Carpet is a great option to improve the look, feel, and noise level of a staircase in a home. Some people carpet their stairs so they will match the flooring at the top or bottom of the staircase, others because they want the added traction carpet can provide. If you are installing carpet yourself, you may wonder how to carpet open-riser stairs. We have researched it for you and have answers.
Carpeting open-riser stairs requires a slightly different method than typical stairs. The process is as follows:
- Remove old nails and staples from the tread
- Attach a tack strip along the back of the top side of the tread
- Measure and cut the carpet pad to fit
- Attach the pad
- Measure and cut the carpet to fit around the tread
- Attach the carpet with the seam at the back, stapling to the bottom and back of the tread
- Stretch the carpet around the front of the step, over the top, and push in the tack strip
- Fold the top of the carpet over the back edge of the step, tuck it under itself to create a clean edge, then staple in place
When you have completed this process your carpet should look nice and provide years of durable use. For greater detail on each step, keep reading!
How To Install Carpet On Open-Riser Stairs
Installing carpet on your open-riser stairs is a good DIY project. It can improve the look and feel of the entire space in just a few hours. Before you start you need to gather the following items:
A sharp knife or carpet cutter, such as this one:
A good stapler, such as this one:
A knee kicker, such as this one:
A tape measure, such as this one:
You will also need these items before starting:
- Carpet Pad
- Tack Strips
Remove Old Nails And Staples
To prepare the stairs for the new carpet, you must remove or drive flush any old nails or staples left behind from previous carpets. If you do not have a carpet in place already, then there most likely won't be anything to remove. Even so, check the treads to make sure any nails or screws are tight and flush, and that nothing else is sticking up that may obstruct your padding or carpet.
Attach Tack Strips
If tack strips are already in place and undamaged, you may be able to reuse them. If so, you won't need to add new tack strips, and you can move on to the next step.
If you do need to add tack strips, measure the width of your treads and trim your tack strips to that length. Once you do that, attach the new tack strips to the top of the tread at the back edge, with the tacks angled toward the back.
Place Carpet Padding
Measure the tread carefully to find the width and the depth of the tread. To find the depth, measure from the edge of the tack strip and over the front edge. When finished, the pad should cover the full width of the tread, and from the tack strip over the front edge of the step, stopping at the bottom edge.
Once you have the pad trimmed to fit you can put it in place. Butt it against the edge of the tack strip and staple it down along that edge. Make sure it wraps over the front of the step, then add a few staples in the middle to hold it down.
Measure The Carpet
Finding the size for the carpet piece for each tread is a little different than the process for measuring the pad. The width will still be the same as the tread width, but the length is not just the tread depth.
To find the depth, measure around the tread, pad, and tack strip. Your tape measure should measure the distance of the tread front to back on top, bottom, and both edges. Once you have that total, add 2-3 inches to find the length of carpet to cut.
Attach The Back And The Bottom
Attach one edge of your carpet along the back, about halfway up the edge of the tread. From here it will wrap under, so make sure you are attaching the correct edge. Staple about every two inches to make sure you have that the edge secured well. If you do this correctly, the carpet will pull under, then over the front, before going toward the back again.
Pull the carpet under the tread, smoothing it as you go. You may need to firmly tug to make sure the wrinkles are out. Staple several places along the bottom of the tread to secure the carpet.
Stretch Carpet And Attach The Top
Pull the carpet up and over the front edge. When you do this, make sure the carpet pad is in place along the front edge. You will pull the carpet tight over the front, then over the top of the tread. Stretch the carpet as well as you can by hand when doing this. Now push the carpet into the tack strip along the back edge.
Use the knee kicker to tighten the carpet on the top of the tread. This should leave a few inches of carpet hanging over the back of the stair, with everything looking almost as it will when finished.
Finish The Back
The last step is to fold the edge of the carpet back on itself, creating a finished edge. This needs to be long enough to go past the edge you first stapled when you began. Staple through these overlapping layers to secure the carpet in place. You need a staple about every 2-3 inches to hold everything in place well.
This is a good video showing this installation process:
What Is The Best Carpet For Stairs?
When you are selecting a carpet for stairs, there are several things to consider. While your personal preference plays an important part in this, you should also consider the following:
Durability is very important on a stairway. Carpet on stairs takes a lot of abuse, especially along the front edge. When they start to show wear, it can be very obvious.
The density is important because denser carpets are often more durable and provide a stable surface to step on.
A thin pad is better than a thick one when it comes to footing. While it may feel nice to step down onto a pillowy, thickly padded carpet, the thinner pad will provide for a more stable surface.
Select a synthetic fiber, such as nylon. It is more stain-resistant and has good durability.
A mid-range color will work out best. Lighter shades show more dirt and stain easily while darker shades show dust and lint badly.
Considering all these factors, a good selection for stairway carpeting is mid-tone nylon with a low, dense pile. Pair that with a thin, dense pad, and you have a combination that will last and provide solid footing.
Should Stair Carpet Match Flooring?
There are differing opinions on this. Some designers suggest matching the carpet on the bottom floor if that room has carpet. Other designers say it is a good chance to contrast and show off the stairs as part of the architecture.
Many designers suggest finding a carpet that has at least some shades similar to both the lower-level and upper-level flooring, if possible. This way it coordinates well with both. A common thought by most designers is that you should carefully consider the shade of the color. Too dark will show dust and lint, but too light will stain and soil easily. Mid-range is the best, all else being equal.
One thing universally agreed upon is that the carpet shouldn't sort-of match. Close, but not quite the same, will stand out badly. If it is too close and not the exact same, consider going a few shades darker or lighter. That way it doesn't look like you tried for an exact match and did a poor job of it.
Are Stairs Safer With Carpet?
Carpeting makes stairs safer most of the time. The reason for this is that the carpet provides better traction than hardwood. Carpet will also provide a bit of padding if any falls should occur.
There are times when carpet can be detrimental. If the carpet is in poor condition, loose, too thick, or too padded, it can be a tripping hazard. Some people with poor or failing vision have a hard time distinguishing between the steps, especially if the carpet is dark. This can lead them to misstep and fall.
Can You Carpet Stair Treads Only?
You can carpet just the treads on your stairs, leaving the risers visible. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this.
The simplest way is to buy self-adhering, premade carpet risers. They usually won't completely cover the tread, though. Here are a couple of examples:
Pure Era Stair Tread Carpet Set
Oak Valley Designs Carpet Stair Treads
If you prefer to cover the entire step, you can do that. Just trim your carpet to fit, attach it to the underside of the lip of the step, then wrap it over the front and attach it to the back of the step into a tack strip.
Here is a video showing someone using a similar process. She starts at the back instead of the front, but ends up with the same result.
If you have open-rise stairs and prefer the look of carpet over hardwood, you can install carpet on them. Carpeting open-riser stairs can result in a clean look and makes for a wonderful DIY project!