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What are Carpet Runners?

By J. Beam
Updated May 16, 2024
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Carpet runners are long, narrow rugs meant to be used in hallways, galley kitchens, or other areas of the home where space is narrow, but long. They are also used on stairs, but these models do not have the backing used on carpet runners for the floor. Along with area rugs, this type of carpeting can add a decorative element to hardwood floors while making them warmer and more comfortable to walk on.

Most area rugs come in different sizes, and many have matching carpet runners available. Mass merchandisers often retail less expensive area rugs with matching runners included. The more expensive rugs sold in department stores, home improvement stores, and carpet retailers usually have carpet runners available in varying lengths.

Carpet runners are excellent not only for hallways, but also for kitchens. They tend to fit nicely down the length of cabinet and counter space, providing both a cushioned area on which to stand when washing dishes or preparing food and a decorative touch. Avoid wool runners in the kitchen and stick to synthetic fibers that are easier to clean and can withstand water.

It is best to have carpet runners for the stairs professionally installed. A poorly installed piece of carpeting on stairs poses a potential safety hazard, since tripping and falling is a serious concern. Most home improvement stores sell carpet runners for stairs by the foot. They will precut the required length of carpet, and they also sell installation tools, but unless you possess some knowledge of carpet installation, you’re better off hiring them to do it.

Wood stairs and even basement stairs that are not carpeted can be vastly improved in appearance with the addition of an inexpensive carpet runner. Hallways and entryways can also be warmed up with them. While they do not have to be limited to use on bare floors, avoid placing carpet runners, area rugs, and throw rugs on top of padded carpet if elderly people live in or frequently visit your home. Rugs over padded carpet can pose a tripping hazard both to the elderly and to very young children just learning to walk.

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Discussion Comments
By Kristee — On Oct 08, 2012

You can get really creative with staircase carpet runners. If you choose the right design, you can create a really cool effect.

My friend has a runner that looks like a waterfall cascading down her stairs. It actually looks like several little waterfalls, because at the edge of each step, you can see the realistic pattern of falling water going straight down.

She had it professionally installed for safety purposes. I think this is probably why it looks so good.

By feasting — On Oct 07, 2012

@Perdido – The only time that using a carpet runner on top of carpet would be a good idea is if you are trying to protect the carpet. In this case, a clear vinyl carpet runner is a good option.

I have one of these underneath my computer desk chair. I roll the chair around a lot, so I needed something to protect the carpet.

It clings to the carpet really well, so tripping isn't an issue. I have a friend who has a vinyl carpet runner in her foyer to keep people's wet shoes from touching her carpet. She has them remove their shoes and leave them on the runner.

By cloudel — On Oct 07, 2012

I think that black carpet runners can be very dramatic and gorgeous when accented with shapes. A runner with a black background and a bright pattern on top is much more flamboyant than a simple solid color runner.

I have a black runner in my hallway that has realistic looking pink and white marbles woven into it. It actually looks like someone took a photo of the marbles and printed it out onto the carpet runner somehow.

Even when the light is off in the hallway, I can see these marble shapes. All of my guests have loved this runner, and I have to say that it's my favorite piece of carpet in the whole house.

By Perdido — On Oct 06, 2012

I would never use a carpet floor runner on top of carpet. What would be the point?

I can see how this could trip anyone up. Carpet is so fluffy that it could never provide a nice level surface for a runner to rest upon.

By afterall — On Jan 21, 2011

Stair carpet runners can look nice, but be a pain to clean. Then again, I feel the same way about hallway carpet runners. The very shape of them makes them more difficult to carry in and out than other rugs, but if you do not move them then you can't vacuum the floor underneath, which leads to a slightly less thorough cleaning.

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