How to choose the correct stair carpet


I have spent roughly one year in the carpet and rug business, and that still hasn’t been enough time to learn all the intricacies of the trade. People constantly ask me what our busiest times of the year are, what products most people gravitate toward, and what the best materials to use in different areas of the home are. My most common answer is that there is really no pattern to follow. There is no right or wrong. It is your home, and any way you want to decorate it is up to you. Some options, like sisal, are used more for aesthetic purposes while Tibetan wools are more comfortable. One of the most commonly debated topics I have encountered is what to consider when carpeting stairs. Here is what I have learned.



First, there are 3 primary ways to carpet your stairs. The most common and decorative option is the stair runner. The most practical option if you don’t want to expose the ugly plywood or imperfect hardwood on your steps, is wall to wall carpeting. The most inexpensive option, because they call for the least amount of material, are stair treads. The reason people carpet their stairs is to prevent slipping. There have been many emergency room horror stories that start with, “I was walking down the stairs in socks and…”. Most hardwood is slippery, and carpeting provides the traction needed to prevent those ER visits.



You need to remember, every home is different and so are the layouts of each stair case. It is always extremely helpful to provide us a picture so we can help you determine the best course of action. The premier floor covering material is wool for a number of reasons. In terms of stair covering, wool provides the most resiliency, which means it will stand up to traffic the longest without showing wear paths. Nylons fall just behind wools and are preferred by some because they don’t shed. Olefins and polyesters are at the bottom of the list because they look and feel the most plasticy. In terms of pile, I used to think that cut pile carpeting was the best because it didn’t separate (smile) when installed over each step, but the key is not cut vs. loop. The most important thing to consider is the pile height. Plush carpets will show wear a lot quicker and more dramatic than tight pile carpets.



The questions you should consider when choosing a floor covering are:


·What kind of physical shape are the stairs in? Do they need to be repaired?


·If there is an existing runner, is there a distinguishable line between the exposed wood and the wood covered by the runner? This will determine the width of your new runner.


·What do the surrounding areas look like? Is there a busy wall paper? Are there Oriental rugs or runners in the hall or adjacent rooms that could clash?


·Do I want a matching runner or carpet in the halls/foyers connected to the stairs?


·Are there any turns, landings, or pie shapes?


·When determining the physical dimensions of the stair case, how wide are the steps? How tall are the risers? How deep are the steps? How many stairs are there? Are there spindles? Do the ends need to be upholstered?


·How much money do you wish to spend? Materials and labor can get very high in price depending on which options you choose so it is always wise to set a budget before you start shopping.



Stair Runners: The most common and decorative way to carpet your stairs is with a runner. Runners allow you to decoratively expose the hard wood on your floor while also practically covering the traffic areas. The standard widths for runners are 27” or 30”, but can be made into any custom size if converting from broadloom. Many manufacturers have their own runner lines, but because they pre-fabricate on their own, they tend to be very expensive. The most cost effective way to do a runner is by finding a carpet remnant. Most carpet stores won’t tell you that if necessary, stairs can be installed one at a time rather than in continuous runner form. They keep this secret from you so they can order excess material and then sell it as a remnant. The common rule is that you need 18 linear feet of carpet to cover 12 steps so a remnant saves you a lot of money. Most runners are finished using a standard ¾” binding that keeps it from fraying but you can dress it up by using wide bindings, serging, or even bordering. If you cannot find a remnant you like, just order broadloom and request the installer makes it into a runner. The last thing you will need to consider is how much wood you want to reveal. The standard reveals are 3” to 6”, but it all depends on your preference. The newest design trend for stair runners is painted risers. This is certainly something to consider if you really want to impress. Just picture the contrast of a dark-stained step, a white riser, and a patterned runner. This is a designer’s dream.



Wall-to Wall-Carpeting: If covering a set of stairs that hasn’t been renovated, it is probably wisest to carpet the steps wall to wall or wall to spindle. All the same rules apply for this method, but you probably need slightly more material to cover the extra width. If you have spindles or an exposed side that requires upholstery, the pricing could go up. You will not however need to worry about binding or other fabrication.



Stair Treads: Stair treads are the most inexpensive option because they require the least amount of material. Stair treads simply cover the area that you step on. They come ready made with a sticky backing or can be made to order from any remnant or broadloom material.



There you have it, all the information I have been able to gather about stair carpeting during the last calendar year. If you have any questions or would like a consult, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you. Have a great holiday and we will hopefully see you in the new year.


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