners so ugly? Have you seen the ones in stores? Even the special order ones aren’t great. I’m here to say, “No more crappy stair runners!” Shout it from the rooftops!

But, did you know that you can use regular floor runners on stairs? For a fraction of the price, you can have pretty stair runners. In a few hours, we were able to install stair runners that added a unique look to our stairs.

The ugliest part of our house is now the happiest!

DIY Stair Runner FAQs

What are stair runners?

Stair runners are installed over wooden or tile stairs to provide extra cushion. It is a width of carpet that doesn’t cover the entire stairs.

This tutorial uses runner rugs, which are typically used in long spaces such as hallways.

Why add a runner on stairs?

But you might be wondering why we installed runners on our stairs to begin with? Didn’t we just rip out the carpet?

  • The carpet was gross, old and stained. It had to go no matter what.
  • Without the carpet, the stairs are loud. We have kids and a rambunctious dog, so cutting down on noise is always nice.
  • It adds to safety. A bare staircase can be slippery. 
  • It’s soft underfoot. I’m still amazed when I walk on them first thing in the morning!
  • To add more color. Not sure if you noticed, but neutrals aren’t really my thing.
  • And lastly, because I prefer a more-is-more approach to decorating. It makes my heart sing and these aqua runners just take the stairs from cool to amazing.

Do you need carpet padding on stairs?

Carpet padding is added to make carpet softer. 

I chose not to add it for these runners because they’re already pretty thick.

If you use thinner rugs, feel free to add it. Make sure that it’s cut a few inches smaller than your width so that it doesn’t show on the sides. 

What size of staples are used to install a stair runner?

Your staples need to be deep enough to go through the stair runner and into the wood.

For this project, I mostly used 3/8″ x 2/5″ staples, which is a pretty standard size for other projects as well.

The upholstery stapler used a different width, but they were still 3/8″ staples.

Do the staples show on the runner?

No. They disappear into the texture of the runner. I’ve never noticed a single staple since I installed the runners.

This post contains affiliate links. By purchasing an item through an affiliate link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

How to Install Stair Runners

Supplies Needed

Note 1: I bought my runners from RugsUSA on Black Friday, but I didn’t open them until almost April. They are accidentally two different patterns, but I love the result. Look for sales to get the best price. Home Goods also has good prices on runners.

Note 2: I used 2 different staplers, but it’s not necessary. It could have been done with a handheld stapler (it would hurt your hands, but it would still work). I used 2 because I have a favorite but it was too large to fit under the treads. ( I used an upholstery stapler and a regular pneumatic stapler.)

PS. Big thanks to my lovely husband for being my hand and arm model.

How to Install Stair Runners

  1. Our 2nd floor landing has carpet, so we had to address that first. If you don’t have a carpeted landing, skip this step. When I removed the carpet from the stairs, I used a utility knife to cut off the carpet, leaving just enough carpet to staple to the bottom edge of the landing. Using a staple gun, attach the carpet to the edge by stapling upwards. You will want to push up firmly to get the staples in. We probably used 20 staples to secure it firmly. 
    Staple carpet edge under the landing
  2. Position the first runner in place. Center it on the stairs. Our runners covered all but almost 2″ on each side. 
    Center carpet on stairs
  3. Hold the top of the runner against where you stapled the carpet and staple along the top edge. The runner that we used was thick enough that the staples do not show at all. Just like with the carpet, be generous with the staples. You don’t want the stair runners coming off!
    Staple at top
  4. Measure as you go, making sure your runner is staying straight. Staple along the corner where the treads and risers meet. Be sure to staple on the sides as well. 
    Staple along edges
  5. For each tread, fold the carpet over and hold it tightly in place. Staple up into the bottom of the tread.
    Stapling carpet
  6. Continue stapling the runner, changing direction as you go. If you staple one set of steps starting at the right side, start the next set on the left. This helps keep the runner straight. Measure as you go! Your walls will NOT be straight, so try to split the difference.
  7. Continue until you get close to the end. When you get near the end, go ahead and staple it into the bottom of the tread. 
    Cut under edge
    Use a utility knife to cut the rest of the runner in the corner. 
    Cut with utility knife

Installing the Next Section of Stair Runner

  1. Butt the edge of the next runner to the top of the tread and staple in it place, keeping it aligned. 
    Carpet edges butted.
  2. Keep going and repeat the process as necessary. Our stairs needed 2 1/2 runners. 
    Repeat the steps until the end

Finishing the Stair Runner Installation

  1. When you get to the end, staple it in place.
    Staple in place
  2. Use the utility knife to cut off the excess runner. The cut portion can be covered with a piece of quarter round (which I still need to do.)
    Cut the last portion of carpet off
  3. Admire your lovely handiwork! Now that I know how to install stair runners, I wish I had more stairs! Wasn’t it easy!
    Aqua stair runner

Installing stair runners was pretty easy and definitely made a big impact in my home.

Update: December 2019

The stair runners still look amazing. The bright color does a great job of disguising dog hair and dirt.

I worried that vacuuming the runners may eventually damage them, but they still look great.

Want to see the finished staircase remodel?

You might also like:

Be sure to pin this post!

DIY stair runner installation

Other staircase posts:

Staircase reveal

Install stair railings

Installing wallpaper

Painting and staining stairs

Removing carpet from stairs

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  1. I’ve actually been wondering about this! You answered my question then – totally able to add runners for the stair carpet. Good to know! You did a great job too <3

    1. Thanks Ariel. I’ve seen it done with the thinner flat weave rugs, but I figured I could make it work with enough staples. 😉

    1. You would need to buy more runners with a simple design. It would have to be cut for every tread and riser and then stapled down. So it could technically work, but it would be harder and cost more. If I figure out a better way, I’ll let you know.

  2. Your stair runner is beautiful. How is it holding up after almost a year? I have been thinking about removing the carpeting and putting in a stair runner on my stairs. What size staples did you use? did you use the special staples for carpet? Also, are there any electric staplers that you can recommend for this job? I have four boys running up and down the stairs (no shoes), so the stairs get a lot of wear, and the carpet is impossible to clean, and prevent from looking matted and trampled down. Thanks.

    1. Hi Sally! After a year, our runner still looks great. I was just telling my husband how happy our staircase makeover makes me on a daily basis. When I realized that we had 2 different rug patterns, I thought it was going to drive him crazy (he can be a bit OCD about such things.) But so far, so good. The patterns really help hide spots. We have a black lab who sheds a lot and it disguises the hair pretty well. There have been a few spills, but they’ve cleaned up easily. I have 2 kids and a dog, so maybe not as much wear as 4 boys! We used pneumatic staple guns that work with an air compressor. I’ve used handheld staplers before and they would work fine, but your hand is definitely going to be sore. I’ve never used an electric stapler before. I’ve heard they are easier, but not quite as easy as pneumatic. We used 3/8″ staples.

      I would go with a pattern to hide wear and tear from kids. And go with dirt color or darker. 😉 So no light colors (I’m betting your carpet is very light beige, almost white like mine was.) I have no regrets with this project. Good luck! Let me know if you have any more questions and I will try to help.

  3. Thanks very much! Yes, you guessed right, my carpet is beige almost white, and was put in in 2006, when the house was built. I obsessively clean it with my carpet cleaner in all the bedrooms, but stairs are horrible to keep clean. My family room has the same carpet in it, and it is a nice contrast to the dark tiger wood (reddish wood) floors in the rest of the house. I am not much of a DIYer (painted rooms, laid down new laminate floor in a basement room), but now that my youngest is 7, I have more time on my hands. My favorite colors are red, orange, black and jewel toned green, so I might pick a red or black runner. My stairs are open and have black wrought iron rails, and should be easy to tackle, since they are straight. Like you, I have found most stair runners to be ugly. I like your idea of using normal runners. The pictures of your house look so beautiful, and you have amazing DIY and decorating skills. Once again, thanks!

  4. Hi, I absolutely love your new stair runners, what a great project. I have a stair case that is an l-shape, 9 steps, then a turn to the left with 2 more steps, I am not sure what to do in that landing spot. It’s about 3′ x 3′. Any ideas? Thank you for sharing this, I really love it.
    Oh, and where did you get the stapler guns, rental?
    Julie F. -Reno, NV

    1. I would try to miter the corners and continue the rug around the corners.
      We own the staple gun and air compressor and use them all the time. They can be rented though.

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