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10 Steady Steps in Fitting a Stair Carpet

Fitting carpet on stairs is a task some DIY enthusiasts wouldn't attempt. If the problem is broken down into achievable steps, as outlined below, it is a job that most handy homeowners can tackle. As stairs differ from house to house a little common sense is required, however the principles outlined below will provide you with a good foundation from which to start the job.

1 Measure the stair width, then select and order the carpet. Allow half a yard, or meter in length for each stair. Some carpet is supplied in stair widths, and can be bought as a single length. For other carpets that are only available in room widths, fit the stairs in sections and cut parallel lengths of carpet from the wide piece. Remember to allow for horizontal pattern repeat in your measurements. Each width of stair carpet must have a full horizontal repeat. Buy a good quality underlay to use on the stairs. The amount of underlay needed will be about 75% of the carpet area.

2 Prepare the stairs for fitting. Remove old carpet and underlay. Ensure no nails or staples are left in the stairs. Repair any broken treads or other features. This is a good opportunity to screw down treads that are loose or creaking. It's a bit disheartening to complete a job like this and find there is an annoying noise you have to endure for the next ten years.

3 Complete any associated work, such as stripping, painting or staining the banister and panelling at the side of the stairs. The carpet is really the final touch in redecorating the staircase.

4 The first task in laying the carpet is to nail carpet gripper to the back of the steps and the bottom of the risers. Ensure the teeth on the two strips point towards each other, and the gap between them is twice the thickness of the carpet.

5 Measure the width of the stairs again, and cut the carpet to the required width using a sharp knife. It is often easier to cut from the back of the carpet than the front. Where there is a bold pattern on the carpet, make sure the pattern is centered on the stairs. Where the width of the stairs is less than the width of a pattern repeat, trim the excess width from both sides to ensure the pattern remains at the center of the stairs.

6 Roll the stair carpet into a roll, with the backing on the outside. If it has a definite pile direction, start at the end where the pile falls away from you and roll it in that direction.

7 Cut pads of underlay for the stairs. For normal stairs, the underlay should be cut into rectangular pads, sized to cover the steps and continue over the nose for several inches. Attach it to the tread with staples.

8 Stair carpet should always be fitted from the bottom up. Press the free end of the back of the rolled stair carpet onto the gripper rod at the bottom of the first riser. The pile direction should be down the stairs. If the pile direction runs up the stairs, pile separation or "grinning" will occur on the stair nose.

9 Roll the carpet up over the nose of the first step and towards the back. Use a knee kicker to push the carpet towards the back of the step, to ensure it is tight. Using a flat bolster chisel, force the carpet between the two gripper rods at the back of the step, ensuring it is pushed evenly between them and secured on their nails.

10 Repeat this process for each step until you get to the top of the staircase. If the landing is to have a solid floor, or a change in covering, finish and tack the carpet just below the landing nose. If the landing is to be carpeted with the same carpet, the stair carpet can be finished at the bottom of the last riser, and the landing carpet will come down to meet it. It can be useful to keep extra stair carpet tucked in behind the landing carpet so that the stair carpet can be moved down if there is undue wear over a period of time. This will prolong the life of the carpet, and save you money by avoiding early replacement.

There is nothing in this list of tasks that cannot be undertaken by a reasonably competent DIY enthusiast. If you follow these 10 steps systematically, you will avoid many of the problems associated with fitting stair carpet, and become self-sufficient in flooring your home.