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How to measure a runner for your stairs

Stair runners are great decorative elements that can add personality and flair to your hallway. So, if you've decided you'd like to give your staircase a makeover, these can offer a relatively inexpensive way to do so. Pair with some stair rods and you'll have a beautiful staircase that's the envy of all your guests.

Before you can create your new stairway look, you'll need to accurately measure your runner to fit your stairs. This is quite simple for straight staircases but, for those that spiral, it can be a little more complicated. To help you learn how to measure a runner for your stairs, we've put together this helpful guide. We'll cover tips for choosing a stair runner fit for your home, as well as share the easiest way to measure your stairs for a runner.

How to choose a stair runner

When deciding on the perfect runner for your stairs, it's important to think about your current interiors, and whether the runner you have your eye on will fit in with it — unless you plan to overhaul your entire hallway, in which case you can afford to get more inventive.

Although colour, print, and style will all be very important to you, it's essential to think about the practical aspects of your stair runner, too. For example, will you want it to just stretch from the bottom step to the top, or will you want it to be a little longer and run across your landing? While this is all down to personal preference, the latter option is great for opening up smaller homes and hallways, as it creates the illusion of a much grander staircase.

Additionally, you'll want to think about the width of your runner. Again, there are no hard and fast rules about how wide your runner should be in relation to your stairs and it's down to your personal preference. But, if you're looking for some guidance, you may want to consider how a narrow runner would look on a very wide staircase, and vice versa.

If your runner appears too thin compared to your overall staircase, it can create a disorientating 'tightrope' sort of illusion, but choosing one that's too wide can mean you lose out on seeing the beautiful wooden staircase beneath it.

How to determine the length of the runner you'll need

Finding a runner to fit your staircase can seem complicated, but there are two reasonably simple ways to do it accurately. But, prior to fitting your runner, it's important to decide where you'll want your runner to start, as this will then determine how long your runner measurements will be.

Deciding where your runner should start

Before you get measuring, you'll need to decide where your runner should start. Some people will want it to come all the way from the top tread and cover the very bottom riser, whereas others will leave the bottom riser bare.

This will depend on your own preference and how much of your staircase you'd like showing. Once you've decided, you can then choose your measuring style. We have detailed both methods below.

Measure the full staircase

  1. Fix one end of a very long, flexible tape measure at the top of your stairs where you want your runner to start.
  2. Fix your tape measure at each point where a riser (the flat vertical part connecting the steps) joins to the tread (the step itself) below it, until you reach point where you want your runner to end.

Your tape measure will show the total length of runner you need.

Measure each individual stair

  1. Measure each tread (the step itself) and riser (the flat vertical part connecting the steps) individually, making a note of each measurement as you go.
  2. When measuring risers, you will need to measure from the top of the nose of the tread above to the point where the riser meets the tread below (the crotch).

When you have finished taking measurements, add them all together to find out how long your runner will need to be.

Measuring your stairs for the runner

Before you can enjoy your new stairway, you'll need to mark out where the start of your runner will be to help with accurate measurements. Most people will advise you to start at the top, but where is the top? This is completely down to personal preference, and can either be:

1. The landing at the top of the stairs
If you choose to do this you will need to allow at least 300mm (12") back from the nose where the landing overhangs the first riser. Anything less will be a tripping hazard.

2. Under the nose of the landing
This is ideal if you do not have a covering on the landing or your fitted landing carpet covers the nose of the landing.

When it comes to deciding where your runner should end, this again depends on your personal preference and the space you have available to you. There are three main options for you to consider here:

  1. On the bottom tread, leaving the bottom riser bare
  2. On the bottom riser
  3. Extended onto the floor at the bottom of the stairs. This will help to lengthen the look of your hallway and make your staircase look grander. But bear in mind that you will need to consider safety and ensure that you are not creating a tripping hazard as you approach the stairs to climb them.

You can combine any start and end points to suit your particular staircase. Please remember to take into account that your choice will affect the overall length of the stair runner you need.

In all cases, you will need to allow a little extra bit of runner for a neat finish at the top and bottom of your stairs, or you can use Easy bind for a neat and attractive finish to your runner. A good-quality carpet runner that's been fitted properly with adequate underlay will last you many years, without you needing to lift and move it around as other outdated DIY guides may suggest.

Once you have measured your stair runner and are happy with it, you can learn how to fit your stair runner with our helpful guide. 

Measuring your stairs for a runner can seem complicated, but hopefully with our methods detailed above, you've found an easy fix for your next DIY project. Here, at Stair Rods Direct, we have a fantastic range of runners, as well as other brilliant decorative elements for your stairs, including rods and brackets, thresholds, skiffers, carpet studs, and much more to help you with your renovations.

For more tips and advice, remember to check out the rest of our how-to guides. We share design inspiration, as well as other guides for measuring and fitting your stairway elements. If you have any questions regarding our products or your planned projects, don't hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team.

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