Installing a Carpet Runner on Stairs: Mistakes to Avoid Installing a Carpet Runner on Stairs: Mistakes to Avoid

For someone who has never installed a carpet runner on stairs, mistakes are commonly made. With several steps involved in the process, there is a lot of room for error. From the positioning of the tackless strips, the securing of the padding and the cutting and installing of the runner itself, plenty can go wrong. To do the job right the first time and not waste any materials, educate yourself on some of the more common mistakes. With that knowledge, you can avoid them when you come to the step. 

Wrong Length of Tackless Strips

The tackless strips need to be pre-cut to a particular size before their installation. Don’t make the mistake, though, of cutting them to the same width as the runner. The edges of the carpet runner will be scored and folded over, so the length of the tackless strips need to account for that. Cut the strips 4 inches shorter than the width of the carpet. That way, after you fold the carpet over on itself, you’ll be able to staple the carpet down without hitting the strip. 

Improper Strip Positioning

Another mistake that is commonly made is placing the tackless strips too close together on the riser and tread. Each strip should be nailed to the wood 1/2 inch from the crotch or place where the tread meets the riser. Additionally, the pins facing up on the strip should be angled towards the crotch as well. To get an accurate placement, use a consistent guide such as 2 pieces of strip glue together. You’ll get the right position every time. 

Padding Mistakes

When installing the padding atop the wood, don’t cover the strips with it. Staple it to the wood butted right up against each strip. Don’t pre-measure and cut each piece either. You want the padding to be a little slack where it drapes over the stair nosing. Also, be sure to cut the padding to a width the same as the tackless strips, not the carpet. 

Carpet Installation Mistakes

By far the most challenging part of the job is correctly installing the runner itself. If you pre-cut the carpet to length, make sure you add the measurement of the total amount of tread, riser and around each nosing from the beginning of the runner to the end. Don’t neglect to add 3 inches per stair to account for the padding and to give yourself some room for error. A common mistake is affixing the carpet with the frayed side edges showing. For this, you’ll need to score the carpet on the backside and fold each long end over on itself. The 2 straight lines you mark lengthwise on the back should be the same distance apart as the strips are long. 

When stapling the runner to the wood, start at the bottom riser and staple just below the nosing of the tread. Bring the carpet over the nosing, pull it tight and jam it into the corner onto the pins of the strips using either a flat, broad knife or a knee-kicker carpeting tool. Don’t staple it to the next riser until you are sure it is perfectly flat on the tread. Staple along the side edges every 4 inches on both riser and tread, but not until you’ve secured the carpet width-wise. 

Mistakes are going to happen to people the first time they install carpeting along stairs, but with a little knowledge in advance, many of them can be avoided. 

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