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    How to carpet stairs

    Summary: Learn how to lay a carpet on a staircase, measure up carpet, fix gripper strips in place, lay underlay, lay carpet on curved stairs and fit stair rods.

    Laying carpet or a stair runner on a straight staircase is quite straightforward and the method is described below. We have also included instructions for laying a carpet on a curved staircase. However, we must stress that this is an awkward job and it may be advisable to employ a professional carpet fitter, for it is essential that the carpet does not work lose and create a serious safety hazard.

    Measuring up

    • Multiply the depth of a tread (from front to back) by the number of treads.
    • Multiply the height of risers by the number of risers.
    • Add these together for the total length of stair carpet.
    • The width of the carpet will be equal to the width of the stairs.
    • If using stair rods, the width will be a standard 910mm (3ft) wide.

    Fixing the gripper strips in place

    Before fixing the gripper strips or laying the underlay check that the stairs are in good condition and that there are no nails or tacks still in place from the old carpet if one has been removed.

    • Cut lengths of gripper strip 40mm (1 ½ in) shorter that the width of the stairs. The gripper strips should be fitted towards the back of the treads with a 12mm (1/2 in) gap between it at the riser. Nail the gripper strips in place with the teeth pointing towards the riser.
    • Cut lengths of gripper strips for the risers. These must be fixed with 12mm (1/2 in) away from the sides of the stairs with the teeth pointing down. Ensure the teeth are pointing downwards.

      Cut lengths of gripper strip for the side of the treads leaving a gap of at least 12mm (1/2 in) between each strip and the side of the tread, and 25mm (1in) from the front edge of the tread. The gripper strips at the sides of the tread can touch the gripper strips at the back of the tread. Nail the gripper strip to the stair with the teeth facing outwards away from the step.

    Laying underlay

    • Cut the underlay into sections that will fit between the gripper strips without covering them. Each section of underlay should extend over the tread and down the riser, in effect covering one step.
    • Use a staple gun to fix the underlay in position. Alternatively, the underlay can be nailed the treads and risers.

    Laying carpet

    • Cut lengths of carpet to the width of the stairs.
    • Beginning at the top of the staircase, lay the first length of carpet with its pile facing down the stairs. A carpet wears better with the pile facing down the stairs. To find out which direction the pile is facing, simply run the palm of your hand over the pile. The direction in which the pile feels smoother to the touch is the direction it is facing.
    • Place the carpet over the first tread and hook it on the teeth of the gripper strip. Pull the carpet over the edge of the tread and push it into the angle of the riser and the next tread.
    • To secure carpet in the angle between tread and riser, use a carpet bolster and a hammer to push the carpet into the teeth of the gripper strips.
    • Then pull the carpet tight over the tread and secure it in the next angle in the same way.
    • To join lengths of carpet, use a trimming knife to cut the carpet at the bottom of a riser. Use the bolster and hammer to secure it between the gripper strips.
    • Start laying the next length of carpet by tucking its top edge into the angle of the gripper strips at the rear of the tread, thus concealing the join.
    • Continue down the stairs until you reach the bottom of the last riser where it will be hooked on to the gripper strip.
    • With the carpet laid, use the bolster to tuck the edges of the carpet between the gripper strips the side of the treads and the sides of the staircase.

    Negotiating a curve in the stairs

    If the stairs curve, it is worth remembering that tufted carpets tend to be stiff which makes them difficult to lay on stairs that curve. So if possible always use woven carpet.

    • Gripper strips need to be nailed to the riser and the treads.
    • The underlay should be then cut to shape to fit the stairs. As you will see this will mean you will end up with pieces of underlay for the treads that are wider at one end than the other.
    • Using tacks or staples fix the underlay in place with its edges tight against the gripper strips on the treads.
    • On reaching the curve (it may be at the bottom of the stairs, at the top or there may be a curve at the top and bottom of the stairs) use the carpet bolster and hammer to force the carpet between the gripper strip and the angle where the tread meets the riser.
    • Pull the carpet up tight over the nose of the riser, and fix it temporarily to the gripper strip that is fixed to the tread at the outside of the curve. This will cause the carpet to billow at the inside of the curving stairs.
    • Fold the excess carpet back under itself in a way that the fold runs along the angle between the tread and the riser, while making sure the edge of the carpet fits neatly at the inside of the curve.
    • The fold will give you three thicknesses of carpet which must be tacked to the riser.
    • Follow the same method for the remaining stairs making up the curve.
    • When the carpet has been laid around the curve, use the bolster to tuck the edges of the carpet between the gripper strips at the side of the treads and the sides of the staircase.

    Stair rods

    If the stair carpet that is not as wide as the width of the stairs, stair rods are used to keep it securely in place. While the carpet will be held in place by the stair rods they will not prevent the underlay from moving. So it important to fix the underlay to the stairs with tacks before laying the carpet.

    • Fix the clips to the stairs on either side of the carpet at its edges. This will stop the carpet moving sideways.
    • If the staircase is curved, stair rods are still used although they are only for appearance, for carpets laid on a curve in the stairs are always fixed in position with tacks.
    • With all the clips in position at the edge of the stair carpet the rods can be can be fitted in position. Stair rods come in many different designs and materials and how to fit them into the clips will be explained in the manufacturers' instructions.

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