DIY experts share how to install a stair runner yourself

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A stair runner can provide an attractive and affordable alternative to carpeting hardwood stairs. There are a plethora of designs available and the installation process is relatively straightforward… But can you install a stair carpet runner on your staircase without hiring a professional?

Although fitting a stair runner can seem a little daunting, it’s actually surprisingly easy with the right preparation and know-how. Luckily, you can save yourself some cash and give your staircase a welcome makeover for less by doing some careful DIY using easily-attainable tools.

With this in mind, Nick Acaster managing director of Stair-Rods Direct & Rugs Direct has shared his simple step-by-step guide to installing a stair runner. 

Nick said: “This guide will help even DIY novices install a stair runner on a straight staircase. A staircase with any turns in it becomes a bit more complex. For this, we advise getting a professional in to do the job properly.”

What you’ll need:

  • Your stair runner of choice
  • Underlay
  • Gripper Rods
  • Tape measure
  • Marker pen
  • Scissors and/or knife
  • Hammer
  • Carpet tacks
  • Screwdriver
  • Heavy-duty stapler or double-sided tape
  • Hacksaw

It’s likely you will find all of these tools in a standard DIY or hardware shop if not online.

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There are three parts to your stair runner installation process; gripper rods, underlay and the runner.

Gripper rods

Gripper rods are narrow strips of plywood with nails or tacks and pins that hold your runner in place. The actual stair runner itself is purely decorative, so these tools are required to secure it safely on your staircase.

Gripper rods can come in medium and short-pin sizes depending on the carpet thickness of your runner. You’ll need one length of gripper for each riser and one for each tread. The tread is the part of a step that you actually step on while the riser is the vertical part that connects to the tread above. The stair nose refers to the outward corner that you step upon.

Cut your gripper lengths so that they are 100mm (4in) less than the width of your runner. This allows 50mm (2in) of uncovered space on either side of the runner. Make sure that the gripper is completely covered.

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Attach one piece of the gripper to the bottom of each riser, around 25mm (1in) up from the tread. While doing this, check that the gripper’s pins face down towards the tread and that the gripper is centred – this is so that it will not stick out at either side of the runner.

Attach one piece of the gripper to the back of each tread at around 25mm to 50mm (1in to 2in) away from the riser, depending on carpet thickness. Again, ensure the pins are facing back towards the riser and the gripper is centred so that the runner will cover it.

Once you’ve done this for every tread and riser, it’s time to fit the underlay.


Underlay is essential for prolonging your stair runner’s life and protecting it from the wear and tear that comes with heavy foot traffic. Conventional carpet underlay is absolutely fine for this.

To fit your underlay for the stair runner, just follow these steps:

Cut a rectangle of underlay so it’s 100mm (4in) narrower than the width of your stair runner. Its length should start from the gripper on the tread and run over the nose of the stair, butting up to the gripper on the riser below.

Try to taper the underlay underneath the nose, so that it resembles the flap of an envelope. The underlay should fit closely to the gripper at each end, not sit over it. Use either your heavy-duty stapler or double-sided tape to affix the underlay firmly in place.

Repeat the process for each stair until done. You’ll then be ready to fit the runner.


Every carpet runner has a carpet pile which runs in a certain direction. To identify which way yours goes, just rub your hand back and forth. You want the pile to lay flat and smooth so that it looks neater and catches less dirt.

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Once you’ve done this, you’ll be ready to fit your stair runner. Start from the bottom of your staircase.

You need to attach the end of your runner underneath the gripper like a hem so that it creates a neat edge. Do so by rolling up the excess runner, with the carpet to the outside, and placing it at the bottom of your stairs, with the underside facing the stairs. Pull the end up a little and with the carpet pile facing the riser, tack into place about 50mm (2in) from the floor. Then attach the gripper, over this “hem”, to the riser.

Fold the carpet back around the gripper, ensuring you have a neat edge on the floor and press it onto the gripper.

Now work upwards. Make sure that the gripper pins hold the runner securely onto each tread and riser. Keep up an even tension so that your runner does not start to twist or bunch as you move up the stairs.

When you reach the top of your staircase, fold the runner back under itself to create a neat edge like a hem and tack it into place.

Once you have finished fitting the runner to the staircase, dress down all the gripper pins with a hammer so that they do not stick up through the runner.

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