How to Change Carpeted Stairs to Hardwood With a Runner

Removing the carpet from your stairs in favor of a hardwood and runner combination turns your staircase into a focal point of the home. The carpet removal often leaves behind remnants and spots requiring small repairs to bring the hardwood back into shape. The runner installation process requires specific steps to produce a smooth, straight surface that stays put.

Things You'll Need

  • Pry bar
  • Pliers
  • Utility knife
  • Wood filler
  • Sandpaper
  • Electric hand sander
  • Cloth
  • Stain
  • Paintbrush
  • Polyurethane
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Tackless strip
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Carpet pad
  • Stapler
  • Knee kicker
  • Carpet stair tucking tool
  • Rubber mallet


  1. Removal

    • 1

      Remove the metal strip at the top of the staircase if it's holding the carpet down. Use a small pry bar to remove the strip.

    • 2

      Pull the carpet, starting from the top, by prying up an edge and pulling it away from the stairs. Use a pair of pliers if necessary to grab the carpet and pull. Cut the carpet into sections as necessary to make it easier to work with.

    • 3

      Pull up the carpet pad as you did the carpet itself, using pliers if necessary to grab it. Some bits of the pad may remain under the staples. Remove the staples left in the stairs using a pair of pliers to grab and pull them, along with any remaining bits of carpet pad. Sweep the stairs to remove any remaining debris.

    • 4

      Remove the existing carpet strips installed at the back of the treads. Pry the strips up with a pry bar, rocking it carefully to loosen the strips.

    • 5

      Inspect the stairs for damage. Fix any damage, such as large holes in the stairs. Fill in holes or gouges in the wood with wood filler by smoothing it into the hole. If the wood is in good condition, you can install the stair runner right away.

    • 6

      Sand down the stairs if the finish doesn't look the way you want it, starting with a coarse-grade sandpaper. Work down to a medium-grade then a fine-grade sandpaper to prepare it for staining. You can sand the stairs by hand with a piece of sandpaper or use a small, electric hand sander. Sweep the stairs and wipe them down with a clean cloth to get rid of the dust.

    • 7

      Apply stain to the stairs by brushing it with the grain. Wipe the stairs with a clean, cotton cloth before the stain dries. Allow the stairs to fully dry before installing the carpet.

    • 8

      Brush on two or three coats of polyurethane to seal the wood, going with the grain as you apply it. Let each coat dry. Sand it lightly with a fine-grade sandpaper and clean away the dust before moving to the next coat.

    Runner Installation

    • 9

      Measure the width of your staircase and the width of the runner. Write down this information for reference and for calculations. Mark the width of the runner on each step, measuring the distance from each side of the step to ensure the marks are centered and consistent from top to bottom.

    • 10

      Cut a piece of tackless strip that's 2 inches less than the runner's width, for each step. Nail each strip in place, centered at the back edge of each stair tread.

    • 11

      Cut a piece of carpet pad for each step that matches the width of the tackless strip. Measure from the edge of the tackless strip to the front edge of the tread. Add 3 inches to that measurement to determine the size for each carpet pad.

    • 12

      Lay the carpet pad against the tackless strip. Staple the pad in place along the strip every 2 to 3 inches. Smooth the pad forward over the edge of the tread and staple it to the underside of the tread overhang. Trim away the extra pad that hangs down on the stair riser.

    • 13

      Lay out the runner over the first few steps with the end against the floor on the landing. Staple the carpet along the floorline to secure it in place on the riser of the first stair. Smooth the carpet along the riser and over the nose of the tread.

    • 14

      Smooth the carpet toward the tackless strip at the back of the tread. Position a carpet knee kicker tool in the middle of the runner, on the tread, 2 inches away from the riser of the next step. Hold the knob and the level as you hit the tool with your knee to secure it to the tackless strip. Repeat this process every 3 inches along the width of the runner.

    • 15

      Position a carpet stair tucking tool at the joint between the back of the tread and the rise of the next step. Pound the handle of the carpet tool with a rubber mallet to wedge the carpet behind the tackless strip.

    • 16

      Pull the runner up the next riser. Staple along the edge of the runner onto the riser to hold it in place. Staple the runner to the underside of the tread overhang.

    • 17

      Smooth the runner up and over the front of the tread. Repeat the process all the way up the stairs.

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  • Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

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