At long last we have a stair runner and it’s the most glorious addition to our home. I installed it myself and I’m here to share the process so you too can install a stair runner in your home. It’s easier than you think. With a little patience and a beautiful woven runner your stairs will look amazing, be safer for your family and feel cozy underfoot.
A DIY tutorial on how to install a stair runner. A complete step by step guide to installing a woven stair runner.
This is a DIY project you can definitely tackle and achieve professional looking results. Be sure to read through my notes, tips and steps below before you begin so you are fully versed in the process and ultimately feel confident enough to install a stair runner in your home.
Stairs Before & After
Let’s start with a nice BEFORE shot so you know where things began. We have a closed stringer split staircase with a middle landing which leads to our lower level family room. The treads are oak and the landing is pine and everything was stained dark with a satin poly when we moved in nine years ago.
And now for the AFTER!
It feels so complete and refined. I’m no interior designer but now that I installed the stair runner this space finally feels finished.
Woodard Weave Stair Runners
This gorgeous striped runner is from Woodard & Greenstein. They have a beautiful line of woven rugs and runners inspired by antique American rugs.
Long story short back in my 20s I worked for an interior designer in NYC and visited the Woodard & Greenstein shop space many times collecting and returning samples. I always remembered their shop space up on the 2nd floor filled with antiques, quilts, folk art and the most gorgeous rug patterns in all manner of stripes, checks and more. Fast forward 25 years later and I now live in an antique 1740 saltbox home so it was only natural that select a Woodard Weave woven runner for my stairs.
I definitely recommend taking a browse through their site and requesting a catalog. From there you can request a few samples in order to see the rugs in your space and make a decision on which pattern and color fits best. Ultimately I settled on the Windham pattern as this set of stairs is actually in a newer addition part of our home so it felt like the best design choice.
Ordering a Stair Runner
Once you’ve made a decision on the pattern it’s time to measure how much runner you will need. Each staircase is different so measure carefully.
- measure the riser + nose + tread
- multiply by the number of steps
- be sure to account for any curved steps or funky angles
- measure any landings
- add it altogether in inches and divide by 12 for total number of feet
Details to Consider
- binding (wide or narrow binding sewn onto the edge)
- ends (fringed, cut or bound)
- protective treatment (sealant to retard soiling)
For this installation I wrapped the runner completely around the riser and tread nose. There is an alternate option of a waterfall installation where the runner comes off the tread and is pulled down at an angle into the crevice of the riser and next tread. I prefer this wrapped look as it feels more complete to me but if you’re considering other options maybe a waterfall installation is right for you.
When we moved in back in 2013 everything was painted red. I quickly refinished the space with a lot of white paint and gave the stairs their first makeover.
And now I have refreshed the space again complete with a stair runner.
One important item to consider if you have a landing is how the runner will be installed in that space. I had originally planned for a mitered seam which is a diagonal seam where to two pieces of rug meet on the landing. However, once I had the rug in the space the mitered seam felt very extreme. It created the feeling of 3 blue arrows pointing into the corner and it felt very sharp drawing your eyes into the corner. So ultimately I decided to go with a 90 seam as you see below:
Let’s get down to business and see how to install this stair runner.
- Woodard Weave woven stair runner
- rug pad
- utility knife
- 1″ – J pin carpet tack strips
- measuring tape
- painters tape
- tin snips (or tack strip cutters)
- carpet stair tool
- carpet stapler
- 1/2″ x 3/16″ crown staples
Step 1: Prepare the wood treads. I sanded off the old dark stain and poly. Then I sealed the oak treads with Pallmann magic oil.
Step 2: Determine placement. Measure the width of your tread and subtract with width of the runner. Then divide by 2 and that will be the amount of exposed wood tread on each side of the runner. Use a measuring tape and painters tape to mark the runner placement on the tread.
- My treads are 32″ wide and my runner is 28″ wide.
- 32 – 28 = 5
- 5 divided by 2 is 2.5
- I marked each side of the tread at 2.5″ with painters tape.
The painters tape will provide a guide as you do the installation. It is critical to keep the runner lined up perfectly with the edge of the painters tape. This is especially important if you have a runner with a vertical stripe like mine because any shifting in the stripe will make your installation look less than professional.
Carpet Tack Strips
Step 3: Prepare the carpet tack strips. Use tin snips (or a tack strip cutter) and cut the tack strips to size. The tack strips should be 2″ shorter than the width of your runner. My runner is 28″ wide so I cut the tack strips at 26″ long.
Step 4: Install the carpet tack strips. Use a scrap piece of tack strip as a spacer against the riser. You want to leave space here for the rug to fit into the crevice. Be sure to center the tack strip between the pieces of tape.
Use a hammer to install the tack strips into the treads.
You most definitely want padding under the woven runner. Woodard Weave suggests a 40 oz. padding which is typically sold by the 100′ roll to carpet installers. Seeing as I’m installing this runner myself I sourced the closest I could to 40 oz. and decided to use a thick rug pad with no backing.
Step 5: The rug pad should measure 2″ shorter than your runner width x distance from the front of the carpet tack strip then around the nose plus 3″. For my staircase I cut the rug pads at 26″ x 12″ using a utility knife and ruler.
Step 6: Begin by stapling the rug pad flush to the tack strip every 3″. Then pull the pad gently taught and staple under the nose every 3″.
Once the rug pad is firmly attached then go back and remove any excess padding from under the nose.
Step 7: Use a scissors to remove the excess padding to make a smooth transition for the runner from the nose to the riser. Any excess padding will create a lumpy area on the riser and that doesn’t look nice.
For the landing area be sure to cut one big piece of padding. You don’t want any seams in the padding here and again the padding should be 1″ smaller than the runner on all sides. Use your tape markings as a guide.
Stair Runner Installation
There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to installation – those who start at the top of the staircase and those who start at the bottom. I choose to start at the bottom. Also note I have a baseboard that runs across the bottom riser. I choose to keep that baseboard in position as it provides a finished edge for the bluestone and a nice spot to begin the runner. It keeps the runner off the stone and actually prolongs the life of the runner there since that is exactly where the front of peoples shoes would hit the runner.
Step 8: Begin by stapling the raw edge of the runner to the riser at 3″ intervals. (See the red dots in the photo above.)
You may consider using a sharpie on your staples so they are more inconspicuous. You can do this before you load them into the stapler. Or after they are installed in the rug go back and apply Sharpie to any staple that is extremely visible.
Step 9: Now flip the rug up (right side out) and onto the steps above. Then smooth out the fold right at the baseboard and secure the rug to the riser using staples. Start in the center and work out to each side.
Step 10: Pull the runner taught up against the riser and staple under the nose. Again start at the center and work out to the edges.
Step 11: Now pull the stair runner taught and allow it to catch on the tack strips. Here is where you can use the carpet tucking tool to shove the runner into the seam between the tread and riser. Then staple the runner into the crevice starting at the center.
For the landing area you can see the stair runner is stapled on the edge about every 2″. To make the finished edge simple fold under the runner and staple down. And for the seam where to 2 pieces meet be sure to tuck the cut edge under at least 2″ and then secure the exposed edge every 2″.
Keep repeating the process until you have completed the stair case. Then marvel at your work!
Thanks for joining me for this stair runner installation project. Please leave any questions in the comments below and be sure to follow me on social media for sneak peeks, tools and project inspiration:
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