How to Use Carpet Tiles on Stairs

Megan Cook, C.P.A., C.F.E., C.M.A., M.Accy

Carpeting on stairs provides you with more traction and comfort under the feet. For those who desire a do-it-yourself project and don't want to learn how to install carpet using the stretch-in installation method, using carpet tiles is an easier choice to consider.

There's no padding required, and peel-and-stick tiles are even available. In the end, you won't be able to tell the difference between traditional carpet and carpet tiles.

  1. Choose what type of carpet tile you want. Do not buy at this time. You just need to know what dimensions the tile you desire comes in, so that you can calculate how much to purchase.

  2. Measure your stairs. You will be concerned with the step and the rise. The step is the part of the stairs your feet touch, while the rise is the piece of the stair in front of the step. Measure the length and width of the step, and then the length and width of the rise. Write the measurements down.

  3. Calculate how many carpet tiles you need to complete your project. Divide the length of your step by the length of one carpet tile. Round up to the nearest whole number. Divide the width of your step by the width of one carpet tile. Round up to the nearest whole number. The greater of the two is how many carpet tiles will cover one step. Count your steps and multiply by the number of tiles needed for one step. Then, repeat the measurement process for the stair rise. Add the result to the number of tiles needed to cover all steps.

  4. Purchase the carpet tile. Make the purchase all at one time so that all of the pieces will come from the same lot. Tiles produced in different lots can differ slightly, creating an un-uniform look.

  5. Clean your stairs in preparation for applying carpet tiles. Make sure all remnants of previous carpet pads or adhesive strips are removed. Any residue left behind could make carpet tiles fail to adhere to the stairs.

  6. Take the carpet tiles out of their packaging and adjust to room temperature for at least 24 hours. This will ensure that the fit you experience upon installation will remain after the tiles adjust to the temperature and humidity of the room.

  7. Look for arrows on the back of each tile. Keep the direction of the arrow in mind. All arrows should be pointing in the same direction. This will ensure a smooth and uniform look.

  8. Create a template for your stairs. This will guide you in making the cuts necessary in your carpet tiles. Using a carpet tile as a guide, cut out a piece of cardboard exactly the same size as one carpet tile. Use the template to mark the placement of carpet tiles on your stairs with chalk. Start in the center of the rise or step you are working on, then work outward. When you reach the edge of your stairs, mark where a cut must be made on the template.

  9. Make the necessary cuts in your carpet tile to fit on the edges of your rises and runs. Always cut on the backside of the tile using a cutting board and utility knife. If your utility knife has carpet residue on it, clean it with alcohol to keep the cutting surface sharp.

  10. Start installing your carpet tiles, starting with the center of each rise or step and working outward. Peel the backing off the carpet tile and slowly fit them in to the guidelines you made with the chalk using the template. Repeat this process all the way down your stairs.

  11. Tip

    Purchase 10 to 20 percent more carpet tiles than you need. These can be used if you make an error cutting the tiles or if damage is done years down the road.


    Utility knifes are very sharp. Keep them out of the reach of children and pets.

    Wear gloves to protect your hands while cutting with utility knives.