It’s a Monday Rewind! Yellow Brick Home has 12 years of archives, so from time to time, we’ll be sharing our favorites from posts past. This tutorial was originally published in May 2018. Current photos have been added throughout the post. Enjoy!
To say that the entryway has been a labor of love would be a huge understatement. Somewhere along our home’s history, our 130-year-old stairs had been painted brown and red, then covered in maroon carpet (the 70’s, right?). We stripped it all back and gave them a classic black and white finish using floor paint, and then, growing tired of the constant touch-up, we gave them several thin coats of polyurethane. The poly worked like a dream, and since completing that project, there have only been a few chips in the bull noses (a result of Jack and CC using our stairs like a race track!).
All of that brought us to here:
We love those black and white stairs. The treads are pocked and dented, a badge of honor from the last century of use. There’s a stubborn nail that pops out of that third riser when the weather changes; neither one of us have ever been able to successfully pull it out. And after all the changes it has seen, this clean look has always served as a reminder of how far it’s come.
With the addition of our newest family member, we prioritized installing a stair runner. Although we know to be careful when using our stairs, we were constantly telling our friends and family to hold onto the handrail. The stairs are narrow and not as deep as more modern staircases, and we were always the tiniest bit on edge when going up and down. Now that we’ve installed our runner, we are breathing a sigh of relief! The job took us two afternoons over the course of a weekend, and with a little patience, it’s a DIY that you can do, too. Keep reading for the step-by-step, from ordering swatches to celebrating!
Tools + Supplies Used:
- Stair runner of choice
- Rug pad
- Staple gun + ½”-1″ staples
- Bolster chisel
- Sharp scissors
- Carpet tape
- Painter’s tape
- Tape measure
1| Order swatches
First things first, we ordered swatches. We wanted to keep a more traditional look, bearing in mind durability and upkeep. We’ve ordered rugs from Sisal Rugs Direct in the past, and we’ve had great luck, so we turned to them first. We gathered at least 10 sample swatches from their faux sisal indoor/outdoor line, and we landed on the color Belize Dune with a Granola cotton border. The faux sisal is durable enough for outdoor use, easy to clean and comfortable on bare feet, so we felt great with this material for the longevity of our stair runner! When placing our order, we decided on a 28″ width, which would leave a 3″+ exposure on each side.
2| Measure for runner length
To determine the length of runner needed, we took 3 measurements: The depth of the treads (the run), the height of the riser (the rise) and the depth of the bull nose. We multiplied that by our number of stairs, and we added an additional foot as a precaution. We would be installing the runner so that the rug would hug each bull nose, and that extra foot of rug put our minds at ease. We were able to order the exact width and length of our choosing from Sisal Rugs, which is another reason we were happy to choose them! Our final measurement was 300″ long by 28″ wide.
3| Add a rug pad to every tread
Once our custom runner arrived, it was time to install! Using a pencil, I marked the middle of every riser:
Then we could add our rug pad! Do not skip this step. We purchased this thin rug pad and using sharp fabric scissors, we cut strips of rug pad for every tread. Our treads are 9½” deep, so we cut the pads to 8″ deep. We then adhered them to every stair using this carpet tape, making sure to align the middle of every pad to our pencil marks on the risers.
Tip: Use tape in at least 3 places on the rug pad, such as the left, middle and right. Alternatively, you can tape across the entire top and bottom.
4| Mark the treads with painter’s tape
In our last step before the runner can be installed, we marked with painter’s tape the exact measurement of the outside edge of the runner. For example, our stairs are 34½” wide, and our runner is 28″ wide. We subtracted 28 from 34.5 and divided by 2. This would leave us with a 3 ¼” exposure on each side of the runner, and this is where I placed a strip of tape. That tape would be our very important visual guide.
5| Fold the runner + staple
Okay, ready for the fun part? With the setup behind us, it was time to lay down that runner! Scott loaded our staple gun with 1″ staples to start. (We used this staple gun with our air compressor and loved it!) We made a 1″ fold at the start of our runner, and beginning at the top riser, we stapled every 3″ across the runner. One of the more challenging parts was balancing the weight of the rolled up runner.
6| Use a bolster chisel
With the first row of staples complete, we swapped out the longer staples for shorter ½” staples. From this point on, our bolster chisel would be our best friend! The bolster chisel is used to tuck the runner as tightly as possible against the back of the stair tread, while also following our blue tape guide. It helped us to get a nice, deep crease. Our first staple went into the middle of the runner, and then we worked to the right and to the left, stapling every 3-4″. By starting with one staple in the middle, we were able to prevent the rug from pulling taught in one direction.
Tip: We considered using a sturdy putty knife in place of the bolster chisel, but having installed this runner, we both agree that we couldn’t have done the job without purchasing this handy tool.
7| Staple the bullnose
When it came time to go around the bullnose, it was helpful for both of us to smooth the rug over the rounded edge together. Just like the rise of each stair, we started with one staple in the middle, right under the bull nose, before working left and right.
8| Staple, bolster, bullnose, repeat
As we continued down the stairs, we repeated the same steps as above, while also being extra cautious to stay aligned with our tape along the left side. Our process continued with more bolstering, stapling every 3-4″, smoothing over the bull nose, and stapling again. (Seventeen times over!)
My biggest tip? Be patient with the process. If we started to notice that we were slipping further away from our tape guide, we would pull out the staples from the stair and start over.
At one point during the install, no matter how hard we tried, we did begin to slip about ¼” away from that painter’s tape. We were perfectly straight mathematically, however, our century old stairs are just that – old. They’re not perfect, but they are full of charm! That said, we came up with a hack to pull us back into alignment – a small shim! Essentially, we tucked this tiny shim into one side of the runner, forcing the carpet to flow straight once again. The shim is secured with staples and hidden completely behind the runner. It’s so small that no one will ever know it’s there! We did this to two stairs, and it was our saving grace.
9| Shim as needed
10| Cut, Tuck + Staple
At the very end, we had – get this – about one foot of leftover runner. Our measurements were spot on! Using those sharp fabric scissors again, I cut the end of the runner, leaving enough for us to tuck under the raw edge by about 1″.
While I did that, Scott swapped out the short staples for the longer 1″ staples, and we secured the remainder of the runner in place.
Step 11… CELEBRATE! It’s a very repetitive process, and we got the hang of it by two or three stairs in. The task was completed on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon, and by dinnertime on Sunday, we were admiring our cute new runner!