Stair Runner Installation

Apr 11, 2013

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 installing a stair runner. The coolest part? It’s a whole lot simpler than you might think.


What you’ll need:

  • Dash & Albert woven cotton or indoor/outdoor stair runner of your choice; measure your stairs first to determine the total length needed (see step 1)
  • 2’ x 8’ rug pads; 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


How to do it:

1. To determine how long a runner you’ll need, measure the depth of the stair tread and the height of the riser. Multiply the total by the number of stairs; this is your total runner length.

2. Measure the width of the treads from end to end, or from end to banisters. Mark the middle with a pencil.

3. 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.  Mark the cut line on the pad about .5 inches from the front of the stair tread. (Note that the runner will be slightly wider than the rug pad, and thus the edges of the rug pad won’t peek out from underneath.) Cut the rug pad along the line with fabric scissors. Measure and cut as many rug pads as needed to cover all treads.

5. Cut three pieces of double-stick carpet tape to fit the two outer edges and the middle of each rug-pad tread cover. Place them on the rug pad, making sure to align two pieces of the tape with the outer edges of the pad.

6. Fold the cut rug pads in half, preferably tape side out, to find the center.

7. Place the rug pads, tape side down, onto each tread, aligning the center fold with the pencil marks you created in the middle of each tread. Press with your hands to smooth out any bubbles.

8. Subtract the width of the runner from the width of the stair treads; the difference is the amount of space you’ll leave on each side of the runner. You can mark these points to make them easier to follow. Important: As you install the runner, periodically check this measurement to ensure that the runner remains straight all the way down.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Use a bolster chisel to pull the runner taut against the corner of the riser and the next tread. Staple against the bottom of the riser approximately every 3 inches, including both of the outer edges. If you’re using a striped runner, step back and check to make sure the stripes are straight before moving on.

12. For a “waterfall”-style installation, which is a bit easier, simply pull the loose end of the runner over the edge of the next stair tread and repeat step 10.

13. For stair treads that have bullnoses, you can also do a “wrap”-style installation. Pull the loose end of the runner over the edge of the tread and use the bolster chisel to pull it taut around the bullnose. Staple underneath the bullnose against the riser approximately every 3 inches, including both the outer edges.

14. Repeat steps 9 through 11 or 12, until you reach the end of your first runner. Leaving about a 2-inch piece for overlap, cut off any remnant of runner, including the finished edge, to reduce bulk.

15. Overlap the 2-inch scrap of runner with the second runner, being careful to align the outer edges of the runners.

16. Begin the stapling process again.

17. When you get to the bottom stair, 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.

18. 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.

Finished “waterfall”-style stair runner

Finished “wrap”-style stair runner

  1. I love this post Annie – we’re in the process of finishing a basement remodel and are almost at the stair ‘runner’ part. Perfect timing : ) Happy Spring ! Best- Robyn

  2. Mary

    I was thinking the same thing – perfect for the steps leading down to the basement! I never knew a pneumatic stapler was in my future until now. :)

  3. I love this tutorial and am so happy to be introduced to these rugs by a fellow Yankee.

    • Fresh American

      Glad we could be helpful! As you can tell, we’re floor-decor enthusiasts. :)

  4. Karen Calvert

    Love this post. Thank you. I had so measured wrong and was so frustrated
    Question. I have three floors. First leads to second which is kitchen, small study, living Room and Dining room powder room.
    Second set leads to master bed, and laundry room and second of Three bedrooms. ( first floor my office converted and fourth bedroom( mother in law room which was cut out by adding an elevator.
    Do these two sets, they are not continuous. You walk around a corner, have to be same carpet? Thanks. Love love this site!!!

    • Hi Karen,

      Great question! Here’s a suggestion straight from Annie herself: “You don’t have to have all the rugs be the same. I think the rug chosen on each flight should work with the wall color of said stairway, but it could be really fun to use different rugs on each flight.”

      Hope this helps, and good luck with your project!

  5. Keggy25

    Thanks. I’m so excited to get started. I just saw that you responded when I went to go reprint so I could take with me to the store. I’m about to open a boutique and we’ve got steps leading to a tiny hang out/ office. I’m so doing this there too. With dash and Albert.

  6. Keggy25

    Thank you also for continued great ideas! It really makes me and my friends excited to see what you come up with next. We are hoping you do a roman shade with the cotton runners or small cotton rugs!!

  7. Hi Annie ,

    I am a professional stair runner fitter and that tutorial you have given is spot on . If you ever want a job come to us! hehehe!
    Fantastic job. tc. Julian

  8. Every weekend i used to go to see this site, as i wish for enjoyment, since this this website conations really pleasant funny stuff too.

  9. katie carson

    do you remember the name of the runner that is on the finished “wrap”-style stair?

  10. I’m looking forward to purchasing a runner for our entryway which features 5 stairs. However, I’m curious about cleaning guidelines because this will be used in the main entrance and there’s heavy traffic flow. Our house is a split-level and you have to ascend the steps to the main living area. We also have a dog. My concern is that once we staple down the runner, we obviously can’t remove it down to hose off outside as recommended. Any information that will help us would be awesome. Thank you so much!!! :)

    • Fresh American

      Hi, Catherine! For stair installations in homes that have pets, we recommend either an indoor/outdoor rug or a woven cotton rug, preferably in a pattern—this will help to camouflage everyday dirt, pet prints, and the occasional stain. For stains on stair runners, it’s essential to treat them as quickly as possible. First, blot up as much of the stain as possible with a clean, dry cloth. Then gently brush on a natural oxygen cleaner mixed with water, using a soft-bristle brush. Blot with a clean, damp cloth, and check to see if the process needs repeating. You can also try blotting or drizzling on a bit of white vinegar—just be careful not to oversaturate the rug (and any padding you might use underneath)—and rubbing gently with a clean, dry cloth or a soft-bristle brush.

      For pet stains, we love Nature’s Miracle; simply follow the directions on the bottle, being careful not to oversaturate the rug and/or padding.

      Good luck with your stair runner! Let us know what you choose.

  11. Amy K

    We purchased 3 runners (the Dash and Albert Diamond in Black/Ivory) to use on our stairs. We love the look but have a problem — two of the runners measure 29 inches wide exactly while the other measures 30 1/4. We contacted the store where we ordered them to see if another 29 inches could be found but no luck. Any tips on how/where to get the larger runner cut and bound? Or how to find a 29 inch runner? Thanks!!!!!

    • Fresh American

      Hi, Amy! So glad to hear you love your new stair runners, but sorry to hear about the sizing issue! We’ve passed along your question to our customer service team, and a rep will be contacting you shortly to help find a resolution.

  12. Christine Gonzalez

    Hi – I absolutely LOVE your runners however our floor guy who does carpet installations, etc says they ideally should be bound together in to one long piece? Where would I go for such a job?

    • Fresh American

      Hi, Christine! While it’s definitely true that bound runners make for the cleanest installation, it is possible to get the look by carefully overlapping the runners. But it can’t hurt to ask a rug installation specialist in your area; start by Googling “rug [or carpet] installation specialists” and the name of your city/area. Or check in with your floor guy — we bet he knows a few places you can go for advice!

  13. Millie

    I have stairs with a landing. How do you handle that issue?

    • Fresh American

      Hi, Millie! It is possible to create a great-looking rug installation on stairs with a landing…it just requires a bit of angled cutting to go move the rug around the landing and back up to the next floor. E-mail us at info AT freshamerican DOT com and we can send you some pics for inspiration!

  14. Gracie

    I have a question about how to deal with stairs that change direction. My stairs start between the dining and living rooms. There are three steps, then a small landing, whereupon one turns to the right and continues up another thirteen steps to the second floor. Would you take the runner all the way across the small landing – or just part-way – or ignore the first three steps entirely? Thanks!

    • Fresh American

      Hi, Gracie! We would definitely install the runner across the landing, for a more seamless look. This requires some angled cutting to place the rug pieces just right. E-mail us at info AT freshamerican DOT com and we’ll send you some pics to help with your landing design.

  15. Kate Goodrich

    Thank you so much Annie for the tutorial on installing the stair runner! I had bought a Dash and Albert runner and was able to install it by myself last weekend in about 2 1/2 hours including prep, and it looks awesome!!

    • Fresh American

      So glad to hear it, Kate! We’d love to see a pic of your finished stairs.

      • Kate Goodrich

        Quick question- I have found that the runner has really stretched out since being in place for a little over 2 weeks. The rugs were installed warm (they weren’t kept in the garage, etc), and I pulled them as taught as I could at the time, but they have loosened. I had installed them in the waterfall style, but am considering adjusting it to the bull nose style to take up the slack. What are your thoughts? Also, I find that the staples are shiny enough that they reflect light and can be noticeable- any suggestions? Thanks!!

        • Fresh American

          Hi, Kate! Fabric stretch can be a little frustrating. In this case, we would opt for more areas of attachment; the more anchors, the less fabric give. So definitely try a few more staples under the edge of the tread to keep the runner from slipping on the surface.

          For the staples, you have a couple options, though neither will erase the problem entirely when light reflects off the metal. For staples you’ve already installed, try carefully sanding the biggest offenders with a fine-grit sandpaper wrapped around the tip of a pen (this will give you more precision in targeting the small area of the staple, without running sandpaper over the rug weave, which could damage the top fibers). Sanding will dull the shiny finish that contributes to strong reflections. For any staples that you’re adding to help anchor the rug, ask your local home-improvement store if they have staples in either a different color or finish; some staples have a finish that makes them appear dull grey rather than bright stainless.

          Let us know how it works out!

  16. Annie tatirosian

    If you could please share the stair runner tutorial on a staircase with a curved stair landing above two straight stairs? Thanks!!

    • Fresh American

      We’re working on it, and will keep you posted on when we have it ready!

  17. Thank you so much for posting this. Although my husband may freak because we have a brand new home with beautiful wood stairs, I am going to try this myself. Our dog keeps slipping and I also love the look. I have found a few on the Dash and Albert website that I really love. However Im really struggling with the right size/amount to order. I have 12 stairs going up (the 13th is a landing) then 2 going up another direction. I was thinking I might not do the landing at all. That being said the measurements of the stairs are 10.5 deep by 8 high, needing about 18.5 in per stair. My calculation comes to 259 inches which is 21.58 feet. So, I would need either 3 of the 2.5×8 or 1 2.5×20 and 1 2.5×8. Does that sound correct? Thanks so much again.

    • Fresh American

      Hi, Michelle! What a fun project. We suggest calling our customer service team directly to make sure you get everything you need in one order. Feel free to reach out to them at 877-586-4771 between 8:00 am and 5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday.

  18. Fresh American

    Thanks for the shout-out, Rachel! We love your take on stairs as large-scale furniture in need of upholstery. :)


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