5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Carpet Runner for Stairs


Carpet runners are a great choice for your stairs, whether they are a central feature of your home or tucked off to the side. You can read more about the “Benefits of Using Carpet Runners for Stairs” in our blog.

But once you choose to install a carpet runner on your stairs, what decisions will you have to make? Each decision will impact your cost one way or another. Before you talk to area carpet installers, you want to have some baseline decisions made and you want to have your list of follow up questions ready.

The five most important considerations are:

  1. Width
  2. Length
  3. Material
  4. Underpad
  5. Style



Standard width for a carpet runner on stairs ultimately depends on the width of your stairs, but a good rule of thumb is that you want 4-5 inches of exposed stair on each side of the carpet runner.

If your stairs are 36 inches wide, then you want a runner 27 inches wide. If you have wider stairs, say 48 or 60 inches wide, you could easily extend the exposed area to 6-8 inches on either side. Ultimately, your goal is to avoid having too narrow a strip of carpet running down your stairs because it will increase the likelihood of slipping rather than reduce it.

If your stair treads underneath are plain wood — without the bullnosing typical of finished treads — then you will probably want a full width carpet runner covering the entire tread and riser.


To approximate the amount of carpet runner by the foot that you’ll need to order, you want to measure the amount needed for each stair and then multiply by the number of stairs that you have. Add at least 24 inches to the entire order to account for cutting and fitting. Stair runners are not typically installed in one piece — they are cut into individual stair pieces and then fitted together so they appear to be one solid piece.

Your stair has 3 parts that need to be measured: the tread, the front edge, and the riser. The length of the tread is measured from the bottom of the previous riser to the front edge. The front edge is often rounded and curves underneath until it meets the riser. Use a piece of string or cord to determine the length around the front edge and then measure your string. The riser length is measured from top to bottom. Add the 3 lengths together and then multiply by the number of stairs.

If you’ve measured in inches, make sure to convert to feet by dividing the total length by 12. Also, if you carry your carpet runner through any landings, don’t forget to measure the length of each landing.


Material is an important consideration when choosing a carpet runner for your stairs because durability should be a #1 priority.

Olefin, polyester, and acrylic are perfect for event carpeting because they have the lowest price point and will help your event stay on budget. Because long-term durability is not necessary in event carpeting, these are the go-to materials for event planners. For residential and commercial use, you will want to consider the other materials with greater durability.

Nylon is the most popular choice because of it’s durability and price. However, stain resistance varies greatly between manufacturers. Cost effective and long-lasting, nylon carpet runners are an easy choice for your stairs but they aren’t the only choice.

Wool carpet runners are both highly durable and stain resistant but they are more expensive. They are 100% natural and therefore do not require as many fossil fuels to produce as the synthetic carpets, such as nylon. However, wool is susceptible to mildew if exposed to moisture and not dried properly.

Sisal (pronounced sigh-suhl) is another all natural carpet material. Made from the fibers of the sisal plant — in the agave family — sisal is very durable and non-toxic. It is also biodegradable, which is beneficial should it someday end up in the landfill. While durable, sisal is also rougher to the touch than wool or acrylic. Softness may be less of a concern on the stairs, but you will want to feel the material before making a final decision.



You will want to install a pad beneath your carpet runner but it will need to be thinner so it doesn’t raise the height of your tread too much. Choose a ¼ inch thick underpad, preferably a rubber pad because it is firm and dense and will not compress as much over time.



I’ve saved style for last because the choices are practically limitless. You can choose a bold, patterned carpet runner if you want to draw attention to your stairs. You can choose a muted, neutral color if you want to complement but not compete with vibrant wall colors. You can match just about any wall color or design aesthetic that you can think of. Your only limits are what you can find in either in-store or online and your budget.

However, you might also consider the amount of stair you leave exposed as another style element. This is dependent on the quality of your naked stairs. You may want to leave as much high-quality finished stair exposed as possible while still retaining the safety benefits of a secure carpet runner. For example, you can cover the stair tread but leave the riser exposed.

You can also accentuate your carpet runner and the stairs themselves by using decorative rods, placed where the bottom of the riser meets the inside edge of the tread. These rods are not used to hold the carpet runner in place — a popular misconception — but are used merely to draw the eye and add flair to your stair. Brass, nickel, and wrought iron are three popular materials depending on the style of your home.

Be Prepared

Before ordering online or speaking with a carpet salesperson, you want to be prepared with a list of questions to ask and a list of your own priorities that you want fulfilled. Hopefully, this list has helped you identify your top questions as well as make some important decisions before you walk in the showroom.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you want a carpet runner for your stairs, check out our blog on the “Benefits of Using Carpet Runners for Stairs”.

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