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How to Choose and Lay a Stair Runner: An Overview

Published on:

4/10/19

written by:

Carrie Barker

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I am often asked, Do you like having a stair runner? My answer to this question is a resounding YES! If you are on the fence about adding a stair runner or are unsure where to even start, this post is for you! If you are looking for a tutorial on How to Install a Stair Runner, you’ll have to keep looking … I am NOT a DIYer!

What I CAN do is provide an overview of how to choose and lay a stair runner! That is … what carpet works well on stairs, installation methods available, special considerations, and of course some carpet pattern recommendations!

Affiliate links are used in this post for your shopping convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

how to choose and lay a stair runner

Stanton Carpet Atelier Collection

WHY ADD A STAIR RUNNER

Not only does a beautifully patterned stair runner add style to an otherwise bland space, but it also provides safety. Exposed wood treads are gorgeous (especially with white risers) BUT they can be slippery and dangerous! Other stair runner benefits include increased comfort and better noise absorption than a hard surface.

It is true that a staircase with exposed wood tread is beautiful BUT it can be just as beautiful with a runner! Painting the risers white before carpet installation provides a classic look. The wood tread and white risers will remain exposed a few inches on either side of the runner so you don’t fully lose this classic look!

how to choose and lay a stair runner

BEST CARPET TYPE FOR A STAIR RUNNER

Be sure to choose a durable carpet style because your runner will work HARD! Stairs get a lot of use and suffer a lot of impact with the added force of gravity as feet descend stairs. Any style of carpet can be used on stairs BUT nylon and wool are the most desirable for runners. Both choices tend to be very durable and offer the most high-end look.

Another thing to consider is carpet pile. A high pile carpet will show wear more quickly than a low pile carpet. The bottom line … purchase the highest quality and highest durability carpet you can afford! This will save you money in the long run because you won’t have to replace the carpet as soon as you would with a low-quality product.

Don’t forget the carpet pad! Your pad should be slightly more narrow than your runner so it isn’t visible from the side of an open staircase.

Recommended Post: 4 TOP USED CARPET FIBER TYPES: WHICH IS BEST?

STAIR CARPET PATTERN

A stair runner is a great place to incorporate a patterned carpet because it is a small space (which = less of a design commitment)! Including at least a subtle pattern is also a great way to hide wear and tear on your runner. It is best to go with a small pattern on stairs because a large pattern gets lost.

A pattern is gorgeous and fun but it can be HARD to line up! I highly recommend hiring a skilled installer to ensure the pattern lines up well. I learned this lesson the hard way. I didn’t do my research in finding a reputable professional to lay my basement stair carpet … and it shows! Believe me, I made sure to find the most skilled carpet professional to install the runner on my main staircase!

SHOP MY FAVORITE STAIR RUNNER CARPET PATTERNS

 

WAYS TO LAY A STAIR RUNNER

There are two ways to install a stair runner: waterfall and French cap.

Waterfall Installation // Source: whitewashedhouse.tumblr

The waterfall method involves bending the carpet over the edge of the stair and bringing it straight down to meet the tread of the next step. This method is the easiest, fastest, and most common way to install carpet on stairs. It is the optimal method for thick carpet because the thicker the carpet, the more difficult it is to wrap around the edge of the tread.

choose and lay a stair runner

French Cap Installation

I opted for the French Cap method which offers a more tailored look. This method involves wrapping carpet around the edge of the stair and tucking it under the lip so it contours to the shape of the step. It requires more time and skill than the waterfall method during installation. I recommend hiring a professional to do this type of installation.

WIDTH AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

The width of your stair runner is up to you; it really depends on how much of the wood tread and riser you want to be exposed. The majority of stair runners are 27″ or 30″ wide. My stair treads are 49.5” wide and my runner is 31” wide with 7” of exposed wood on either side. This does not include the exposed wood outside the baluster. If you have a stair landing, you should continue the runner and exposed wood on your landing.

My stair landing and window seat measurements:

Width from wall to outside of balusters: 97”
Depth from window seat to stairs: 52”
Depth from window seat to middle post: 45.5”
Window seat depth: 18”

choose and lay a stair runner

Stair Runner on Landing

Another consideration is how to transition the runner at the top of the stairs. You do not need to have the same carpet on the second floor as you have on your stairs. This photo shows how my staircase seamlessly transitions to a different carpet style.

I ordered my nylon Stanton carpet from a local Interior Design boutique. However, you can order carpet online and have a local professional cut and bind the rug to create your stair runner. One of my favorite rug companies, Dash and Albert, has fabulous patterns for stair runners. Any Dash and Albert rug that is woven cotton or indoor/outdoor can be used on stairs.

I hope you learned a thing or two about how to choose and lay a stair runner from this overview! If you are ready to pull the trigger and shop for a stair runner, I have included several carpet runner ideas below!

SHOP STAIR RUNNER RUGS

  1. Rachel says:

    Love this post! What is the name of the pattern you have in your stairs in the pics?

    • Hi Rachel! My carpet runner is Stanton Carpet // Atelier Collection // Matisse Style // Color: Seaside. Hope that helps!

      • AN says:

        Hi Carrie, I got the sample for Stanton Seaside and it looks more blue than grey. In your pictures, it looks grey. In less light, does it look more blue on your stairs as well?

        • Yes, the carpet is definitely more blue than grey. It looks more blue in real life than in photos. I’m so glad you ordered a sample because colors always look different on websites/Instagram/Pinterest than they do in person. Kudos to you for ordering a sample! With all that said, I love the color of my runner 🙂

  2. Halle Hara says:

    I love the diamond carpet with the polka dot in the middle and tried to search for it on the Stanton site with no luck. Do you happen to have any more information or know if it’s still available?

    • Hi Halle! I’m not sure if my carpet is still available (I purchased it six years ago), but here is the info so you can do a little research … Hi Rachel! Stanton Carpet // Atelier Collection // Matisse Style // Color: Seaside. Hope that helps!

  3. Teann Nash says:

    Thank You

  4. Home Floors says:

    Stair runners look so beautiful especially on wooden stairs. I’ve been trying to find one for my stairs but still haven’t been able to. My living area is beige and brown but a stair runner of the same color wouldn’t look good.

  5. julia says:

    Hi Caroline. I am located in Canada. Do you know of any reputable places that sell some of these beautiful examples of runners? Thanks. You have a great blog. Keep up the great work 🙂

    • Hi Julia! Thank you for your kind words! I don’t know of exact places in Canada that sell the rugs I have suggested in this post. However, I know that many of my local interior design boutiques sell Dash and Albert rugs. I would start with your local interior design boutiques or firms … ask them if they carry Dash and Albert rugs. I am not familiar with what brands are carried in Canada vs. only in the U.S. Sorry about that! Good luck :)!

  6. Julie says:

    What carpet do you have in the hallway at the top of the stairs? Up until this post, I was presuming I’d need to find a carpet that works for both the stairs and the hallway, so my mind is now blown! I like the neutral you’ve got in the hall, with a little accent on the runner.

    Here’s a follow-up question: my husband wants to keep the hall and stair carpet wall to wall, as it is now. That gives us some exposed wood on the side past the balusters for about a third of the staircase, but everything else would be carpeted. How/where do you transition from the runner to hall carpet if there’s not a strip of wood tread showing like what you have? Thank you so much!

    • I thought the exact same thing as you when I first started looking into carpet. I was going to do a blah carpet on my stairs so it would match upstairs. Then I had the epiphany that they didn’t have to be the same! I don’t have the information on the carpet we chose for our second floor. We chose it when we built and I didn’t record our sources very well … it’s just a very inexpensive low pile carpet.

      As far as your second question, it might be a little trickier to transition to a different carpet since you won’t have a strip of wood to separate the stairs and hall carpet. I’m not sure how this would look, but I would probably stop the stair carpet at the same place I stopped mine. Instead of a wood bullnose, you could wrap the upstairs carpet around the nose. Hope that helps!

  7. Alyssa says:

    Great post! Your foyer looks so beautiful that I’m considering using the same carpet on my stairs. How is this holding up to your pet? I have a mini golden doodle and wonder if his nails will catch on the loops. Thanks!

    • Aww! I have a mini golden doodle too! They are the best :)! The stair runner has held up great to Lulu’s little nails! She’s five-years-old, so she’s been walking up and down those stairs for five years and there is no sign of dog or nail snags anywhere on the carpet!

  8. […] RECOMMENDED POST:  HOW TO CHOOSE AND LAY A STAIR RUNNER: AN OVERVIEW! […]

  9. Lindsey Brooks says:

    Hi, which color of the Dash and Albert Fieldstone pattern is featured?

  10. […] a matter of fact, my most popular blog post is HOW TO CHOOSE AND LAY A STAIR RUNNER: AN OVERVIEW. This proves that the stair runner is here to […]

  11. AN says:

    Hi Carrie – Love your blog. Does your stair runner have an extra trim on the side? If yes, can you provide me the details of the trim – color, material and width? Thank you!

    • Hi! I’m not exactly sure what you mean … I do have binding on the side of the runner. Is that what you’re referring to when you say ‘trim’? Unfortunately, I don’t remember the color, material or width since my runner was installed over six years ago. So sorry about that!

  12. […] 1. HOW TO CHOOSE AND LAY A STAIR RUNNER: AN OVERVIEW […]

  13. […] see when they walk into your home. For this reason, you need to try and update them with a stylish stair runner. This is the best way for you to add some color without having to worry about going overboard, so […]

  14. Suzann says:

    I’ve been trying to find how to end a stair carpet runner on the top of the stairs (landing?). I’m putting it over carpet not wood because the wood is really awful and would take a lot of work to rectify.
    All the photos I look at never show how the top ends ????‍♀️
    Can you advise?
    Thank you
    Suzann

    • Hi Suzann! I actually have a photo of the top of my stairs in this blog post. This shows where I ended the runner at the wood cap. I also have a photo of how the runner goes over the wood at my stair landing. You should have an example of both in this blog post. I apologize that my photos aren’t the greatest quality … I’m not a photographer :). Carrie

  15. Rachel A Brickman says:

    Hello. I am having a hard time finding something similar to the carpet with the border. Do you have information on that you can share?

  16. Margaret Friel says:

    Shopping for stairway Runner carpet online is like trying to find a needle in a Haystack. It would seem no one puts carpet on stairways anymore.
    How do I find the Manufacturers who offer Stairway RUNNERS? Absolutely Not Treads! Also not looking for bold or distinct patterns, preferably a runner that is plain beige or brown in center & the contrast color ( brown/beige) 2″-3″ boarder running along the sides. It Just Doesn’t seem to be out there, or if it is, I’m not finding it.
    Can You Help? I live in Springfield, Illinois & have lined up someone to install the carpet, not it’s just a matter of Finding It.
    Many Thanks,

    • Hi Margaret! If you want something plain, I suggest you purchase carpet from a local carpet store. The retailer hopefully has an installer who is well versed in installing a stair runner. Another option is to visit a local interior design boutique. Best! Carrie

  17. Liz says:

    Hi,

    We recently had a runner installed in a staircase with a landing but realized the upper flights of stairs were longer. Do we keep the runner the same length for all stairs to be consistent or do the longer stairs need more carpet?
    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Liz! Ok, I’m a little confused by what you mean about the upper stairs are ‘longer’. Do you mean they are wider? My gut instinct is to say that the width of the runner should be the same for consistency. However, I can’t give you a definitive answer without seeing your actual staircase and looking at the measurements. That would turn into a mini e-design situation … which I’m happy to do, but I charge a small fee. If you would like more personal feedback on your runner, let me know!

  18. Jeff says:

    I have U shaped stairs like yours. I’m going to attempt to DIY this. Do you know how the landing was laid so that there is a finished edge on all sides? I’m just not sure how to accomplish this if the runner is only finished on the edges, and to make it all look seemless.

    • Hi Jeff! More power to you for DIYing this project! I am the wrong person to ask about how the landing was laid. I have the vision for how I want things to look when completed, but I rely on the experts to actually do the project. Sorry, but I can’t help you with this! – Carrie

  19. Lynne Gerber says:

    Love this! I love the stair runner that you have in the sample picture for the waterfall option with the border. Do you happen to know what brand that carpet is by chance?

  20. Jill Elliott says:

    Hello! Love this post and your stair runner. I clicked on the links within the post and they all seem to take me to rug links on Wayfair. Do you use the rugs to make the runner or are those just showing some pattern ideas?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Jill! The links to Wayfair are for rugs that would work well as stair runners. The Dash and Albert rugs make great runners. The way stair runners work is that you purchase the rug (or carpet slab) and create a runner from it. My stair runner is actually just carpet that I purchased from a local design boutique. It was a splurge though … Dash and Albert rugs are a much better price point :). – Carrie

  21. Jodi Fina says:

    Hi I love the Stanton carpet you chose. I’d like your thoughts on something. I have a curved staircase. At top of staircase my hallway curves following the curved balcony that overlooks the foyer and then it straightens out to a long hallway. My stairs are finished wood with white risers. Unfortunately upstairs is currently wall to wall that needs to get replaced and doesn’t have wood floors beneath. It’s nit in my budget to install wood and a carpet runner on stairs and hall. Do you think the style of rug yiu chose and color would look good on curved stairs and hallway? I have thibaut Baldwin herringbone grasscloth paper on walls currently in Avery very light blue grey.

    • Hi Jodi! It’s hard for me to give design advice without photos. However, I think the carpet runner pattern I have will look great on curved stairs. Like you, I have wall-to-wall carpet in the second-floor hallway and it isn’t a problem. – Carrie

  22. Meagan M McDevitt says:

    Hi! Thank you for posting a picture of the bullnose at the top of your stairs. I am trying to figure out that part of our project right now. We have picked out a blue patterned carpet for our stairs and a light cream carpet for the upstairs. Will a wood bullnose be a timeless transition piece? I am having a hard time finding information about top of stairs designer trends. I am leaning towards the bullnose transition but am worried it will be an outdated look soon.l
    Secondly, where is a good place to find an unfinished, red oak bullnose? Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Meagan! I don’t consider a wood bullnose piece to be trendy at all. I wouldn’t worry about that. I would check with a local lumber company or carpenter for recommendations on where to find your specific bullnose needs. Best of luck! – Carrie

  23. Lisa Marino says:

    Hi! I love the way the Dash and Albert rugs look and in my price point too. I was wondering if they feel slippery on the stairs? Also, what do you think of a braided carpet runner on the stairs? Thanks!

    • Hi Lisa, I don’t have the Dash and Albert rug on my stairs. I offer this as a lower-cost alternative since I splurged on a higher-end carpet for my stair runner. I have lots of experience with Dash and Albert rugs, however, and they are not slippery at all. I LOVE the quality!

  24. Maya A says:

    Hello! Do you have any advice and/or thoughts on the use of stair rods?

    • Hi Maya! I don’t really have advice or thoughts on stair rods. They aren’t my style, so I’ve never even given them a second thought. They certainly aren’t necessary … they are more just a stylistic piece to add if you like the look of rods.

  25. Laura Rhea says:

    Hi Carrie! I loved this article! I’ve been struggling with choosing a stair runner for a while and finally narrowed it down to a couple tailored wool (short/tight pile) carpets from Stanton and Bloomsburg. However when I spoke to a rep at a local carpet store she told me not to use wool because it would shed or wear down easily. Do you think that is accurate? All of the most beautiful patterns I have found are wool or wool/nylon blend. Would love your thoughts, Thank you!

    • Hi Laura! I’m 95% sure my stair runner is nylon. I originally thought I was ordering wool, but I’m pretty sure it’s nylon. It’s PERFECT and has held up amazingly after almost 8 years of daily (hard) use with children, lots of my kids’ friends running up the stairs, and a dirty little dog :). I highly recommend the Stanton nylon carpet because it is amazing quality.

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