I took my ugly carpeted steps and turned them into smooth wood steps with a sisal runner of my dreams cascading down…and it was a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Quite literally.
If you have carpet and want to rip it up, I say just go for it. The worse that can happen if you have to tack it back down if the floor sucks underneath. Luckily when I started pulling the carpet off my steps (and it didn’t resist at all. yay old carpet) the treads underneath were a beautiful pine that was in great condition. I guess the layers of thick carpet and padding kept them nice all those 30 years they were covered.
Step one – remove the nastiest of carpet from the steps…
It took me and my fiance about 12 hours total to rip all the carpet off our 13 steps, pull the tack strips up and painstakingly pull out hundreds..possibly thousands of staples. The wood was still in good condition after that, miraculously. Please don’t be fooled thinking that redoing your stairs is a one day project. This took weeks, and we worked really fast!
If you did have a ton of holes from nails and staples, you can use wood puty and sand over it. I am notoriously lazy and like to cut corners with home improvement, so I didn’t do this. I also knew the carpet runner would cover most of it, so why do extra steps?
Sand + Poly
Next up – sanding! I have a small sander from Amazon that works wonders. Don’t ask me what grit sandpaper I used because I don’t know. I used whatever I could find in the shed and it worked! I lightly sanded each step and made sure wherever our feet would hit there would be no chance of a splinter or sharp edge. That step took only about 30 minutes! I cleaned up the steps and got onto sealing them pretty quickly.
I used a polyurethane sealant for the steps. It was not meant for flooring, it was for furniture, but yet again the steps would be covered more than 3/4’s by a durable floor runner, so spending my time coating them with poly would be a waste in my opinion. I applied 3 coats of polyurethane, evenly and thinly, and called it a day!
*I have a 70 lb dog who treats the steps like his own personal playground. The stairs are made of pine which is softwood – so while the poly prevented scratching, it didn’t protect from denting from his nails.*
Staple, tape, repeat. Attaching the stair runner!
I still have PTSD from this part of the project. I cried, I stormed out of the house, and I may have thrown a broom down the steps out of pure frustration. Here is where you can learn from me! Do not use a manual staple gun…your hand will turn black and blue from bruising and it will take you 15 hours to staple through a thick runner. Buy or rent an autmatic pressure staple or nail gun. It will go so fast for you. That is not my experience however…
First, I bought a 22′ runner for my stairs. I can’t actually remember how to got to 22′ being the length I needed, but I believe I just measured the rise and run of the steps and multiplied it by 13 (how many steps I have) and then added 2 feet for good measure. 22′ was also the longest runner I could find – I really didn’t want to deal with any seams.
I purchase this sisal runner from Overstock. It was on sale, and had great reviews. Sisal and Jute are extremely durable (remember my 70 lb dog). Sisal is also neutral, which goes with my new floors and beach house vibe! However, what I didn’t think about what how nonpliable a thick sisal rug is (below I recommend PLIABLE sisal + jute rugs. I want you to learn from my mistakes!) It’s very strong, so bending it over the lip of the stairs was hard and I had to use my handheld steamer every single time. The steamer is really helpful for any rug you chose to put on the steps though, it makes it much easy to work with when it’s a bit more bendy. (I love my Conair one for $20!)
We stapled the rug at the top of the steps and stapled again on the bottom of the rise. I never stapled on the actual tread due to the possibility that the staple could come up eventually and stab my feet. The plus side of a thicker rug – you can’t see the staples. They are completely hidden in the sisal!
I used a very strong carpet tape on the sides and front of the run – it works like liquid adhesive and holds the runner down quite nicely for extra safety. One roll lasted us the whole 13 steps!
This process of steaming, stapling and taping took about 10 hours from start to finish. In the beginning, it was a lot of trial and error and then we got a good flow.
- measure 1 time, 2 times, 3 times to make sure the runner is lined up! Make sure it’s centered from the get-go and measure again every step to make sure it’s still in line.
- “squeegee” all the air out and make sure the runner is taut and tight against the lip and run of the steps. Air pockets can make it unsafe!
- Do research on using a carpet pad. We opted not to because our rug had a built-in pad and was very thick, but a thin one would be more comfortable on the feet with one underneath.
- Make sure the rug you put on the steps is durable. I wanted a pretty vintage Turkish rug, but with the high traffic my steps see, a decorative rug would not hold up over time.
- Use carpet tape! This is a lifesaver! It’s so simple to use, like double-sided tape. It holds the edges down and gives a crisp look.
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