How to Install a Stair Runner Without Damaging the Stairs

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Traffic damage to stairs can be minimized with the installation of a carpet runner.
Traffic damage to stairs can be minimized with the installation of a carpet runner. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Add warmth and color to your home by installing a stair runner, which also preserves the integrity of the staircase. A thin but tough pad placed on each step, before the carpeting is installed, dampens noise and prevents premature wear. Tackless strips, carpet nails and narrow crown staples keep your carpeting in place while causing minimal disruption to the stair treads. Stair runners may be made of synthetic fibers, a synthetic/wool blend or 100 percent pure wool. Prices escalate with the amount of wool in the runner and also vary between the most common 27-inch and 32-inch widths. Custom widths can cost you considerably more.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Sheet metal snips
  • Tackless strips
  • Carpet nails
  • Hammer
  • Framing square
  • Carpet pad
  • Carpet cutter
  • Latex carpet glue
  • Electric stapler
  • Staples, 9/16-inch, narrow-crown
  • Knee kicker
  • Carpet edging tool
  • Rubber mallet

Measuring and Underlayment

Measure the width of your stairs along the flat surface -- the stair tread -- of one step. This measurement will determine the width of stair runner that will look best on your staircase.

Subtract the width of your chosen runner from the width of the stair tread and divide this number by two. This is the distance you will measure and mark with your pencil in from both ends of each stair where it meets the riser.

Cut a tackless strip 2 inches shorter than the width of your runner. Make certain that a nail will be driven within 2 inches of each end of your cut strip. Sheet-metal snips will cut the material easily. Place a scrap piece of tackless strip flush against the riser to use as a spacer. Center the measured tackless strip between the pencil marks you made in Step 2. Butt the measured strip against the scrap spacer strip and nail the measured strip into place. Repeat for each tread.

Measure and cut carpet pads to the same width as your installed tackless strips and 3 inches longer than the depth of your stair tread. Place your carpet pad on the front edge of the installed tackless strip.

Fasten each pad to the edge of each tread using staples driven every 3 inches. Pull the pad tightly around the front edge -- the nosing -- of each tread and drive staples every 3 inches underneath the nosing. Use your carpet cutters to trim the pad where the nosing and the top of the riser meets. Repeat the process until all of the treads have a pad in place.

Installing the Runner

Place the framing square at the top edge of your runner to check for square. If necessary, mark the reverse side of the runner with your pencil and cut the edge to square using your carpet cutter. Place a touch of latex carpet glue along the backing of the cut edge to prevent fraying. Wait for the glue to feel dry to the touch before proceeding.

Rub the pile of the carpet with the palm of your hand. Face the edge of the rug so the pile lies flat towards you. The pile will face down on the risers so the rug catches less dirt. Begin at the top of the stairs.

Center the rug at the top of the riser. Place the end tight against the nose. Center the carpet between your pencil marks. Fasten the top edge to the riser with staples at each end and every 3 inches between. Smooth the rug to the bottom of the riser and push it toward the tackless strip.

Place the edge kicker on the center of the runner. Hold the front knob down and hit the kicker with your knee to tighten the runner on the tackless strip. Repeat every 3 inches on each side. Tap your carpet edging tool with the rubber mallet to ensure a tight fit between the tackless strip and the riser.

At each end of the tackless strip, staple the runner into the edge where the riser and tread meets. Staple the edges to the riser and to the underside of the nosing at every 3 inches. At the top of the last riser, cut the runner tight to the underside of the nosing. Dab the end and edges of the carpet with glue and staple the rug into the top of the riser and along the edges to hold the runner firmly in place.

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