installing a stair runner

Marian ParsonsBefore and Afters, Decorating, home improvement, My House, Tutorials26 Comments

I shared several weeks ago that I wanted to add a carpet runner to our steps.  We have 1940’s stairs that are shallow, by today’s standards, and entirely wood.  That combination has led to more than one topple down the steps by pretty much everyone in our family.  Adding a runner wouldn’t help with how shallow the steps are, but it will at least cushion any future falls.  It also makes the pokey stairwell look more like an intentionally decorated space.

I started with three Stockholm Dash & Albert 2.5 x 8 woven cotton runners.  They have so many beautiful patterns to choose from, but the colors in this design worked best in my space.


I received the runners a while ago, but wanted to wait until the upstairs bathroom tile was completed before I installed them.  The weather was not being very wet-tile-saw-friendly, so the tile had to wait.  Therefore, the runner had to wait.  When the tile was finally done, I was antsy to get the runner in place and I reserved a morning to do it.  I had the runner, I brought our compressor and staple gun from the studio…I was ready.

Jeff came to help me and he asked, “Shouldn’t we put a rug pad under this first?”  I wanted the runner installed that morning and ordering a runner meant that wouldn’t happen.  I sat there on my knees, thinking.  I could do it right now, but it would be wrong and I would regret it.  Sigh.  “Yeah.  We need a runner.  Dang it!”  So, I ordered a couple of felt runners and some longer staples and waited for another day.

I mostly followed this tutorial on the Fresh American Style blog, but I’ll walk through what I did…

I started out by cutting the runner to cover the tread and bull-nose edge of each step.  It’s not necessary for the pad to run up the risers and it would just add unnecessary bulk.  (The pad I’m using is 1/4″ felt pad with rubber backing.)


I measured each side of the stair to make sure the pad was centered…


…and I popped in 2-3 staples to keep it from shifting under the runner.


I then started installing the runner; starting at the top and working my way down.


I pulled the runner tight around the bullnose edge and secured it to the underside of the overhang with a row of staples.


I then pulled the runner tight down the riser and stapled it into the corner.  I discovered that I needed to shoot the staples in vertically, because the gun wouldn’t fit into the corner if I was shooting them horizontally.  I also learned that the staples are camouflaged better in the blue stripes, so that’s where I positioned them, when possible.


When Jeff came to check out how it was looking, he pointed out the staples immediately.  Well, I spent a lot of time looking at different tutorials on installing stair runners and the only ways to not have visible staples are to use tack strips and professional carpet installation tools (like stretchers, etc.) or to use runner rods, which were a budget buster at about $40/each.  When I explained that to Jeff, he decided he didn’t mind the staples.  Yes, if you’re looking for it, you can see them.  I don’t think they are very noticeable, though.


When I needed to splice two rugs together, I cut off one rug under a bullnose edge, leaving about an inch for overlap.  (Or an inch on one side and almost nothing on the other side, because I got a little over zealous with the scissors!)


I stapled the next rug over the cut rug and it looks perfect.  You can’t even tell that it’s not one continuous carpet.


When I got to the bottom of the steps, I cropped off the runner, leaving enough room to fold the raw edge and staple it to the underside of the bullnose overhang.


(Cutting the rug made me nervous each time.  Measure twice.  Cut once!)


I was able to complete the job with tools I already had, but I did order staples that are longer than I use for upholstery.  I usually use 3/8″ staples, but I used 5/8″ for this, so the staples would go way into the wood, reducing the risk of getting pulled out.


Here’s the finished result…

My boys were so funny when they saw it.  “You’ve got to see the softness on the steps!”


I’m sorry I didn’t get pictures of how I installed the rug on the landing, but it’s really dark and a tight space, so I couldn’t get good shots…especially when I was trying to do the work as well!  I used the rug pad under the runner, stapled into place, and I added double-stick carpet tape around the perimeter of it, to keep the runner from shifting without visible staples.

This used to be a place I just passed through, but now I notice it and enjoy it.  It makes me excited that I’m putting the finishing touches on some of the neglected areas of my home.



Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Dash & Albert and Pine Cone Hill many times in the past and was honored to partner with them again on this project.  They supplied the runners to me in exchange for a feature post.  All words and opinions are my own.

installing a stair runner

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26 Comments on “installing a stair runner”

  1. I love it! I agree that the staples are not that noticeable, but I am concerned about how you are going to keep it clean AND consequently how do you clean it?

  2. Absolutely beautiful! Now I desperately want to add a runner. At first glance I knew it was Dash & Albert – the beauty of the runner far outshines the staples.

  3. I have a suggestion, or rather a comment. I have seen people used 1/4 round trim at the underside of the lip of the stairs to snug up the runner and hide the staples. I have seen then both stained to match the stair tread, and painted. It worked like the expensive tread bars, but much less expensive……just in case your husband cannot stand seeing the staples you can try that, or a chill pill.

    Keep up the good work 🙂

  4. I was so happy to see this and I just love it. We are in the middle of a huge DIY project — putting hardwood flooring in most of our first floor. Everything but kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room. I picked wood that I love but it doesn’t really go with my treads or handrails. I thought a runner might keep me from obsessing about it. After seeing yours, I know that’s the answer. I thank you for the inspiration, but my husband wishes I had never seen it!!!

  5. I love the look but…Unless your family tiptoes barefoot up & down those stairs, I can’t help but wonder how long those staples will hold the runner taut before pulling out and ripping the runner fabric. Could be an accident waiting to happen. Less expensive runner rods are available from a variety of sources (on-line and Home Depot) for about $10-$14 each. I know that adds up, but considering the Dash & Albert runners were free…just saying. At the very least I would try some diy tread runner rods made from quarter round or cove molding painted white or stained to match the stairs.

  6. This was a great DIY project and I commend you for tackling it. I am like you, when I want and need to get a project done I want to do it right then. Sometimes that is not the best approach since it could lead to a possible poor outcome later on. I think the color of the rug was a great choice for your décor. The staples may not be so noticeable to the average person, you may notice them more since you know they are there. You have done a Great job!

  7. It looks fantastic! I am looking forward to installing a runner on my stairs once I can remove the old carpet. Thank you for the great explanation of how you installed it. Did you use the same stapler that you use for upholstery? My pneumatic stapler has just a blunt end – doesn’t have that extra tip on it like yours – so I think I need to track one like that down. Love the colors as well – they are really complimentary to your home!

  8. I simply adore it, I love the pattern and the colors. It suits your style and space so well, it also adds even more pizzaz to your gallery wall. I love to update & brighten up stairs I think its something we always neglect and it can make such a big difference.

    Lauren | LB Designs

  9. Looks great. Brave to use a stripe too! I wonder if using a quarter round piece of trim could be used instead of the stair rod to save some money? Just an idea. The rod could be tacked into the corner with a nail gun.

  10. I’d love to do something like that but my old VERY narrow stairs have the triangle steps instead of a landing. I have seen brass curtain rods (for cafe curtains)used instead of the brass carpet rods which would cover the staples

  11. We did the same to our plywood stairs after pulling up gross carpet about 5 years ago. The staples have held up very well to a family of 5. Sadly the natural sisal runners from World Market can’t really be cleaned and so it will need to be replaced in a year or two.
    We used a rubberized back sisal runner and so extra padding wasn’t needed. The other difference is we had no bullnose, just the trim piece my husband installed on the front edge. So he had to staple it into the base angle of each step. This is also where we cut and spliced them together. The sisal does hide the staples well and I love the look. I am looking for reasonably priced synthetic sisal runners for next time.

  12. This turned out beautiful! I so want to add Dash & Albert runners to my stairs but it’s a project that has been put on the back burner for now. You’ve given me inspiration, I hope to tackle it sooner rather than later!

  13. Thanks Marion, this was so timely for me. I have my new stair runner sittingn the dining room all wrapped up in plastic and waiting for us to install. I didnt even think about a pad, hmmmm. Anyway, it was the perfect excuse to ask my hubby to order the porter and cable staple gun since we were going to rent one to do the job! We should have bit the bullet and ordered the staples too, but I thought they would be easy to find. Turns out, 22 ga. not so easy to find. Thank goodness for amazon. We found ours at Lowes, a black and brown short loop, and bought the stick on edges for finishing the ends. The color will blend with the exposed hardwood and camoflage dirt, but we are really doing it for our 13 year old dog, Max, who has gone for a few belly slides down the stairs when his feet got out from under him…poor boy.

  14. HAPPY EASTER, Marion

    Whatt a beautiful transition from drab to Dazzling and just in time for the holiday! You remind me of myself because whenever I tackle a project, I want it done yesterday as the perfectionist in me cannot wait for the tomorrow. You are definitely the Energizer Bunny who hit the ‘ol staple on the head and in a timely manner laid an awesome striped egg just as the other Bunny hovering at our doorsteps would do. Job well done and in one morning…that wouldn’t be me? Take the energizer out of bunny and that would pretty much sum up the Me in an eggshell 🙂 For the encore for your day, you are probably whipping up a batch of EASTER cookies whereas I would be in the prone position snacking on some other mother’s cookies and drinking…yup…the for-real surgery sweet stuff which is saved for special occasions only! You, dear Marion, are my inspiration for yesterday, today and for the many tomorrow’s yet to come.

  15. It turned out gorgeous! I too need to put a runner on our back stairway… I painted it, but it’s just too slippery. What brand and style of staple gun do you use? Is it connected to an air compresser or just an electric staple gun or what? (I’ve had bad luck with regular electric staple guns!)

  16. It looks great and I am so amazed at your skills. I wish I could do that! I would have to have my husband do that for me,… You go girl! Awesome!

  17. I love this!

    I’ve been wanting to do a striped runner on my stairs since I moved into this house (I live in a side 70s style side split house so I have 3 sets of stairs) and haven’t found any that I like. . .

    Looks like I will have to pick up some Dash & Albert rugs and install it myself!

    Thank you for being such a constant inspiration Marian!

  18. I am getting ready to do mine. Putting pieces of rug tread on each step for traction and padding. I rented the staple gun. Then I decided to wash the steps and figured a light coat of poly on them was good idea to protect wood from any moisture that may get on them. I found rugs at a bargain store and plan to use a variety of styles, we like the eclectic look. I painted the sides and kick plates so off to poly now. Can’t wait to install tomorrow!

    Your stairs look beautiful!! Thanks for the step by step!

  19. Wondering what your thoughts are of doing this type of project on stairs that narrower. I live in an older home and can only purchase the rugs that are 2’X3′ to fit the narrow stair thread I have. Would it look like a messy job to combine so many rugs? Thanks for the post!

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