I Killed a Runner

Not a pedestrian out for a casual jog…a carpet runner.  Seriously people.  My driving skills aren’t that bad.  And I do have the sense to not admit first degree murder on the internet.  Bringing death to fashion and other crimes are a totally different story.

So in our foyer there was always one thing that bothered me: our stairway carpet runner.  It was floral.  It was yellowish brown.  It was remarkably dirty.  And it smelled.  Yup.  I’m one of those carpet sniffers on my hands and knees with the tush in the air and nose on the ground… 

Even after I added frames up the stairway wall, the carpet was always bugging me.  I kept it a while…I justified that Will needed the extra padding on his little knees when he learned to climb the stairs.  And then when he learned to jump down three stairs at a time (while holding my hand), I figured his future soccer coach would appreciate his healthy non-jarred knees. 

But then one day….back in June…I got an itch.  It was a let’s-remove-the-carpet-while-Jeremy’s-at-work-itch. 

So I got to analyzing how I could actually tackle that size of a job with a semi-pregnant belly.  First, I knew I would have to remove the hardware…

Each step had a bar across it with two brackets on the ends.  The little finial was decorative.  I don’t know exactly what it is…but I always called it a pineapple.  This place has pineapples in the weirdest little places.  This is just another one.  Someone told me that they represent a happy home or hospitality…so I fully plan on replacing these little guys with another pineapple somewhere else in the house.  Kinda like upcycling or reincarnation…just with inanimate fruit.

The hardware wasn’t hard to get off….and took the first set of stairs from this:

to this:

Check out that dirt trapped behind the hardware…gross!

Three hours, three blisters, two screwdriver gashes, and thousands of staples later, I had the first set of steps runner free.

 Not too shabby. 

And then I decided to quit.  Yup.  Two months later, the first set of steps were carpet free and the rest of the stairway still had that runner. 

So one Sunday afternoon when Will was down for his nap, I talked Jer into helping me remove the rest of the carpet (I figured that I could do the staple removal if he was willing to pull all the carpet off which required a bit more brute strength).  Here’s some of what we learned while tackling it…

First – it helps to have a bunch of tools.  What worked for me wasn’t necessarily what Jeremy preferred…so it’s good to have some options.

All I had to do was unscrew the stair hardware to remove the cross bar.  It was super simple.

Then Jeremy started on the carpet.  It helps to start at the top and go down (silly me started on the bottom when I tackled the first set of steps and it took me twice as long and as twice as much energy than working with gravity instead of against it).  Find a corner, try to pry it off and then use short vigorous yanks to get the staples to release their hold on the wood. 

It helps a lot to roll the carpet as you go…just make sure the staples and nails are all facing inward.  Trust me…your palms will thank you…as will your upper arm when you aren’t sore from a tetnus shot. 

When you get to the risers, pull the carpet at an angle.  Again – short strong yanks will do better tn a steady pull. 

Underneath the carpet is the carpet pad, tack strips and thousands of staples.  You wanna tear up the carpet pad as much as you can with your gloved hands.  The tack strip is easily removed with a pry bar and hammer…or flathead and hammer…just go slow and steady with the tack strip rather than perpendicular to it.  The carpet pad will be stapled down…and there will be other staples (illustrated by the arrows) pretty much all over.

We found that the fastest way for us to remove all the staples was to have Jeremy take a flat head screwdriver and pry up just a little bit of them while I followed with a pair of needlenose pliers and twisted, pried and yanked up the rest.  Our stairs are definitely not perfect…they have tiny holes and scraps and even color discoloration now that the carpet is out…but in general, we like it SOOO much better than the carpet.  Not only is it cleaner (no yucky previous owners dirt trapped anywhere) but it’s actually better for me and Will (we used to slip alot on the carpet ending up with jammed toes and twisted ankles).   


Of course, with any renovation – even small ones like ripping out carpet, there are some snafoos.  We learned that the runner installers used regular nails to keep the tack strips down…as well as roofing nails.  Seriously.  Most of the time we got them out…but there are a few that the heads broke off and we had to hammer the rest back into the steps.  Whenever we have future floor refinishing, we’ll have to pound them all the way through and fill with wood filler to hide em. 

So now that we have our runner completely in the grave, our stairway looks sooo much better. 

Isn’t it so much cleaner and look so much better?  Maybe it’s just me. 

I can’t wait till the day comes when we paint all our creamy tan trim to a bright white and the risers will get a good coat or two of that too.   And then I want to put numbers on each step…just so Will can finally learn to count.  Right now he thinks counting is 1-3-W.  I’m not kidding.

And now for our before & after side by side…

Not too shabby for just a little editing.  The little nook art and decor helps too…but really the removal of the stair carpet was key.

So you guys rip anything out lately?  Any carpet removal or carpet installation that changed the entire look of a space?  Perhaps you ripped something else outta your house that changed your life?  A light fixture, old cabinetry, a kid or a husband?  :)



  1. says

    The carpet and hardware had such an old-fashioned look to – this bare look is so much more modern and clean looking. For the numbers, you could use some of those nifty vinyl decals – then after the babies learn their numbers, you could replace with something else – like colors ;)

  2. says

    Way better!
    And funny…I started pulling up the carpet on our fully carpeted stairs (original 1880 hardwood underneath) about a year ago. The carpet was stapled down so well that by the time I got halfway up, I had to pull so hard that I was afraid of falling down the stairs when it finally came loose. So I asked hubby to help when he got home from work. The upper half of the staircase is still carpeted. One year later. :)

  3. says

    While remodeling our upstairs, we ripped up the carpet runner. It was in bad shape and needed it. However, I am now left with semi-stained stairs. The treads all were stained on the “do what’s seen only” basis from the previous homeowner. So now I have to go back and do them all over again. Joy! I wish mine looked as good as yours do!

  4. says

    500 times better, sister. i want to yank up the carpet on our steps, but… i think that i might just be lazy and leave it for the next owner.. plus, it doesn’t have burgundy flowers ;)

    • says

      Are you guys moving? Did I miss something? Or are you just saying that it’ll never be that important because it ain’t got ugly on my gorgeous carpet runner? Fingers crossed that it’s just that :)
      xo – kb

  5. Lindsay says

    I think it looks much better, but are you worried about it being slippery at all? Especially with little boy(s!) running around in socks? Or has it not been too slippery?

    • says

      We are definitely not sock people. I like to joke that our whole family is barefoot and pregnant :) Actually with bare feet, it’s definitely less slippery than the carpet. The carpet was SLICK. I imagine that if we ever had a kid that loved socks we would come up with a way to add some grip to em.
      xo – kb

  6. Nicole says

    Your stairs look gorgeous but this post made me CRINGE. When we bought our house last year, the entire staircase was carpeted with this striped tan and turquoise rug that had to go (for obvious reasons). Ripping that baby off of the stairs was so tedious and ended up in a lot of blisters, scrapes and cuts from the tack strips. Like you, we’re so glad we did it because the hardwood looks so much better but I still can’t bring myself to pick up the needlenose pliers…

  7. says

    Ok, so maybe I grew up under a rock but I’ve never seen carpet with HARDWARE!!!??? Seriously, how did you not stub your toe on that every. single. day??? The stairs look amazing now, like they had a total makeover. Great job!

  8. Barbara says

    Just catching up on your posts; as always, your efforts look great! I’m much older than you, so I’m very familiar w/both the pineapple being used as a symbol of hospitality and the stair carpeting hardware! That hardware was once very popular in traditional homes, but only wealthier families could afford it! Another generational difference — I’ve wanted to ADD an animal print runner to ‘update/modernize’ our c1921 pine steps! Love your spirit & your blog!

  9. says

    we’re considering ripping up the carpet on our stairs, our main concern is slippery-ish-ness. –our puggle may not gain enough traction to climb and descend safely–Did you encounter any slippery-ish-ness after the improvement that wasn’t insurmountable?

    • says

      It’s hard to say how a puggle might do…we are barefoot people and rarely wear socks alone or socks & shoes in the house. Not a rule or anything but it just happens that way. We haven’t had any slipping issues (I actually did slip more with the carpet) so I prefer the no-carpet…also, Will was jumping on the steps (because the carpet was padding under his little toes) and now that it’s firm, he stopped…which I like because I was always afraid of him falling. Maybe there is a friend that you have that has no carpet and you could test your puggle’s little feet :)
      xo – kb

  10. SoulandGrace says

    This post makes me laugh because I did the exact same thing, except I wasn’t pregnant! I decided to rip off the stair carpet one early Saturday morning while my hubby was asleep. Although I have to say your stairs look a thousand times better than mine without carpet. They are super old and creaky and it looks like at some point in time someone GLUED a runner down!

  11. says

    Wow, it’s much much better than before. The runner seemed little bit dirty and too old. Without that, your home and stairways look more brighter and beautiful. Also I like your wall color and decorations :)

  12. Cynthia says

    We’re going the other way. Having the wall-to-wall removed, new wood steps and risers installed over the plywood, and an oriental runner with brass hardware. Wish I had your old hardware!

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