DIY Hacks to Install Stair Runners on a Budget

Stair runner rugs are a fantastic way to enhance the appearance of your home, improve comfort on your stairs, and protect your steps from wear and tear. If you’re looking to add a touch of elegance to your staircase without breaking the bank, a DIY stair runner may be the perfect solution. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through simple steps to install your own stair rug runner on a budget. 

Topics covered within:
  1. Professional Runner Rug Installation vs DIY
  2. Measure Your Stairs For a Stair Rug Runner
  3. Choose Your Stair Runner Rug
  4. Gather Your Tools and Materials
  5. Install Tackless Strips and Rug Padding
  6. Install Your DIY Stair Runner Rug
  7. Add Finishing Touches
  8. Further Reading on Runner Rugs
Custom size hallway runner by Well Woven that's been DIY installed as a stair runner
Moment by @decortherapyaddict

Professional Runner Rug Installation vs DIY

So you’ve come to the conclusion that you need a stair rug runner but you don’t like the cost of having it professionally installed? We totally understand.

The cost of hiring a professional to do the job can be costly depending on the complexity of the installation, the materials used, and the tools needed. It can leave you out of pocket of upwards of $1,500 and leave you feeling like your money could have been better spent.

If you have experience with DIY projects and have the necessary tools and determination to install a stair runner rug, you can save significant money on labor costs doing it yourself.

By DIYing your own stair runner rug, you can save roughly two-thirds of the cost of professionals by cutting labor costs to invest in the $200-$500 of material instead. AND you’ll get the look you want, without having to settle for stair treads as a happy medium. 

Ultimately, the decision and cost to install a stair runner yourself or hire out a professional depends on your budget, skill level and the complexity of the project. But, if you’re brave and willing to tackle the project yourself, read on for more helpful tips for installing a DIY stair runner.

It really is an easier project than you might think!

Take a look at all of these regular people who have already done it and are enjoying the results:

Customer Leslie Shaub sits on her Jane stair runner rug
Moment by Leslie Schaub
The Ailey runner rug covers a set of white stairs in customer Andrew F.'s home.
Moment by Andrew F.
The Lea Southwestern runner rug covers a set of carpeted stairs in customer Heather's home.
Moment by Heather

Measure Your Stairs For a Stair Rug Runner

The first step in installing a DIY stair runner is to measure your stairs accurately. This will help determine the amount of runner rug material you’ll need and ensure a perfect fit. 

Follow these simple steps to measure your stairs:

Measure the width of your stairs

Measure the width of each step with a measuring tape and record for future reference. Typically, stair treads are going to be about 36 inches wide. 

This measurement is going to determine how wide of a runner rug you’re going to need. 

As with common rug placement, you’ll want to leave a gap of bare floor on either side of your stair rug runner. Think: 3”-6” on either side when centering the rug on your stairs. Luckily, most runners range between 27 inches and 31 inches wide so, it’s hard to go wrong.

If your stairs are on the narrow side, choose a narrow runner rug. If your stairs are on the wider side, choose a wider rug. 

You can even use tape to compare the two sizes on your stairs before committing to that 31-inch geometric runner you’ve been eyeing.

The Liana stair runner rug waterfalls over a wooden staircase

Measure the depth of each stair tread

Next, measure the horizontal distance from the back of one stair tread to the front edge. Record this number, too, because you’ll be doing some math, soon. 

If your stairs are standard size, the depth of your stair tread should be in the range of just over nine inches to 11 inches.

Measure the height of each riser

With the depth of the stair tread calculated, now measure the vertical distance from the top of one stair tread to the top of the next so you can calculate the total rug length you need.

Jot this number down, too.

Calculate the total rug length needed 

Once you have all your measurements, add the depth of the stair tread and the height of the riser together. 

Then, multiply the result by the total number of stairs you have. 

Finally, add an additional 10-15% variance to account for any cutting or trimming needed during installation and be sure to factor in any landing platforms that may require additional length. This is the total length of rug material needed for your stair runner project.

Note: If you’re peculiar about aesthetics and you’re installing a rug with a repeating pattern, you may also want to consider placement of the design when calculating your runner rug needs. Especially if you’re combining multiple runner rugs into one design.

Multiple Mamba Grey Indoor Outdoor runner rugs are installed as a long stair runner rug inside a customer's home
Moment by @decortherapyaddict

Choose Your Stair Runner Rug

Selecting the right runner rug to DIY is crucial to achieving a beautiful and functional stair rug runner. Consider the following factors when choosing your runner rug material:

Durability: Stair runners should be like your other durable material rugs– able to withstand heavy foot traffic and resist wear and tear. Look for materials like polyester, polypropylene, and sisal if longevity is what you’re looking for.

Comfort: Plush rugs or flat weave rugs can provide varying levels of comfort underfoot. Consider your personal preference and the needs of your household when selecting the appropriate material.

Easy Cleaning: Choose a material that is easy to clean and stain-resistant to ensure your stair runner rug remains looking fresh and new for as long as possible. Here are a few stain-resistant runner rugs to consider.

Cost: The cost to install stair runners is an investment in your home and with any investment, runner rugs can vary greatly in price. Choose a rug that lets you stay within your budget (there really are tons of options out there to choose from). Or, consider attaching multiple runners on your stairs instead of one large piece for cost-effectiveness (some people find the shorter material easier to work with as well).

Style: New runner rugs are an investment and with any investment, they can vary greatly in price. Choose a design that fits into your budget. 

Multiple pink vintage runner rugs are installed as a stair runner rug in houseonasugarhill's home.
Moment by @houseonasugarhill

Gather Your Tools and Materials

Before you begin installing your DIY stair runner, gather the necessary tools and materials. You should find that the cost to install a stair runner will leave you out of pocket of around $200-500. Here are some materials and tools you’ll need:

  • Runner rug material
  • Rug padding
  • Tackless strips
  • Staples and a staple gun
  • Utility knife
  • Hammer and nails
  • Tape measure, straight edge, and pencil
  • Carpet knee kicker (optional)
The Pia runner rug rests rolled up, waiting to be installed as a stair runner
Have a runner rug already in mind for this project? Great! If not, one of these custom size runner rugs (available in lengths up to 99-feet) will ensure you have enough length to cover your stairs. 

Install Tackless Strips and Rug Padding

The next step in your DIY stair runner installation is to prepare your stairs by installing tackless strips and rug padding. Follow these steps for a smooth installation:

Cut and install tackless strips

Cut tackless strips to fit the width of your stairs, and nail them to the back of each stair tread and the bottom of each riser, approximately 1/2 inch away from the edge. The pins on the tackless strips should face towards the riser.

Cut and install padding

Measure and cut padding to fit each stair tread, leaving a small gap on either side of the tackless strips. Staple the padding in place, ensuring it’s flush with the front edge of the stair tread and extends to the back of the tackless strip.

Tip! Choose a felt rug pad as PVC rug pads can, sometimes, be damaging to hardwood floors below.

A lattice print stair runner rug is shown displayed on a set of wooden stairs from above.

Install Your DIY Stair Runner Rug

With your stairs prepared and your materials gathered, you’re ready to install your DIY stair runner. Follow these steps to make the installation simple and successful:

Position the runner rug

 Starting at the top of the stairs, align the runner with the center of the first stair tread, ensuring it’s straight and even. Leave a few inches of excess material at the top for a neat finish. Be mindful of any repeating patterns you might want to align as well.

Secure the runner rug

Use a staple gun to secure the runner at the top of the first riser to the tackless strips, placing staples approximately every three inches along the width of the runner.

Attach the runner rug to the first stair tread

Pull the runner rug tightly over the edge of the first stair tread. Staple the runner rug to the tackless strip at the back of the stair tread, placing staples every three inches. You can even use a carpet knee kicker for this step to ensure a snug fit (if you have one).

Continue down the stairs

 Repeat the process above for each stair, pulling the runner tightly over the edge of each stair tread as you go. Keep a snug fit before securing the rug to each of the tackless strips. This will ensure you avoid creating any tripping hazards and have a beautiful finished look at the end.

Trim and finish the stair runner

When you reach the bottom of the stairs, trim the excess runner material with a utility knife, leaving enough material to fold under for a clean edge. Secure the edge with staples or carpet tacks.

DIYer Rebecca Propes proudly shows off her custom stair runner rug comprised of multiple leopard print runners
Moment by @rebeccadiy

Add Finishing Touches

Congratulations! Your hard work paid off and your DIY stair runner is installed. Before you put away your tools, there are a few finishing touches that can help elevate your space further. Consider adding the following finishing touches to your DIY stair runner rug:

Stair rods

Stair rods can add an elegant, polished look to your stair rug runner. Choose a style and finish that complements your runner and home decor, and install them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Binding or serging

If your runner material has raw edges, you may want to add binding or serging to create a finished, professional look. This can be done by a professional or, for a more budget-friendly option, with DIY binding tape.

Clean and maintain your stair runner

 Vacuum your new stair runner regularly to remove dirt and debris, and follow the manufacturer’s care instructions for spot cleaning and maintenance. See here for additional rug cleaning tips. Generally, a well-maintained stair runner rug can last anywhere from three-to fifteen-years.

The Liana vintage runner rug covers a set of white stairs with wooden stair treads

Will You Install a DIY Stair Runner?

Installing a DIY stair runner is an affordable way to enhance the appearance of your home, improve comfort on your stairs, and protect your steps from wear and tear. 

By following the simple steps outlined in this blog post, you’ll be well on your way to DIYing a stunning and functional staircase that will impress your family and guests for years to come. 

So go ahead and give your stairs a fresh new look with a DIY stair runner, and enjoy the benefits of cost savings and personal satisfaction that come with tackling this project yourself.

Further Reading on Runner Rugs

For more information on runner rugs, check out the following links:

Stay Connected

Have you installed your own DIY stair runner rug? Let us know how it went in the comments. Better yet, show us by tagging us on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to hear from you!






Leave a Reply

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: