Many considerations must be taken when determining the cost of carpeting stairs; therefore, a lot of leeway exists in what you might expect to pay. The number of stairs is a starting point, but that is only the base. You have much more to calculate. If the stairs are walled on both sides, that will cut costs a little. If they are open stairs with bannisters, likely making the ends of the steps bull-nosed, that will add considerably to cost. If it's a spiral staircase the additional headache for installation is approximately equal to the additional cost.
The quality of the carpet is pretty self-explanatory when it comes to how much you will pay. Don't forget the cost of padding and whether you're doing the prep work yourself or want to hire a professional from start to finish.
Prices can vary widely. Labor costs alone are significantly different in different parts of the country, and they change with the season. In the Northeast, for example, contractors are looking for inside work during the winter months rather than fighting the elements; this way labor prices can be lower. The cost of carpet itself is relatively within your control regarding the quality and retailer or wholesaler from whom you buy, which will equal cost. Most any day-laborers can perform the preparation work–tearing off the old carpet and padding at much lower cost than paying for prep work as part of installation. Also, if the steps are walled, there is molding that must be removed.
If your steps are walled, they probably have molding along the base of the wall. This is good and bad. It's good because it can easily hide slight imperfections in installation of the carpet and cuts down on some of the labor. It's bad because it will have to be removed before installing new carpet. The most cost-effective way to install the carpet is to carefully remove the existing molding and reinstall it after the carpeting is laid. Make sure you hire someone experienced and conscientious so that the molding is not damaged during removal. You can always replace the molding, but that will require substantial additional cost.
Carpet costs can vary widely, depending on the quality, durability and its purpose. If you have unattractive old planks for stairs and just want to make them presentable yet consistent with the rest of your home décor, you may not want to rush to high-end carpeting. Durability is a key factor when considering the quality of carpet because steps, by their nature, get a lot a scuff in the stride of those who use them. Obviously, the middle of the carpet will show wear before the sides.
How Much Carpet?
Most contractors charge by the number of steps. The prices range from $8.50 per step up to $25 or more per step, depending on a number of variables including spiral steps, spindles, walled or open steps, and whether you want the entire step carpeted. If you have nice hardwood floors as steps, you may only want to cover them in the center portion to display the hardwood. If that is the case, you've saved a considerable amount in labor costs because you won't have to remove the molding, and if the stairs are open or spindled, the installers won't have to work around those labor- and cost-intensive features.
Most steps are 1 foot long with a 9-inch riser, so count the steps, add the riser area and width, and that will tell you how many square feet of carpet you need. Spiral staircases require much more measuring. Add 10 percent to the final square footage to account for waste. Multiply the square footage by the cost per square foot of carpet, and you've established your carpet cost.
If the stairs contain a landing, that will add to the cost if you carpet it. If the floors are hardwood and worthy of presentation, perhaps you don't want to carpet the landing. Also, it's not always necessary to carpet the risers. That can save money on carpet and even more on the labor. Don't be afraid to comparison shop for both carpet prices and the cost charged by local carpet installers. Lastly, make certain that the pad costs are included when getting quotes on carpet. Some include padding with their quotes and some do not.