I was going to title this post, “How to Carpet Stairs,” but I’m not so sure that this should be a real resource for the DIY’er on that. Actually, I’m not so sure this should be a DIY project at all. If I were going to do this over, I wouldn’t! It would probably be much simpler and completely worth the few bucks necessary to simply hire a professional carpet installer. But, for the compulsive do-it-yourselfer (which I somehow seem to have become), maybe this will prove helpful. Before starting, I did as many Google searches in as many different combinations of useful words I could come up with to no real avail. There’s not a lot of good resources for how to carpet a staircase. There were plenty of “how to install a carpet runner on stairs” posts, but my staircase is winding and requires “wall-to-wall” carpeting, as it were.
So, to begin, we bought a large remnant of integral pad carpet, which is just carpet that already has the padding attached. This way, we wouldn’t have to stretch the padding and carpet as we would with traditional carpeting. The positive is supposed to be that it’s easier to install.
First, we started by creating a pattern for each stair out of newspaper.
We just wrapped the tread of each step with newspaper and cut it to fit. Then, we made a separate pattern for each riser (the vertical part of the stair). NOTE: A couple of things here – 1) make sure you include the bullnose (the lip of the stair) if your stairs have that, and 2) if I were doing this again, I’d make the riser pattern after installing the carpet on the tread.
After making a pattern for each step (which we numbered according to the stair it came from), we took each pattern and traced it onto the back of the carpet.
Make sure you flip the pattern upside down, of course, if you’re going to trace onto the back of the carpet, and be sure to label each tracing.
When all the tread patterns have been traced onto the carpet, cut them out, leaving about an inch of space all around the perimeter, so you can trim it to the exact size later. Oh, and important to note here – when tracing the patterns, make sure you space them enough to take this one inch trim into account.
Now, all that’s left is installing the carpet onto the steps. Like I said, I installed the treads and the risers separately. I have no idea if this is how a pro would do it, but it worked best for me. I think the seams look a little tighter and neater this way.
Take each tread piece and lay it over the step, allowing the overhang on the perimeter to stick up, not down (like in the picture below).
Then, I lined up the bottom of each carpet piece under the bullnose and stapled it in place, first in the center, then all the way across, making sure throughout that the piece was still lined up properly.
Make any trims around the edges at this point, making sure that there’s still a little bit of overhang. This is the tricky part. On my stairs, there’s not a baseboard – only stair meeting wall. So, the edge of the carpet runs right up to the wall. To create a nice edge, I decided to turn under the ends a little bit. To make sure it doesn’t bulge too much, though, you’ll have to leave only a little.
After trimming the edges to fit, lift the carpet off the tread and apply a carpet paste to the stair to adhere the carpeting down. Then push the carpet back in place, making sure the edges are still turned up.
To finish the edges, use a straight edge (there’s a special tool designed for this, but I just used a paint scraping tool) to shove the edges into the seam between the carpet and the wall.
I didn’t worry about a nice seam at the back edge of the tread, and I simply stapled it onto the riser. My plan was to cover that edge with the riser. To apply the riser, I put the previously cut piece into place and trimmed it to fit. Then, I applied a little adhesive to the back of the carpet and pushed it into place, overlapping the back edge of the tread carpeting, then pushing the seams into place with the paint scraper.
This is still very much a work in progress, and I might change my approach a little. Like I said, there’s already a few things I’d do differently, like make the riser patterns after installing the treads. Also, I’m not saying this is THE way to carpet stairs, it’s only the way WE did it. It worked for us, so maybe it’ll work for you too if you should need it.