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We did it! We DIY installed a stair runner on our stairs by ourselves in our home. It’s rare these days that I follow through on a project but here we are, living in the future with a stair runner on our stairs. When I first brought up the idea of adding a runner to our bare wood steps, Andy was shocked and quickly reminded me of all the carpeting he tore off our stairs as soon as we got the keys to our house (see the first-floor listing photos here). And he reminded me that we had the treads beautifully refinished. The unpainted wood trim in our home is its most shining feature and we treasure it. So with all of that in mind, I did not take covering up our stairs lightly.
We decided to add a runner to improve the safety of our stairs both for our aging corgi, our aging selves, and family. Penelope, our 11 year old corgi, has arthritis and has had more trouble getting up and down the stairs in recent months. And really, I love rugs. I knew adding some texture and warmth to the stairs would make our whole entryway feel more finished.
It’s like our stairs are wearing a nice sweater. I mean, sure, it’s more like a scarf but let’s call it a sweater. Like a warm hug.
We chose to use runner rugs rather than ordering something custom-made for our stairs. We went with the Annie Selke Dash & Albert Samson Indoor/Outdoor Rug in black. Choosing to use ready-made runners instead of a custom runner opens up different options and can be more cost-effective, but it does mean you’ll likely have to join rugs and thus have rug-joining seams.
Our Staircase Before:
When we had our floors refinished, we had the treads refinished as well but left the risers alone. The risers show the wear expected in a home that’s almost 90 years old. You can see the marks of carpet installations long ago and the dings and dents of years of use. We could have painted the risers to hide of all that (and they would look so good painted black) but we loved the look of the all-wood steps too much.
I really love our slim, simple spindles. Ok, so are you ready? Here’s what we used and how we did it.
Supplies for Installing a Stair Runner Yourself
- Runner rugs (we used 3 of the Annie Selke Samson Rug)
- Carpet padding
- Carpet tape
- Painters tape
- Electric staple gun <– This is the one we used but I highly recommend using a pneumatic staple gun if you can
- Staples 1/2-1″ long
- Carpet tucker tool
- Seam ripper
How to Install a Stair Runner
There are a number of excellent tutorials out there and we used a mix of three in particular. We followed Yellow Brick Home’s tutorial the most, grabbed the same staple gun that Young House Love used, and took rug joining advice from the Annie Selke runner install guide. If you need to run a runner around a corner, follow Deuce Cities Henhouse’s how-to.
First thing’s first, you need to measure your stairs to see how much area you need to cover (and how many runners you’ll need to buy). Measure the treads, the tread nose, and riser multiply but how many steps you have. We needed three 8′ runners to cover our steps plus a little leftover. Use the measurement of your treads x the number of steps to figure out how much padding you’ll need.
Once you have all your supplies, it’s time to get started. Start to finish, we spent about a day on the install, with leisurely breaks for showers, meals, headaches, and photos.
Stair Runner Install Prep Work
Before you can start stapling away, you need to do some prep work to make sure your rug is installed well. It’s math time: measure the width of your treads, subtract from that the width of your runner (actually measure it, don’t go by the width it says it is), and then divide that number in half. The number you get is the distance you’ll want to leave on either side of your runner to make sure it’s centered. You can use painters tape to mark one side to keep yourself on track as you go.
Then, measure the middle of your risers and pop a little mark in the middle. This will help you center your carpet pad bits.
Cut the carpet padding/rug pad into rectangles just a little shy of the depth of your treads (and width of your runner, if using padding that comes wider than your runner). Mark the middle of the rectangle to help align it in the center with the mark you made on the riser.
We used 1/4″ thick rug pads with rubber grip on one side. I chose this as an extra measure to try to keep the runner in place. We put 3 strips of carpet tape (one on each end and in the middle) on the fuzzy side of the padding and then secured them in place on the center of the stair tread.
You’re almost ready to staple! I used John and Sherry’s trick of using a Sharpie on the staples before loading them into your staple gun. This really helps hide the staples in the dark areas of your runner.
We started by stapling the runner just under the tread nose and drove staples into the trim on the riser. Because of the bulk of the end of the rug, you can definitely see where the staples went in. It’s noticeable in this photo but it is not something that catches my eye much in person.
We continued by adding staples on the underside of each tread nose and then at the bottom of each riser. It’s important to use the carpet tucker tool to tuck the runner tightly into the corner where the riser and tread meet.
Here’s our progress with one whole 8′ runner installed. Next, it was time to add the second runner.
Adding the Second Runner
To join rugs, you need to layer the end of one rug on top of the beginning edge of the next. Our first runner ended at a point where there wasn’t quite enough overlap, so I tore out the end seam with a seam ripper.
Undoing the edge of the runner also helped reduce the bulk where the two rugs meet.
We placed the second runner on top of the first runner’s end flap (I’m just making up terms here) snug against the back of the tread and stapled. We followed the Annie Selke tutorial and merged the rugs on the tread instead of the riser. I like this method (vs joining the rugs on the riser) because it’s less obvious when you stand back and admire the stairs.
We repeated this process to add the third rug. When we reached the bottom of the last stair, there was quite a bit of rug left over. I used my scissors to trim the rug leaving about two extra inches. We tucked the extra bit back and under and the rug, making a nice finished edge.
Our Staircase After:
Here is our finished runner with Penelope on her favorite step, keeping watch. When I first showed the swatch for this rug on my Instagram stories, a few very kind people reached out to say that the horizontal stripes would be a nightmare. They warned me that they wouldn’t be straight and that it would drive me nuts. And I really really second-guessed myself and thought about how much perfection I wanted. (I usually want only perfection.) But I am equal parts perfectionist and stubborn person, so I ordered it anyway.
While we installed the runners, I saw that we couldn’t keep the lines perfectly straight nor lay the pattern exactly the same on each step. AND I’M OK WITH IT. I loved it instantly. Maybe I woke up at 4am worried I’d made a huge mistake, maybe I couldn’t get back to sleep for two hours. But when I woke up and looked at it again, I was just happy. The pattern itself is organic and I think the imperfections match the well-loved state of our stairs.
A view of stair-safety at its most cozy.
I just really love it.
Here’s proof of Penelope’s new confidence to run full speed down the steps to bark at a lawnmower.
Now that the runner is in, I am extra motivated to finish the entryway. I’m ready to add art and I’m keeping an eye out for the perfect entryway table to nestle in by the stairs.
Thanks for this post- I mentioned your reference section on my website for our home. This was a great help in finalizing what we would do vs. just using a standard staircase runner (carpet).