How to Choose a Stair Runner Rug

Having been in the area rug biz for a long time years now, we get a bunch of common questions, from “How do I place a rug in a room?” to “Which type of rug works best for my personal decorating style?” But the question we hear most frequently is “How do I install a runner rug on my stairs?”... which is followed quickly by “How do I choose a rug for said stair installation?” Today we’re tackling the latter, with a look at the best rug weaves for installing on stairs.

The way we see it, any discussion of choosing a rug to install on the stairs should start with which types of runners are not appropriate for the stairs. Because the stairs are one of the highest-traffic spots in the house, and because they take more of a pounding from pinpointed body weight in the same spots, over and over, some area rug weaves just aren’t up to the challenge. These include hand-knotted wool, viscose and cotton chenille rugs, which feel soft and cozy underfoot, but can be too delicate under constant traffic. While tufted wool also feels plush and luxurious, its density and higher profile makes it extremely difficult to staple through, and thus accurately (and safely) install on the stairs. Indoor/outdoor rope weaves are likewise too thick for stapling—though there are plenty of other options in this category; we’ll get to those in a moment. You’ll also want to avoid jute, which can be harder to clean.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other rug weaves that work beautifully in stair installations, and we’ve got a rundown on our favorites. Don’t forget to use a rug pad for your stair installation; it will help give the rug extra grip against slippery stairs, and will also offer a little more cushion underfoot.

Micro-Hooked Wool

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Photo via @upriver.home

All the durability of woven wool in a plusher, bouncier weave. Micro-hooked wool runner rugs stand up to repeat foot traffic and vacuuming. While professional cleaning is required for heavier stains, lighter or fresh stains can be blotted up and spot cleaned with your favorite cleaner or a bit of white vinegar (always test an inconspicuous area first!) Though stray loops of yarn may pop up from time to time on micro-hooked wool rugs, these can be trimmed to surface level with a pair of sharp scissors. Pets love these rugs, which is great for napping or playing, but not so much for scratching.

Woven Cotton

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Lightweight, easy to clean, and available in a huge range of patterns and colors, woven cotton rugs are ideal for stairs installations. They’re featherweight, slender in profile, and have a flexible weave, which makes them a cinch to wrap tightly around bullnoses and risers. Woven cotton rugs are also the most affordable option for a stair installation, which often requires two to three runners to complete from landing to landing. Stains on woven cotton rugs should be treated promptly, so they don’t have a chance of setting in. Since steady foot traffic can make lighter-colored cotton rugs appear worn over time, we always opt for patterns with great camouflage factor, like saturated or multicolor stripes, plaids, or geometric patterns.

Indoor/Outdoor Rugs

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Photo via @htsimplysmashing

Lightweight and flexible, indoor/outdoor rugs come in a wide array of fun patterns that create killer stair installations. Because they’re so affordable and easy to clean—vacuum regularly, and spot clean stains with a bit of water, detergent, and a soft-bristle brush—indoor/outdoor runner rugs are perfect for the stairs in homes with kids or pets. It’s essential to tightly wrap indoor/outdoor rugs around risers and staple them securely to prevent movement and possible slips.

Woven Wool

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Photo via @therugmerchant2001

Tightly woven and extremely durable and long-lasting, woven wool area rugs are a terrific option for the stairs. They can take a beating for years with little sign of wear, are easy to vacuum and spot clean, and look good as new with regular maintenance. The low profile and lighter weight of woven wool rugs makes them easy to position around stair risers and landings, and simple to staple in place.

Once you’ve picked the type of rug for your stairs, get the installation how-to right here. Then share the design love by tagging us @annieselke. We love to see your creativity at work!

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