How to Install a Stair Runner

A Dash & Albert stair runner rug will smarten up any staircase – we’re famous for our stair runner rugs.

How to install carpet runner on stairs:

    • 1. Determine Rug Length Needed
    • 2. Measure Width
    • 3. Create Individual Rug Pads
    • 4. Mark Cut Lines on the Rug Pad
    • 5. Adhere Carpet Tape

  1. 1. To estimate how long a runner you’ll need, have your installer measure the depth of the stair tread and the height of the riser. Multiply the total by the number of stairs to determine your total runner length.
  2. 2. When we install a runner at the studio, we measure the width of the treads from end to end, or from end to banisters, and mark the middle with a pencil.

  3. 3. Next we create individual rug pads for each stair tread by fitting the top edge of the pad against the back of the tread and gently straightening it.
  4. 4. Then we mark the cut line on the pad about .5 inches from the front of the stair tread. (The runner will be slightly wider than the rug pad, so that the edges of the rug pad don’t peek out from underneath.) We cut each rug pad along the line with fabric scissors.

  5. 5. We use double-stick carpet tape to fit the two outer edges and the middle of each rug pad tread cover as shown.

  6. 6. Next we fold the cut rug pads in half, preferably tape side out, to find the center and place the rug pads, tape side down, onto each tread, aligning the center fold with the pencil marks in the middle of each tread, smoothing out any bubbles.

  7. 7. We subtract the width of the runner from the width of the stair treads to determine the amount of space to leave on each side of the runner, marking these points to use as a guide. As we install the runner, we periodically check this measurement to ensure that the runner remains straight all the way down.

  8. 8. We align the top of the runner with the bottom edge of the first tread. This creates a cleaner, less bulky look than going all the way over the top of the first tread, and eliminates “floating” pieces at the top of the stairs.
  9. 9. Using a pneumatic staple gun, staple the runner in place at its top edge, approximately every 3 inches. Be sure to include staples on both of the outer edges.

  10. 10. We use a bolster chisel to pull the runner taut against the corner of the riser and the next tread and staple against the bottom of the riser approximately every 3 inches, including both of the outer edges. If you’re using a striped runner, we also step back and check to make sure the stripes are straight before moving on.
  11. 11. For a “waterfall-style” installation, which is a bit easier, we simply pull the loose end of the runner over the edge of the next stair tread and repeat step 10.

  12. 12. For stair treads that have bullnoses, we also use a “wrap-style” installation, which involves pulling the loose end of the runner over the edge of the tread and using the bolster chisel to pull it taut around the bullnose. Then we staple underneath the bullnose against the riser approximately every 3 inches, including both the outer edges.

  13. 13. We repeat the process, until nearing the end of the first runner. Leaving about a 2-inch piece for overlap, we cut off any remnant of runner, including the finished edge, to reduce bulk.

  14. 14. We overlap the 2-inch scrap of runner with the second runner, being careful to align the outer edges of the runners.
  15. 15. Then we resume the stapling process again.

  16. 16. When we reach the bottom stair, we pull the runner taut against the bottom riser with the bolster chisel, then measure an extra 2 inches of runner. Mark, and cut with fabric scissors.

  17. 17. Then we fold under the extra 2 inches of runner, and staple the double layer of fabric against the bottom of the riser, approximately 3 inches apart, including both the outer edges.

These are the finished looks.

We do not recommend DIY installation, however. We highly recommend professional installation for all stair runner rugs. (We documented the process above to show what’s involved on a level staircase without a landing.

If you’re determined to install your stair runner rug on your own, we also recommend watching this tutorial from our friends at This Old House. The tutorial starts at the :30 second mark.

The DOs and DON’Ts of stair runner installation:

    • DO measure your stairs – or have your installer measure your stairs – to determine how many stair runner rugs to order.
    • DO choose a runner rug that’s appropriate for stairs. Micro hooked wool rugs are the best construction for stairs, in part because these rugs have a built-in cotton canvas backing. Many people use and love our cotton, wool, and sisal runners for stairs, but over time, these rugs may stretch. Many people use and love our indoor/outdoor polypropylene runners on stairs, but some customers find them slippery. Jute and P.E.T. runners are not recommended for stairs. P.E.T. will pill under the foot traffic and jute will stretch.
    • DO use a rug pad.
    • DO order consistent lengths. If you need 20 feet worth of coverage, please order two 12-foot runners – as opposed to an 8-foot runner and a 12-foot runner. Our rugs are handmade, and the different length rugs are made on different looms. Ordering the same lengths will help with pattern matching. You should also have your installer confirm the patterns line up before installing.
    • DO order a swatch. Consider the swatch both from the bottom of the staircase and from the top, looking down. High contrast patterns – like navy and white stripes – may cause dizziness.
    • DO call our Berkshires-based customer service team if you have questions. We’re here to help. 877-586-4771.
    • DON’T Use horizontal stripes on stairs. Trust us: The pattern won’t be consistent, and the results won’t look polished.
There aren’t many staircases that couldn’t benefit from a colorful and personality-packed Dash & Albert stair runner. (Not to mention that a runner also protects your wooden stair treads against wear and tear from the clickety-clack of heeled shoes and little—or big—pet paws.) Since you’ve been asking for installation tips for a while now, we put together this definitive how-to for how to install a stair runner without rods. The coolest part? It’s a whole lot simpler than you might think.

What you’ll need:

    • Dash & Albert woven cotton, indoor/outdoor, or wool stair runners of your choice; have your installer measure your stairs first to determine the total length needed (see step 1)
    • 2’ x 8’ rug pads; have your installer measure your stairs first to determine the total length needed (see step 1)
    • Fabric scissors
    • Pneumatic staple gun
    • 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch staples
    • Tape measure
    • Yardstick or other straight edge
    • Double-stick carpet tape
    • Pencil
    • Marker
    • Bolster chisel
    • A little patience

For more inspiration, see:

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