DIY stair carpet treads

Updated April 17, 2017

Keep the elegance of a wooden stairwell but have all the comfort and safety of carpeted stairs when you install carpet treads. This can be a relatively easy do-it-yourself project accomplished in the space of a weekend once you have the right materials. The rewards of a project well done will be felt every time you ascend or descend your stairs.

Choose Your Carpet

Decide whether you will apply carpet tread in the waterfall method (covering both the vertical riser and horizontal tread of each stair continuously) or in the cap and band method (covering the edge of the riser and tread of each step only). To determine how much new carpet you will need, measure the tread and riser (or just tread for cap and band) and multiply by the total number of stairs. Add up to 3 inches per stair to take the carpet padding into account as well. Choose a texture cut or Berber carpet, which is thicker than traditional runner carpet and often easier to install. Avoid a loop pile texture carpet which can fray on the stair edge over time. Keep in mind that whatever type of carpet you choose, it will receive a lot of foot traffic. Look for a carpet with interwoven stain protection rather than carpet simply sprayed with stain protector that will wear off quickly.


If you are transitioning from carpet to wood, remove any old carpet and padding that is on the stairs first. Remove any leftover adhesive with sanding and hot water. Sweep the stairs clean once they are dry. You may choose to refinish the wood at this point with stain and lacquer before applying the treads.


Attach a tackless strip that will grab and hold the carpet in place. Cut two tackless strips for each stair tread. Cut them 25 to 50 mm (1 to 2 inches) thinner than the width of the tread (horizontal part of the stair), and 1 inch less than the depth of the riser (vertical part of the stair). Attach the strips at 20 mm (3/4 inch) from the bottom of the riser and at the back of the tread. Measure the length from the top of the riser's tackless strip to the front edge of the tread's tackless strip. Cut the padding to cover each tread. Attach the padding with a heavy-duty stapler. Measure from the face of the riser to the forward edge of the tread. Cut carpet at this length and the width of the tread. Use a dull chisel to press the carpet firmly against the tackless strip, making sure that it is smooth and attached at all points, with no lose corners. Finish each step by stapling every 75 to 100 mm (3 to 4 inches) along the width of the carpet tread.

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About the Author

Lynn Holmgren is a freelance writer based in York, Penn. She has published articles about writing, international exchange, travel and outdoor recreation in ShowcasePA! magazine and Homgren also enjoys writing and reviewing short stories on her blog Long Story Short.