How to Install a Stair Runner

Oct 14, 2021 | Foyer

It’s been a couple weeks since I installed our stair runner and I wanted to wait that long to write this post to make sure that there was no slipping or movement of the runner. So far, so good! It’s stayed in place so to me that means that the install was successful! Now, on to how to install a stair runner.

how to install a stair runner

Even though I love the look of our bare stairs since the wood stain color is so beautiful, we were all slipping and sliding especially walking down the stairs. Not to mention that one of my dogs has already had 2 “knee replacements” and I was worried about the dogs getting hurt. So, for safety reasons, we installed a runner.

I looked high and low for a stair runner that I liked and actually bought (and returned) two from WayFair. I wanted something subtle but not too light since I didn’t want to have to replace it soon. I found the perfect one from my local carpet warehouse after looking at a thousand-ish samples over two days.

It was definitely more expensive to go the custom route, but after not seeing one I liked that was ready-made, I had no issues with paying more to give my brain a rest from the carpet runner search. And, the runner was exactly the size that I needed so I didn’t have to worry about buying 2 or more shorter runners and trying to line them up perfectly to look like one carpet. My runner is already one carpet. So, how to install a stair runner?

Let’s get into the installation!

The supplies for this project are pretty basic and you probably already have a lot of these items.


I should say that initially I tried to install the runner using a brad nailer and that was a terrible idea. The electric staple gun was SO MUCH easier!

The Installation

There are a lot of videos out there that show you exactly how to do this, but sometimes I like reading the steps to get a better idea of the whole process, so here’s an old fashioned written out tutorial!

  1. Start by deciding how much runner you’ll need to buy. The calculations are pretty simple. Measure both the tread (horizontal part which is the wood part in my photo) and the riser (vertical part of step which is the white part in my photo). This should add up to about 18″ for a “normal” sized step. Then count the number of steps. Be sure to include the last riser, which leads to the upper landing. Multiply the number of steps by the total inches per stair (your previous measurement). Then divide by 12 to get the total linear feet necessary for your straight stairs. I added one extra foot of runner length to the total to be on the safe side. You can always cut off the excess.

2. Measure the carpet pads. Start by measuring the width of your runner and subtract 2 inches. That is how wide you’ll cut each stair pad. Then decide if you wan the stair pad to curve around the tread (that’s how I did it). The other option is to end the stair pad before it starts to round that bend. I didn’t like doing it that way because I don’t like seeing a line in my stair runner on each step where the pad ends and the runner keeps going. If you round the bend then measure the depth of your tread AND the bend to the very bottom of the bend (like the below photo). Don’t let your pad go the entire length of the stairs because the runner won’t have enough grip to the stairs.

3. Cut each of your pads. I measured the first pad and used that same pad as a template for every other pad. Don’t use the last pad you cut as a template for the next pad because you’ll end up with imperfections with every pad and by the end, the pads will be wonky. Think of it like a game of telephone… By the time the message gets to the last person, the message makes no sense.

When cutting, I used a sharpie to trace around my template onto the pad then used my utility knife to cut the pad. My pad was really thick so I had to then cut the pad with utility scissors where I scored the pad with the knife because the utility knife couldn’t go through the entire pad.

4. Install the pads with carpet tape. This tape is double sided and SUPER sticky! I just put the tape on the perimeter of each pad then pulled off the exterior paper and stuck the pads on the treads. Now this is important- Make sure you measure and mark where your pads go on the treads before sticking them on. There should be an even amount of space on either side of the tread. After you mark each tread with where your pad goes, THEN you can stick them on.

5. Get ready to install the runner! I stuck a long piece of carpet tape horizontally on each stair riser AND on each rug pad to make sure that the runner really adhered to both the riser and the rug pad. DON’T remove the exterior tape on the carpet tape until you start installing the runner otherwise when you head to the top of the stairs to install the runner, you’ll be stepping on VERY sticky tape on each tread.

Also, measure and mark each tread on either side of where the runner will go. If you don’t do this as a guide to help you, the runner WILL be wonky by the time you get to the bottom of the stairs. Then you’ll have to pull the whole thing up from the carpet tape and start over so don’t skip this step! Also measure where the rug goes on the very top riser (but not for the other risers because it’s not necessary).

6. Install the runner. Take your runner to the top of the stairs and pull off the exterior tape on the first riser. Using the marks you made, line up the runner with the corner of the bottom of the top landing and the topmost riser and push the runner into the tape. Press, press, press the runner into the tape and also shoot a few staples on the very top of the runner where the riser meets the top landing. I didn’t use a whole lot of staples in general except for the places where riser and tread meets on every step because the tape is very good at holding the runner in place.

Here’s little time lapse video to show you how I installed the runner.

7. Rinse and repeat all the way down the stairs. Make sure to push the runner into each crack of the stairs. I used a spackle knife to really get the carpet into those grooves. You can use anything though including a stiff credit card to shove the carpet in there. Also make sure to keep lining up the runner with your measurement marks.

8. At the bottom of the stairs, you’ll most likely have a bit too much runner in which case you can cut off the extra but leave about a half inch or so to tuck the runner under to leave a cleaner line. Remember to staple all along the way.

9. Fine Tune. There are going to be some staples that didn’t go through all the way so pull those out and replace with another staple. It was obvious which staples needed to be pulled out of my carpet because if I could see the staple, I knew it needed to be pulled out. Also make sure there are no bubbles or areas of the carpet that are not perfectly flat. If there are, staple those areas down.

10. Admire your handiwork!

This entire process took me about 4 hours and I have 14 steps. It wasn’t the funnest project I’ve done and by the end, my knees were pretty scratched up from the rug and pad, but I saved a few hundred dollars doing it myself. And that’s not bad!