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Choosing a Stair Runner Carpet for Style & Durability: A Buyer's Guide

Grey chevron stair runner carpet on traditional staircase.

Buyer's Guide to Choosing a Stair Runner Carpet

It’s hard to imagine a staircase that wouldn’t benefit from the addition of a stair carpet. Who wouldn’t prefer the beauty, comfort, and safety of having a carpet installed on stairs over plain, unadorned wooden treads?

We’re here to help you with the difficult part – making the right carpet choice. With the myriad of patterns, fibers, and styles available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

While you will want to choose a stair runner carpet that fits your home aesthetically, it's also critical to pick the right carpet fiber, construction and size. We’ve put together this definitive buyer's guide to stair runners to help you choose a runner that will stand the test of time. We will discuss carpet fiber first in this multi-part series.

Carpet Fibers

Clients questioning what is the best fiber for a stair runner carpet.

Wool Carpet

We consider wool to be nature's best natural resource. If you have ever owned a wool suit or coat made from wool (it's probably still hanging in your closet, right?), then you know wool is made for longevity. Wool is an amazing fiber known for its durability, natural stain resistance, fire retardancy, cleanability, and air-filtering qualities. It is also people and planet friendly, which makes it our top choice for carpeting in homes today.

Cons: Can be more expensive than other carpet fibers.

Natural Fiber Carpet

Another organic carpeting choice, carpets made from natural plant fibers are loved for

their distinctive character. Irregularities in yarn size, sprouts, striations, and variations in loop and rib size are all part of this carpet's charm. Some natural fibers to consider are sisal, jute, seagrass, and coir, each having its own unique traits. The inherent beauty and environmental friendliness of these carpets and rugs add to their popularity.

Cons: Natural fibers will resort to their original color and darken or lighten as they age.

Some fibers can be too slippery to use as a stair carpet.

Synthetic Carpet Fibers

The four main synthetic fibers used in carpet manufacturing today are nylon, polyester, olefin, and acrylic.

Nylon carpet is the most widely used soft surface and is an excellent choice for both residential and commercial spaces. It is stain and abrasion resistant, has high resiliency, and comes with a built-in stain protector, making it easy to maintain. We prefer nylon 6 or 6.6 for its ability to be recycled.

Cons: Can be more expensive than other synthetic carpets

Polyester carpet, also labeled PET, is a strong, versatile fiber with superior stain resistance. Made from recycled materials, polyester carpets are soft to the touch and very comfortable to walk on. PET carpets are generally budget friendly and make a good choice for bedrooms or other light traffic areas of the home.

Cons: Will mat down with heavy use.

Olefin carpet has a matte finish, making its appearance similar to wool. Olefin, also known as polypropylene, is a strong fiber with resistance to abrasion, staining, mildew and fading. Its inability to absorb water makes it excellent for use as indoor-outdoor carpet or in basements where moisture could be an issue. Olefin carpet is less resilient than wool or nylon and is best used in low traffic areas of the home.

Cons: Can attract oil based stains.


  1. Stair Runners: Since most staircases have wooden treads, the most common stair carpeting choice is a stair runner. Stair runners are decorative strips of carpet which run down the middle of staircases leaving an area of exposed wood, called the reveal, on either side of the carpet.

  2. Wall-to-Wall Carpeting: If your staircase is unfinished or if you have very narrow stairs, you may want to consider installing carpet wall to wall on your steps. This option covers each step fully and sometimes extends through the spindles and around the sides. Not all carpet constructions are suitable for this type of installation, so speak to one of our sales consultants if this is the stair installation method you prefer.

  3. Stair Carpet Treads: The least expensive option is stair treads because they require the least amount of material and are easier to install. Stair treads can often be a DIY project although hiring a professional carpet installer is always preferred. Stair treads offer similar functionality and benefits as stair runners but are not as decorative and are often reserved for basement stairs or less used stairwells.


A stair runner carpet that is too narrow for the staircase.

This oriental rug runner is too narrow for this staircase.

One of the questions we get asked most often is "what size should my stair runner carpet be?".

If you are choosing broadloom carpet to be custom fitted on your stairs, we

can make your stair runner the exact width that is right for your stair treads. Typically on an average 36" stair, we leave 3" to 4" of hardwood floor showing. On a wider stair, that reveal may increase to 5" to 6", and on a narrower stair that could decrease to 1" to 2". The exact width if often determined by the carpet pattern repeat. Patterns should be centered with each side ending at the same point in the pattern. A geometric patterned carpet should be sized so each side ends on a full or half repeat for the best look.

If you purchase a pre-finished rug runner, purchase the width that will bring you closest to the ideal width. As seen in the photo above, size matters, so don't purchase a 27" runner for a 42" stair width or you will end up with too much wood showing and a too narrow looking runner.


Black and white striped stair runner carpet on stairs and hall.

Striped flatweave carpet installed on stairs and halls.

Patterned stair runners add a decorative element to your home and, particularly in a front foyer, are an opportunity add interest to an otherwise bland space. How would you describe your design style? Elegant traditional, farmhouse modern, bold contemporary? With the myriad of popular patterns today, there is literally a style for every taste and budget, making it easier than ever to find one that will enhance your staircase. Our showroom offers thousands of hanging samples to help in your choice of carpet and our design consultants are always available to answer any questions.

Charcoal grey and black stair runner carpet on winding staircase..

Abstract carpet on winding stairs.

Carpeted stair treads take a lot of abuse, so choosing textured carpet or a carpet with at least a subtle pattern can be a smart idea for hiding wear and tear. If your flight of steps include pie or wedge shaped stairs (also referred to as winders), keep in mind that a patterned carpet may not match perfectly on these stairs. Choosing an abstract or organic design may be a better choice.

Professional Stair Runner Carpet Installation

Once you've chosen the perfect stair runner, it's crucial to have it professionally installed. Proper installation ensures that your runner not only looks great but also provides safety and longevity. DIY installation, although possible, can lead to uneven wear and accidents if not done correctly. Our master carpet installers have many years of experience installing carpet on all types of stairs.

Argyle patterned stair runner carpet with leather trim installed on stairs

Argyle patterned carpet with leather border.

All stair runner carpets (those not installed wall to wall) will require some type of edge finish. Typically this is a cotton or polyester narrow binding in a color closest to the background color of the carpet. However, for a more decorative finish, a wide binding tape in a matching or contrasting color can be applied. Decorative bindings are available in cotton, linen, polyester, leather, and vinyl and are applied up to 3" on the face of your carpet, depending on the width of your runner.

Hollywood or New York Style Installation

Hollywood Style Waterfall Style

In a Hollywood style installation, the carpet is tacked under the nosing for a neat, tailored look. New York style, often referred to as waterfall, is not tacked under the nosing and has a softer appearance. Learn more about which style to choose in our

Transforming your Staircase

Finding the perfect stair runner that combines style and durability can transform your staircase into a stunning focal point in your home. Considering your style preferences, exploring different materials, and prioritizing durability factors are essential to finding the perfect carpet for your stairs. We hope, with the help of this stair runner buyer's guide, you'll be well on your way to selecting the ideal stair runner that suits both your aesthetic taste and practical needs.

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