Home Decorating How to Choose a Runner Rug for a Stair Installation

How to Choose a Runner Rug for a Stair Installation

Having been in the area rug biz for more than a decade now, we get a bunch of common questions, from “How do I place a rug in a room?” to “Which type of rug works best for my personal decorating style?” But the question we hear most frequently is “How do I install a runner rug on my stairs?” . . . which is followed quickly by “How do I choose a rug for said stair installation?” Today we’re tackling the latter, with a look at the best rug weaves for installing on stairs.


The way we see it, any discussion of choosing a rug to install on the stairs should start with which types of runners are not appropriate for the stairs. Because the stairs are one of the highest-traffic spots in the house, and because they take more of a pounding from pinpointed body weight in the same spots, over and over, some area rug weaves just aren’t up to the challenge. These include hand-knotted wool and cotton chenille rugs, which feel soft and cozy underfoot, but can be too delicate under constant traffic. And while tufted wool also feels plush and luxurious, its density and higher profile makes it extremely difficult to staple through, and thus accurately (and safely) install on the stairs. Indoor/outdoor rope weaves are likewise too thick for stapling—though there are plenty of other options in this category; we’ll get to those in a moment. You’ll also want to avoid jute, which can be harder to clean, and paper rugs, which are strictly for low-traffic areas, on the stairs.


Fortunately, there are plenty of other rug weaves that work beautifully in stair installations, and we’ve got a rundown on our favorites. Don’t forget to use a rug pad for your stair installation; it will help give the rug extra grip against slippery stairs, and will also offer a little more cushion under foot.


Woven wool.



Southern Living kilim rug stair runner


Tightly woven and extremely durable and long-lasting, woven wool area rugs are a terrific option for the stairs. They can take a beating for years with little sign of wear, are easy to vacuum and spot clean, and look as good as new with regular maintenance. The low profile and lighter weight of woven wool rugs makes them easy to position around stair risers and landings, and simple to staple in place.


Micro-hooked wool.

Remi Stoneman leopard rug stair runner

Photo via Remi Stoneman





All the durability of woven wool in a plusher, bouncier weave. Micro-hooked wool runner rugs can stand up to repeat foot traffic and vacuuming. While professional cleaning is required for heavier stains, lighter or fresh stains can be blotted up and spot cleaned with your favorite enzymatic cleaner or a bit of white vinegar (always test an inconspicuous area first for color-fastness!) Though stray loops of yarn may pop up from time to time on micro-hooked wool rugs, these can be trimmed to surface level with a pair of sharp scissors. Pets love these rugs, which is great for napping or playing . . . but not so much for scratching. If you catch your pet scratching at a stair-installed micro-hooked wool rug, protect your investment by redirect the behavior immediately with scratching posts and toys, of a few squirts of scratch deterrent spray.


Woven cotton.


Tattersall Bradfords Rug Gallery via Houzz copy

woven cotton rug stair installation


Lightweight, easy to clean, and available in a huge range of patterns and colors, woven cotton rugs are ideal for stairs installations. They’re featherweight, slender in profile, and have a flexible weave, which makes them a cinch to wrap tightly around bullnoses and risers. Woven cotton rugs are also the most affordable option for a stair installation, which often requires two to three runners to complete from landing to landing. Stains should be treated promptly, so they don’t have a chance of setting in. Because steady foot traffic can make lighter-colored cotton rugs appear dingy over time, we always opt for patterns with great camouflage factor, like saturated or multicolor stripes, plaids, or geometric patterns.


Indoor/outdoor rugs.


Sadie Stairs

Photo via LoveleePea



Similarly lightweight and flexible, for ease of installation, indoor/outdoor rugs come in a wide array of fun patterns that create killer stair installations. Because they’re so affordable and easy to clean—vacuum regularly, and spot clean stains with a bit of water, detergent, and a soft-bristle brush—indoor/outdoor runner rugs are perfect for the stairs in homes with kids or pets. It’s essential to tightly wrap indoor/outdoor rugs around risers and staple them securely to prevent movement and possible slips of the foot.


Once you’ve picked the type of rug for your stairs, get the installation how-to right here. Then share the design love by sending us a photo at info AT freshamerican.com, or posting to our Facebook page, or tagging us on Instagram. We love to see your creativity at work!


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Jackie Stroupe May 30, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Where can we find these type of runner rugs?

Fresh American June 2, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Dash & Albert’s got dozens of different styles, Jackie! Check them out: http://annieselke.com/Stair-Runner-Rugs-/c/FA192

Ivy November 14, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Thanks for this article. It’s very helpful. I’m trying to decide on a stair runner but have a winding bit where my staircase turns back 360 degrees with four wedge-shaped stairs. Are linear patterns just too difficult to work with if there’s a winding section? I do love the stripes….

Fresh American November 16, 2015 at 8:29 am

Hi, Ivy! Stairs that have a turn in them can definitely be a bit tricky when it comes to aligning patterns. If you e-mail us at info AT freshamerican.com, we can send you some additional info on how to work around those challenging areas.

Julie May 27, 2016 at 1:37 pm

My stairs need a runner that is 37 inches wide. What would you recommend?

annieselke July 27, 2016 at 12:23 pm

So sorry for the delay in answering!!! We have had some blog glitches and comments were not showing up. You should be fine using our 2.5ft (30 inch) wide runners on the 37″ stairs. They come in 8 and 12 foot lengths.

Stair Runners And The Fibers You Should Never Use (Sometimes) July 3, 2016 at 12:36 am

[…] is one of the Dash and Albert runners that has a sisal look but it’s actually indoor/outdoor carpeting. We did this last year and […]

Whitney August 6, 2016 at 10:49 pm

I really love your stair runners and want to purchase one for my home. Only problem is I’m not handy :(. Do you have installers that could come to my home and put down the carpet for me?

Annie_Selke August 30, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Hi Whitney! So sorry for the delay in responding. Unfortunately, we don’t have specified installers for this. Typically, you can find a qualified rug installer in your area by searching online. Let us know if you have any other questions!

Cheryl March 6, 2017 at 8:52 pm

Love the runner with the cute dog on it. It appears to be a soft grey and white pattern against tbe white steps. Thats the colors i am looking for. Very soft and classic. Please clarify the colors. Thanks

Beth March 13, 2017 at 9:51 am

Hi Cheryl, That is our Diamond Platinum/White runner, so you are correct, it’s grey and white 🙂

Maureen A Nemec August 31, 2017 at 8:55 am

We have waterfall steps at the bottom of our staircase (the steps get bigger as they go down and have a turn in them). We want to put a runner on the steps but it doesn’t look right keeping the runner the same length. Any suggestions?


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