Michelle's DIY Staircase Runner: A Step-by-Step Guide
Updated: Apr 29, 2020
As much as I love my staircase and am proud of my DIY job on staining them, my white risers were getting a beat down with scuff marks and dirt that I could no longer keep up repainting and cleaning them over and over again. We have a lot of foot traffic in our home and I wanted to preserve the look I worked really hard on. Not to mention, with two young ones and a clumsy adult (myself), those stairs do get slippery, so a runner would only be an added safety measure. The feat of actually installing it myself was a bit daunting.
I was even told by a professional contractor that a stair runner is best preserved for a carpenter to do the job, rather than doing it myself. Challenge accepted!!
I dived into researching several different blogs and videos to watch and learn how to do a runner myself. I learned a lot from reading over the DIY tutorial from "Young House Love" by John and Sherry Petersik, which helped me out tremendously. I was able to save quite a bit of time since I had already stained my stairs (DIY tutorial in Southern Sweets Magazine 2018 Spring Issue). It was just a matter of adding the runner, a task that would only require a few hours, rather than an entire weekend. Once I felt comfortable enough to do it, I had to narrow down my runner options, which I turned to my Instagram family to help me decide. That was a lot of fun getting everyone's vote and reactions. Ultimately, I decided on the nuLOOM Traditional Honeycomb Grey Runner Rug (2'8 x 8') runner, the winning Instagram vote. I measured the distance of my stairs from top to bottom and ordered three runners to accommodate its length.
For the runner itself, I had been price watching it and waited till the price dropped and scooped it up during the Black Friday sale period and I also had about $25 in store credit rewards that I applied to the cost as well. I'm all about saving any little bit where I can.
Once the runners arrived, I took Young House Love's tips and marked my stairs with tape all the way down, an even distance from each side to ensure the runner will lay centered once I start stapling. The green tape would be my alignment guide.
I remembered reading a very easy, but very important tip (applicable to some): color your staples (top part only) black with a sharpie to help them blend more in the rug as you staple. I didn't for the first two and you could very easily see the staples in the rug, so I had to pull them out. That wasn't going to work. My rug has plenty areas of dark spot patterns so I knew the black colored staples would indeed blend in seamlessly. This was a job my kids were more than excited and anxious to do, helping jump in to assist their mommy on our stair project and color all the staples. TIP: If possible, either color the staples or buy staples in the same or similar color to your runner for them to be less noticeable.
Before laying the first runner down, I also cut and laid down on each step, a rug pad to help reinforce the runner from moving around. Thankfully, I already had a large extra one in our storage closet I ordered a long time ago that I was able to use (and save some money). I only cut them to be sized for center alignment on the stair and runner and shorter than the runner's width.
Now that I was all setup, I was ready to begin. I started on the first stair, stapling the runner along the riser only, never on the treads. That was my method all the way down. Stapled the top center first, then stapled 3-4 times to the right and 3-4 times on the left. Then 3-4 staples going down the riser on both left and right sides and also across the bottom of each riser. I used Lowe's Metal Carpet Tucking Tool to help tuck in the creases where riser meets tread and also under the lip of each stair tread. That helped keep everything crisp and tight. I never stapled on the treads because I didn't want to risk any staples being felt or walked on across bare feet. Ouch!
I read stair runner tutorials using either a nail gun or a stapler. I chose the stapler simply because that was a tool we already had (money saved). I just had to purchase the right size heavy duty staples (9/16") in order for them to go all the way through. Another reason, is if, in several years from now I want to change out the runner, it's easier to have the runner removed if stapled rather than nailed down. It's really a personal preference which you choose.
I'd highly recommend having all the right tools before starting your project. I hate stop-and-go right when you're in the middle of doing something and disrupting your work flow and that's exactly what happened to me. When transitioning from one runner to the next, always try to go for a seamless look. That may require trimming some of your runner to match up accordingly. At first, I was just using a regular utility knife and household scissors. That was very hard to cut and it left the runner with uneven and jagged edges. Not a good look. So I was left dead in my tracks for about a week until I could go back to Lowe's and purchase a carpet knife. So worth it because the cut was straight and easy by using the right tool. My carpet pile was too thick to use regular cutting utensils, but it all depends on the pile size of your rug.
When transitioning to the next runner, I lined it up under the stair tread lip for less cut noticeability and for a seamless look. I ordered three runners and I BARELY made it to the last step. The third runner literally folded under the last stair tread just far enough that I was successfully able to staple it securely. I probably would have cried if I had to order another 8-ft runner just to cut off 7-ft of it to wrap around the last stair. Just kidding, but that's why it's so important to have your measurements correct and to work with the right tools.
TOTAL COST AND ITEMS I USED:
M-D 3.5-in Metal Carpet Tucking Tool: $18.48 (qty 1)
9/16-in Leg Heavy-Duty Staples (1250-Count): $3.38 (qty 1 box)
3.75-in Folding Utility Knife: $12.58 (qty 1)
Arrow T50 Heavy Duty Manual Staple Gun: $18.97 (qty 1)...comparable to the Stanley brand we already had
FrogTape Multi-Surface Painter's Tape: $6.09 (qty 1)
Safavieh Ultra Non-slip Rug Pad (6' x 9"): $29.20 (qty 1)...price will vary depending on needed size
nuLOOM Traditional Honeycomb Grey Runner Rug (2'8 x 8') runner: $235.20 (qty 3)
We absolutely love the runner and that in itself has helped transform the look and feel of our entryway. The runner is very soft and plush and the pattern is perfect for hiding dirt and debris from foot traffic. Exactly what I wanted. We're very happy with the results and I'm happy that we gave it a try doing it ourselves. Another step to creating the home of our own.
NEXT (DIY Staircase Stain back in early Spring)
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