A 10-Step Guide to Installing Carpet on Stairs

Soften your stairs with a stylish carpet remodel. You'll be surprised at how easy it is to carpet stairs!

home entryway

A carpeted stairway quiets your home by softening footsteps and absorbing sound waves. Also, carpeted stairs are safer than hard-surface stairs, as they lessen your chances of slipping and pad your fall if you lose your balance.

Building codes control the dimensions of treads and risers. Treads are typically 10 to 11-1/2 inches deep; the deeper the tread, the more comfortable the climb. Risers are generally no more than 7-3/4 inches tall. If the dimensions of your stairs are not within these guidelines, you'll need to rebuild them for safety.

Stairways get heavy wear, especially along the tread nosing, so choose a durable and easy-to-clean carpet. A carpet with an attached padded backing is easier to put down, but installing carpeting on stairs with this type of product isn't recommended, as they tend to wear quickly.

What You Need

  • Tape measure
  • Carpet knife
  • Hammer stapler
  • Straightedge
  • Wall trimmer
  • Stair tool
  • Carpet
  • Pad
  • Tackless strips
  • Hot melt seaming tape
  • Seam sealer

Step 1: Cut Carpet Pad


Measure each step individually and cut a quality carpet pad to fit each step and riser as shown. The pad should be cut to precisely fit between the tackless strips you'll be nailing to the back of the tread and the bottom of the riser.

If your staircase curves or the walls aren't plumb, you won't be able to use a template to cut the carpet pieces for each step. Instead, you'll need to measure each step and cut the carpet to fit.

Step 2: Apply Tackless Strips


Carefully place tackless strips on the riser and back of each tread as shown. To determine how high to set the tack strips, use a spacer made out of two strips taped together.

Step 3: Staple Carpet Pad


Using a hammer stapler and starting in the center of each stair tread, staple the carpet pad in place. Staple across the entire length of the pad. (Staple the pad just in front of the tackless strip.)

Step 4: Shape Pad to Step


Wrap the carpet pad around the front edge of the steps and down the riser. Smooth and stretch the pad, so it fits tightly against the tread and riser, then staple it to the riser. You'll need to make a template and cut the carpet to fit when all the padding is attached.

Step 5: Measure for Carpet


To make the template, measure each individual step and riser, as they may not all be built to the exact same dimension. Then, using a tape measure and a straightedge, cut the carpet to template size.

Step 6: Make Template


To make the template, measure each individual step and riser, as they may not all be built to the exact same dimension. Using a tape measure and a straightedge, cut the carpet to template size.

Step 7: Begin Installing Carpet on Stairs


Center the carpet on the bottom edge of the steps. Use an awl to push the carpet onto the tackless strip. This creates a clean line between the bottom of the stairs and the flooring.

Step 8: Staple Carpet


When you're satisfied with the carpet placement, staple the carpet onto the riser just below the tread. Take care not to staple through the fold. Wiggle the electric carpet tacker between the nap to hide the staple impressions.

Step 9: Push Carpet Into Seam


Using a knee kicker, stretch the carpet into the seam between the tread and the riser. Start in the middle and work side to side.

Step 10: Crease Carpet and Repeat


Fold the edges around the step and use a stair tool and a rubber mallet to crease the carpet into the seam and secure it to the tackless strip. Repeat steps 7 through 10 to continue installing carpet on stairs until completed.

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