Bargain DIY stair runner - step by step tutorial

I've been meaning to write this blog post since last June when I fitted the runners but time got away from me. The added advantage of writing it now is, I suppose, that I can attest to the runners standing the test of time...well 7.5 months' worth at least!

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The 'Why?'

I'd long drooled over people's beautiful stair runners, in a virtual sense only of course, no actual drooling occurred (that I can recall!). But when it came to get quotes for them to be fitted professionally they were really expensive. I'm not suggesting that they aren't a great investment, or don't represent good value for money and I totally appreciate the craftsmanship to produce the runner and the skill required to fit them, but we couldn't justify that amount of money at the time. (Not to mention how upset I knew I would be when one of the kids inevitably dropped kinetic sand (the bane of my life) of blu tac and trod it into the beautifully crafted stair runner!

So I spent some time researching DIY stair runners and found there is a whole wealth of knowledge out there and so many people had created their own using various rugs and runners. There were even projects where people had used bargain basement rugs that only cost a quid or two and fitted one per step. I knew I wanted a natural, textured aesthetic and loved seagrass and jute runners, but lots that I found were just too thick and wouldn't have been suitable. I traipsed around many a local carpet showroom trying to find the best runners and ended up finding the perfect ones on the B&Q website, but they were out of stock for months.

I shared my plans in an instagram story and a lovely account (@house.no_5 do check them out if you aren't already a follower) replied to say they had just completely a similar project and offered tips and advice which was really kind. I had a few extra challenges to ponder with my stairs as they had the turn at the bottom, the landing area at the top which I wanted to cover and I wasn't keen on using a staple gun as I don't feel I have the same control as with tacks, but it was great to hear that the rugs I'd earmarked were working well for them and it spurred me on to wait for them to restock in B&Q.

The 'Before'

Pics below show the old beige carpet and what it looked like underneath.

The Process...

1. The first step was to rip up the old carpet and underlay and remove the gripper rods and 50 million old staples and tacks that were embedded in the staircase.

2. Once the carpet had been removed it was easy to see which treads and risers needed attention as they had (luckily quite superficial) damage.

3. I used flexible wood filler to fill any cracks or small holes and nailed in a couple of slightly loose treads.

4. Once the filler had dried, I sanded it to create a smooth finish and I also sanded any rough or slightly uneven patches to ensure that the sides of the stairs (that would be visible after the runner was fitted) were nice and smooth ready for painting.

5. Then I painted the stairs. I left the centre unpainted for two reasons 1) so that I could keep using the stairs while the paint was drying and 2) because the area under the runner would be covered so it seemed like a waste of paint to cover this bit.

6. I applied two or three coats of paint, allowing to fully dry in between applications.

7. I applied strong carpet tape to every step (on each tread and riser) but didn’t peel off the backing yet. I also measured the stairs and the width of the runner to decide exactly where it should positioned and marked the line of the side edge with more tape (you can see an example for the RHS in the picture below).

8. I unrolled the runners and hoovered them before laying them out on the stairs to decide where

best to cut them to ensure that the joins would be concealed under the lip where the tread and riser meet.

9. I started at the bottom of the stairs as I wanted to conceal the joins by bringing the top piece down over the lip of the tread and covering the edge of the piece coming up from the riser below, so it needed to be in place already to do that

10. I measured and cut the first runner to the required length first. You can see from the pictures below that I reused an end that I'd cut off another runner to make it look like the cut end at the start of the bottom step had the same neat border.

11. I unpicked the side border of the bottom runner along the area where it met the 2nd runner (which started just under the bottom step on the straight run of stairs).

12. then I removed the backing of the carpet tape on the bottom step only and carefully stuck the first piece of runner down.

13. I then moved on to the adjoining piece which was the start of the straight run of the staircase & cut the bottom end off this runner.

14. I positioned the runner as it would be once tightly fitted to the stairs to work out exactly where to cut at the top. I wanted the joins to be concealed under the tread edge (where it meets the riser).

Note: Remember you can always cut more off afterwards if required so err on the side of caution and allow enough length to ensure the runner is super tightly fitted right into the shape of the stairs to ensure the join can be easily hidden, you don't want to cut it then it come up short once its fitted.

15. I cut the runner at the required length and after removing the backing on the carpet tape on the relevant steps, I started attaching the runner starting with where it met the first piece we fitted over the extra bottom step.

16. Once I was sure the runner was in the right place I pressed firmly to ensure the runner adhered to the tape underneath and then I started hammering in carpet tacks where required. This was mainly under the lip of each stair tread and also right at the back of the tread, but hidden in the black border at each edge (this would also reduce the chances of anyone treading on one, should they ever lift up even slightly).

17. Once this piece was on I did steps 13-15 with the next runner, the only difference was that the starting point for this piece was under the lip of the tread this time as it was a joiner. To make sure that the join was neat I lined it up first and then took the backing off the carpet tape on the first step it was being fitted to only and stuck the runner over the lip. I even put a couple of tacks in to ensure that it was holding firm so I could complete the join really neatly (below, I've pulled the below piece off a bit in the picture to show clearly what I mean).

18. Before completing the join with lots of tacks under the lip of the tread, I unrolled and positioned the rest of the runner and attached it to the stairs by flattening it onto the tape, to be sure that it was definitely lining up further up.

19. Once I was happy with the positioning of the whole runner, I completed the join by tucking the top piece firmly over the bit coming up from the below step and hammered in a few more tacks so that they went through both runners to ensure they weren't going to move or come apart over time.

20. I then repeated the process for the next runner which brought me up almost to the top of the stairs, meaning I was ready to fit the final runner.

21. Before starting the project, I knew I wanted to continue the runner onto the landing as it made more of a feature of it and there is only a short distance from the top of out stairs to the threshold of the bathroom door. As this isn't the same for everyone I've laid out the two options that I considered below in case it's helpful a) Carry the runner on up and over the top step onto the landing above or b) stop the runner under the lip of the tread on the top step.

22. As I was carrying it onto the landing I added lots of strong carpet tape under where it would lay. Our bathroom is right at the top of the stairs so the runner only had to travel about a metre of so until it hit the door threshold, which made the perfect ending point.

Bathroom showing where the runner comes up to meet the door threshold.

The 'After'

I was blown away with how many people were interested in this project when I shared a few videos to my Tiktok. Collectively they've had over 1.5 million views which is bonkers, but shows that it's obviously a project that solves a common problem so I hope this step-by-step will be useful.

The costs

I used four runner rugs at £60 each for my stairs, but this included the turn at the bottom and the section on the landing. For a straight forward staircase without these extras three rugs would more than likely be enough so the cost would drop to £180 for the runner itself.

There weren’t any other significant costs in this project as the tacks, filler and carpet tape were all relatively cheap. I used paint I already had for the sides, but this would obviously be an extra cost of approx £25 if you didn’t have any spare. The main other cost was time as it did take a few days to complete, but I was grabbing a couple of hours here and there. You could definitely complete in a weekend if you were working on it full time.

Top Tool Tip:

I bought a carpet tack remover from Amazon which made light work of removing any dodgy tacks which didn't go in properly or ones I wanted to move for any reason & would highly recommend this tool.

Here are the links for the materials I used (some affiliate links)

Runner rugs

Carpet Tape

Carpet Tacks

Tack Remover

Mini Sander

Heavy Duty scissors (I cant find the exact ones I used, but these look very similar)

Flexible filler


Tape Measure

Discount Code: Decorating Centre Online offer all my Instagram followers (they do check!) 10% off using code DCOINSTAHOME_UK just enter it at checkout. This isn't an ad or affiliate link, but full disclosure, they do send me tins of paint sometimes. I use them for most of my paint supplies and their customer service is second to none (Helen and the whole team are lovely!). The wallpaper you see in the pictures above is one of their exclusive ranges (people always ask me where it's from so thought I'd jot it down) it's called Brushstrokes.

Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to keep you up to date with future DIY, decorating, interior styling and upcycling projects. In fact, I've just written a whole post dedicated to my 10 money saving home decor hacks which you can read here. If you would like to receive my (not more than weekly & no spamming I promise) emails then please subscribe (scroll down to the box at the bottom of the page).

Don't forget to check out some of my other DIY blog posts (linked below)

DIY Hacks - Plasterboard repair tips

DIY Hacks - Painting

IKEA Hack - Billy is my hero

5 tips for a successful IKEA hack

IKEA Hack - you HAVSTA try this one!

IKEA hack - BRUSALI cabinets to bespoke looking alcove built ins for under £150

Renter and budget friendly flooring - Floor Pops for the win!

5 perfect pink tiles you'll love

Bargain DIY stair runner - step by step tutorial

Upcycled pantry shelves of joy

DIY Kitchen Makeover - part 1

Budget bedroom makeover to beat the lockdown blues

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