How to Carpet a Stairway

Placing the Stairway Carpet

On wedge-shaped steps, fold and tuck excess carpet.

With the fastening strips and padding in place, you are now ready to secure the carpet in place on the stairs. Start fastening the carpeting at the bottom of the first riser. Position the end of the runner directly over the bottom fastening strip so that about 3/8 inch of carpet is turned up along the floor. Trim any uneven edges from the end of the runner with a sharp utility knife.

Push the point of an awl into the carpet at one side and use the awl to push the end of the carpet onto the fastening strip, leaving about 3/8 inch of loose carpet below the newly fastened edge. Smooth the carpet firmly into place along the strip, working across with the awl until the entire end has been fastened.

Finish the bottom of the runner by wedging the loose carpet end into the 3/4-inch gap between the fastening strip and the floor. Use a tack hammer to drive the carpet end firmly into place along the floor at the bottom of the riser.

Stretch the carpeting up and over the stair with a knee kicker. Pull the carpet runner into place, making sure it's straight. Set the head of the kicker flat in the center of the tread, about an inch from the tread riser corner and aimed straight at the riser. Kneeling on the floor, hold the kicker with one hand; hold a stair wedging tool or a broad-bladed chisel ready in the other hand. Put all your weight on one knee and bring the other knee forward sharply to hit the cushioned end of the kicker; the head of the kicker will stretch the carpeting under it to hook it onto the teeth of the fastening strip on the tread. At the same time, as you work the kicker, push the carpet into place in the corner behind the tread fastening strip, using the wedging tool or broad-bladed chisel as a lever. Work from the center of the tread out to the sides, angling the kicker out toward the side you're fastening.

When the carpeting has been kicked and folded into the corner all along the step, wedge it permanently into place along the riser-tread joint, using a hammer to drive the wedging tool or chisel into the carpeted joint. Repeat the entire procedure to cover each succeeding stair, always working up from the last firmly fastened riser-tread joint.

To install the runner on winding stairs, work up to the last straight stair and wedge the carpet into the riser-tread joint. Stretch the carpet up onto the tread of the first wedge-shaped stair and angle it to reach the next step up, keeping the carpet pulled tight along the wide outside edge of the stair and letting it bulge over the riser where it was just wedged in.

Holding the carpet firmly in place at the correct angle, fold the bulging carpet firmly down over the riser, pulling it up at the inside edge of the stair to form a wedge-shaped tuck of carpeting behind the runner. The runner should appear to extend evenly up the stairs, with no part of the tucked-in carpeting visible from the front.

Fasten the tuck into place carefully. Fold the runner back from the tucked-under carpeting, bringing the loose carpet down but holding the tuck firmly in place. At the bottom of the tuck, as close to the riser-tread corner as possible, nail a second flat fastening strip straight across the folded carpeting, teeth pointing down. Then bring the runner back up over the fastened-down tuck, stretch it into position with the kicker onto the next tread fastening strip, wedge the riser-tread joint, and move on to the next stair. Repeat for each wedge-shaped stair.

At the top of the stairs, finish the end of the runner at the back of the last tread; don't extend the carpet up onto the last riser. Before you stretch the runner into place over the last riser, trim any excess carpeting evenly from the end of the runner, leaving about 3/8 inch of carpeting sticking up against the riser. Stretch the carpet into place with the knee kicker and wedge the cut end of the runner into the gap between the tread fastening strip and the last riser.

Congratulations! Your stairs have a whole new look.

For more information related to carpet installation:

  • How to Install Carpeting: Need to carpet an entire room? Learn how to install wall-to-wall carpeting with this article.
  • Carpet-Cleaning Tips: Whether due to spills and stains or just a lot of traffic, carpet gets dirty over time. Use these tips to keep your carpeting looking its best.
  • How to Repair Floors: Squeaks and cracks can be signs of problems with your floor. Find out how to make the repairs you need.