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How to install a stair runner

How to install a stair runner

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Stair runners are elegant and contemporary, and a great way to add texture and a pop of colour to your staircase. Even if you’re not the keenest DIY enthusiast, you can take the plunge and undertake your stair runner installation today with our top tips. We’ve taken the fear out of installing a stair runner with our expert guide.

We’ll talk you through how to fit a stair runner on straight stairs, how to fit a stair runner on stairs that turn corners or wind, and even how to measure your stairs for a stair runner (yes, this is different to how to measure your stairs for carpet).  Grab your tape measure and carpet grippers and meet us at the bottom of the stairs where we’ll begin.

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Before you begin pulling out carpet tacks and stair runner samples, you need to measure your stairs for the type of stair runner you’d like to have fitted - whether it’s a narrow, wide, or patchwork runner, the measurements are key to your stair runner looking good. You can find out more about the different styles of stair runner you could choose from in our ‘what is a stair runner’ guide.

How to install a stair runner

First, find the centre of your stairs using a measuring tape, and mark this with painters tape – this will help you to find the middle when you install your padding and runner – if you have slightly uneven stairs because of a bannister or wall, then find the centre according to your preference of where it should sit.

You may purchase a stair runner that is already a specified width, in which case you won’t need to worry too much about measuring the height and depth of your stairs, but you will still need to measure for length to ensure you buy enough. Here are the three measurements you need:

  • The depth of the treads (the horizontal part of the stair that is stepped on)
  • The height of the riser (the vertical gap between one stair and another)
  • The depth of the nose (the often-protruding edge of the stairs – if you’re nose does not protrude, then this will be covered by the tread measurement)

Multiply these measurements by the number of stairs that you have, add an extra 30 cms as a precaution, and voila! You’ve got all the measurements you need to order your stair runner.

What you’ll need

  • Your chosen stair runner
  • Measuring tape and ruler
  • Pencil
  • Staple gun
  • Carpet bolster/tucker tool
  • Hammer
  • Headless nails (15mm) * Or if you have them, inch wire nails, ring shanks or gimp pins. Using a small electric staple gun will be fine too
  • Sharp craft knife
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Prepare your stairs

Give your stairs a good clean and maybe a fresh lick of paint if you want to keep them looking fresh – it’s also a good time to tidy up or refinish your stairs if they’re wooden too. It’s best to do all of your painting before you install the carpet runner.

Mark your measurements

Deduct the desired width of your runner from the width of your stairs and divide it by two to give you the exact gap you’ll leave on either side of the runner.  Use these measurements to mark the centre of your stairs with painter’s tape.

Optional: Cut and add carpet padding

Your stair runner may come with padding added on, but if you’re adding padding or underlay, staple the padding using a staple gun onto your stairs – remember you only need the padding for the tread and nose, as no one will step on the riser! Make sure to cut your padding shorter in width than your stir runner, so that you can’t see any poking out the sides when your runner is on top. You’ll find some professional fitters install underlay even on the riser.

Staple from the top down

Starting from the top of the stairs where you want the runner to end (most commonly this is under the nose of the last step) staple the end of your runner to the stairs. Start in the middle and work your way out to either edge.

Then, use your carpet tucker to ensure the carpet is pushed into the corner where the riser meets the tread of the next step down – this will give it a neat edge. Add more staples here to keep it in place. If you have a nose on your stairs, you can either choose to let the stair runner fall past it to the next tread, or you can bolster around the nose and staple this in place too.

Repeat for each step

Continue this process down your stairs, ensuring that if you have to join two stair runners together, folding the unfinished edges underneath and stapling along the fold.

Secure the bottom with staples

Cut off any excess material and tuck the unfinished edge underneath before you staple the final edge into place just above your trim.

Tack the edges with headless nails

Now you can go up the edges of the stair runner with headless nails to ensure that the edges don’t move too.

Optional: add stair rods

A final and optional step is to add in decorative stair rods – these sit along the bottom of the rise and ensure that your carpet doesn’t move away from the neat tuck you’ve made.

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Fitting a stair runner around corners

Measure the length of your stair runner on the stairs you are about to cover – this will tell you where you should stop your landing runner and place the edge of the new piece of the runner. Place your stair runner up to the edge of your landing where you have measured, and then cut this off straight at the end, tuck under and staple down. Then, continue your stair runner (remembering to tuck that unfinished edge) from the edge of this piece and down the next set of stairs.

For curved stairs, such as a spiral staircase, you will simply need to account for the differences in widths at either edge of your runner where one side of the tread is longer than the other – this will require being very careful with adding up your measurements to ensure you get the right length of stair runner!

In general, curved stairs need to have an extra allowance on the width to create a nicer finish. If your stairs have a landing or are angled (like with a spiral staircase) your job will be a little trickier! You can always choose to leave the landing without a stair runner, which is the easiest method, but if you do want it to continue around the landing and any turns you may have on your staircase, these measurements will be important.

It’s possible to buy a traditional flat weave runner in one piece and then cure it around but it’s a specialist job and needs an expert touch.

  • Tapi Top Tip: if you measure the widest part of your stair where the runner will sit and multiply this by the number of stairs (plus that extra 30 cm just in case) you’ll get your curved stair runner length.

This is a DIY project that will require a lot of patience – and we always recommend having one of our professional carpet fitters do the job for you, both for your peace of mind and to ensure that the job gets done right every time! Get in touch with the Tapi team to find out more or come down to your local Tapi store to check out all of the stair runners you could choose from, or alternatively, for some more inspiration, take a look at our guide on the best flooring for stairs.

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Published: 26-08-2022

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