How to Carpet Stairs and Fit Carpet on a Staircase

Summary: Laying carpets on stairs can be a little tricky. Here are instructions on laying carpet on your stairs, including tools you will need and a few tips and tricks to get the stair carpet fitted without any mishaps. Carpeting stairs is a great projects for a DIY enthusiast!

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Carpeted stairs are much quieter and safer, especially if you have children. Laying carpet on stairs is not the easiest job, so if you want a really good finish then it's best to get a professional to do it. However, if you're on a budget and happy to have a finish that's serviceable if not perfect, then you can have a go yourself.

Using a knee kicker to fit stairs carpet

Fitting stair carpet using a knee kicker

Preparing to Fit Stair Carpets

Remove any old carpet from the stairs, along with old underlay, tacks, nails, staples and any other unpleasant things sticking up. Take this opportunity to give the stairs a good clean before you start again.

To work out how much carpet you need to buy for your stairs, measure one step, from the back of the tread to the bottom of the riser. Be sure to allow for any nose where the tread overhangs the riser. Add at least an inch onto this measurement, and times by the number of steps. If you are carpeting the landing too, measure this and add on to your stair measurement.

Tools for Laying Stair Carpet

You will need some specialist carpeting tools but thankfully there are not too expensive. In order to fit a stair carpet you will need the following:

  • knee kicker
  • tack strips or gripper
  • underlay
  • a sharp utility knife
  • heavy-duty staple gun
  • A hammer and blunt bolster will be very useful too

Have a look at our Carpet Fitters Tools Kit, for a complete list of tools that we recommend (note that you can select only the tools that you need - you don't have to buy the complete kit if you already have some of the tools).

Carpet fitters use hooked blades so that the blade stays sharper for longer. Also, carpet blunts blades very, very quickly with the average room needing up to 6 blades. We have included a pack of 10 in our Carpet Fitters Tool Kit, but if your planning to fit a lot of carpet then we would recommend getting a good supply of spare blades.

Once you have your tools you will then need to choose and buy your underlay and carpet.

When purchasing carpet for your stairs, it will be much easier for you if you can buy a standard sized runner strip of stair carpet. However, this may not be possible, in which case you will need to cut a strip to the width of your stairs. Buy a hard-wearing carpet that will withstand a lot of foot traffic. Likewise for underlay. See our laying carpet underlay project for information on different types of underlay.

If you are using a stair runner that leaves a gap at either side, the fitting instructions are the same as below - just make sure the gripper strips are the correct width. It will help if you mark a line on each step that you can follow to ensure you have an equal amount of space at each side of the runner.

Carpet gripper strips

Carpet gripper - This will hold your stair carpet in place

Laying the Stair Carpet

Fix gripper to the tread of the stair with the angled edge facing away, leaving a gap between the gripper and the riser 3/4 the thickness of the carpet. Fix another piece of gripper to the riser, with the angled edge facing down. Again, leave 3/4 the thickness of the carpet between the gripper and the bottom of the riser. Don't put gripper on the bottom step.

Gripper, underlay and carpet layed on stairs

Cross section of stairs with carpet grippers, underlay and carpet layed

Cut pieces of underlay to fit the tread and staple in place. Take your strip of carpet and roll it up, with the underside facing out. Start at the bottom of the stairs, with the pile facing down the stairs so it doesn't get rubbed the wrong way as it's stepped on.

Tack the carpet to the bottom of the first riser, pull the carpet up and over the first step, using the knee kicker to stretch it well so that it doesn't ruck up in future as it gets walked on. Use the bolster to push the carpet firmly into the gap between grippers at the stair corner.

If your steps have a nose, you may need to tack the carpet just under the nose so that it fits around it snugly. Otherwise it will just stretch over the nose from the bottom of the riser, leaving a gap between the carpet and the top of the riser.

Work your way up each step, repeating this process, until you get to the top. If you are carpeting your landing with the same carpet, you can either continue one piece of carpet all the way along the landing. However, with the extra width needed for doorways this is not usually practical.

Take the stair carpet up to the top of the final riser, tack it into place and trim it off in a neat line. Pull the landing carpet down over the edge of the top step. If the step has a nose, you can fix the landing carpet to the underside of it. If not, you may need to go down to the bottom of the first riser to get a neat join. If your stairs and landing carpets are different, you may prefer to take the stair carpet up and over the top step, then put a joining strip between the two carpets. You'll have to decide which finish works best for your situation.

If you are fitting a stair runner that leaves a gap on either side, you could fit stair rods if you wish, to complete the look and give a neat finish.

Stair rod fixed to stairs

Stair Rod used to finish of a carpet fitting project

Please also see our projects on Laying a Carpet and Laying Underlay for even more information about laying carpets.

Don't fancy doing this project yourself? We work with Checkatrade to ensure that we recommend only reliable and trustworthy tradesmen.

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