DIY STAIRS + COST BREAKDOWN



I'm sure if you're here then you already know that the stairs have been completed! I am beyond thrilled without they turned out and even more thrilled that I was able to do it all by my little self. This project came as a result of my flooring upstairs being replaced with hardwood recently so this was the only area that still had carpet and it needed to go ASAP. This is the first larger DIY project that I did entirely on my own and it felt really good. I am growing up! So, I thought I would do a quick rundown of how I did things and also a breakdown of what it all cost.


I would just like to state one disclaimer-- I am not a "pro DIYer". Heck, I wouldn't even call me a DIYer. I just get lucky sometimes. I typically do one larger DIY project a year and I find that I spend all year preparing for it (both emotionally and mentally). I say all this because you'll see that I'm not going to go into full details on how I did certain parts of the project. This is largely due to the fact that I know I completed some parts of this project in not the best way and potentially made it more complicated for myself. So I'd rather not suggest that for you. You're welcome.

Obviously, the first step was to remove the carpet. This was probably the most labor intensive part of the whole project. Why? SO. MANY. STAPLES. The were staples in the carpet and there were even more staples in the carpet padding underneath that. My original plan was to try and salvage the padding that was underneath for the new runner so I could recycle the padding since it was only about 3 years old (and to save some money). That didn't work out but more on that later.


Once I got all the carpet/padding up (on both the stairs and the landing), I went through and started filling in holes. Now, I wanted the stairs to feel rustic and not super refined which is why I was totally fine with the wood that was under the carpet. I do also realize I got lucky, as they installed actual treads with nosing on each step and I loved the look of the wood. So I wanted to lean into that by not filling in all the holes or cracks or knots. I would just fill in spots if there were a lot grouped together or some larger holes. After that dried, I went through and gave all the stairs a good sanding so everything was nice and even. Now that there was a slight dust storm, I had to vacuum it all up. And I mean ALL OF IT. You then should take a rag with some kind of soap (I used dish soap) and wipe all the areas your painting down real good. This will help the paint stick better and have an even finish.

Speaking of paint, that's the next step. Paint can be overwhelming, at least for me, because there are just so many options out there nowadays. Since these are steps and they'll get some heavy usage, I needed to make sure whatever paint I went with was going to hold up. To make my life easier, I just spoke with one of the guys at Home Depot. He suggested going with an anti-scuff exterior paint & primer because it would hold up really well and would be easier to clean since it's meant to handle the elements. That sold me. Also, went with a semi-gloss for the stairs so the trim and stairs would blend together to make the stair hallway feel larger. I ended up doing about 3 coats of paint with only a quart (still have some left over) and just focused on the areas that were going to be seen so I could still use the stairs (and to save time).


As for the runners, you might have to do some math which is not my favorite thing to do. I knew I was going to need at least two runners, I was just unsure of the sizes. I did a really basic formula:


Depth of Tread + Height of Riser + (Rough) Thickness of Nosing x Total # / 12"

= Avg. Length Needed


My total needed came out to be about 20' so I decided to get two runners at 12' long. This gave me some wiggle room and extra runner to work with should I make a mistake (because that was totally possible).

When you're ready to install the runner, I started a at about the 2nd step from the top. Why? Well, it's easier to get everything to line up at the top since you're starting on a tread and not a riser. I found it difficult to get the rug to cooperate when I did try to start on the first step/riser because of gravity. The next steps were when I started to make my life complicated so be warned. The main takeaway is that you want to start by doing a line of staples along the base of the riser. Make sure you're pushing the rug deep into the crease of where the riser meets the tread so it's as far back as possible. There are tools for this! I also cut a scrap piece of wood the width of the opening on either side of the runner and would place it next to the runner to ensure I was keeping the runner centered and that it wasn't starting to go in an angle down the stairs. (Thanks Rafytn @rignellranch for this tip)!


Once you get the line of staples down, you want to pull the rug across the tread and fold it over the nosing. I would focus on the edge of the runner first and make sure that side was flat on the tread, lined up with my spacer, and tightly wrapped around the nosing. If all looked good, I did my first staple right under the nosing. DO NOT OVER STAPLE THE FIRST GO AROUND! Use this first round to get the runner in place and somewhat secure to the steps. You can always go back and add more but it is a PAIN to remove staples and we've already done that once so let's not continue to torture ourselves. I did about 4 staples per tread and riser to start then went back and added more. Also, making sure you're smoothing the rug and bringing it back around the nosing before each staple so you avoid any lumps.

You basically repeat those steps until you need the 2nd runner and/or get to the bottom. It's not as bad as it sounds. It took me about 1.5 hours to complete the install (including cutting and installing the 2nd runner). Once you start to get toward the end of the 1st runner, I would stop installing it when you see you have about 2 steps worth of rug left. This will give you more flexibility with pattern matching and the total length so the end can hit where you need it to. Again, I'm trying to save you from removing any staples that you don't have to. The runner I chose was a vintage-style rug, with lots of pattern and distressing detail throughout so it made it easier for me to line things up vs. a rug that has a more geometric pattern to it where you'd have to make sure you're lining things up correctly.


To figure out how much of the 2nd runner I needed, I just placed it on the bottom half of the stairs so the end of it was hitting where I wanted and started rolling the top half under itself so I could get as close to continuing the pattern as possible. I would also push the runner into the remaining steps like I was going to staple so I could get a more accurate idea where I needed to cut. I chose to line it up at the base of the riser because it would be easier to hide the two rugs meeting vs. at the top of a riser. Once I did that, I marked the edge with sharpie on the back side of the runner, then took a utility knife and cut about an inch above that line. You're going to want to have that extra rug above the line because you're going to fold it over until you line up the patterns like you planned and start stapling it like earlier until you reach the bottom!



WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY (AKA WHAT YOU SHOULD DO!)

  1. If you can and are able to, buy or rent a staple gun that's either electric or hooks up to an air compressor. You won't have to use as much force vs. a handheld staple gun, which is what I used. It will also go by a lot quicker! My local hardware stores didn't have any available to rent and I couldn't buy all that brand new. I wouldn't even have a place to store an air compressor if I wanted to.

  2. Wear gloves! Especially when you're pulling out the carpet and staples so your hands don't take a beating.

  3. Buy a legit rug pad. The original plan I had of reusing the original carpet padding quickly went out the window when I looked at it again and noticed how thick it was. I knew I wanted the runner as flat on the steps as possible. So I opted to get a rug tape with a very minimal padding. This tape is really there to help the runner stay in place. Personally, I don't mind or notice there's no legit padding since the rug does have a slight texture and thickness.

  4. Get some carpet installation tools, like a carpet tucking tool. This will really help you get the rug into the creases without having to use your hands.

The last thing I had to do for the stairs was redo the landing. I didn't get as lucky with the wood situation as I did with the steps. It was just a basic subfloor board, that wasn't even cut straight. I had several ideas of what I wanted to do with the landing but eventually settled on mimicking the wood boards on the stairs by getting some pine boards then laid them parallel to the edge of the landing to go with the traffic flow. I used my electric nail gun to install the boards here. I also made sure to rough up the boards a little so they didn't look brand new compared to wood on the stairs and painted them the same white. And BOOM, brand "new" set of stairs!


I know the biggest question on your mind is "how much did this cost ya Kevin?" so I'm sorry for making you scroll and (hopefully) read all the above to get here. I'll break it down between the stairs and the landing since I know not everyone will have a landing at the base of their steps.


cost breakdown

1. stairs

STAIR TOTAL = $333


2. landing

LANDING TOTAL = $67


PROJECT TOTAL = $447


Now, when I was getting estimates for my upstairs flooring I would have them take a look at my stairs and give me an estimate on those too just so I would know. Ideally, they all wanted to install new wood flooring on them which came in around $2500 (supplies and labor). Then about $350 for installing the runner. So, all in all I think I came out on top with this project.


I know this was lengthy and some of it might not have made sense but I appreciate you for reading! As always, please feel free to let me know if you have any questions but as a reminder, I am NO expert at this kinda stuff.


Thanks for being here,

Kevin