installing a stair runner

Marian ParsonsBefore and Afters, Decorating, home improvement, My House, Tutorials

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.

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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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