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How To Tighten Loose Carpet on Stairs: Complete Guide

How To Tighten Loose Carpet on Stairs: Complete Guide

When my wife noticed a section of carpet coming loose on our stairway, I was concerned that it would be a huge undertaking. As it turned out, tightening the carpet is not too difficult and can be done in a few steps. 

To tighten loose carpet on your stairs, we’ll follow these simple steps:

  1. Identify the section of loose carpet. 
  2. Stretch out the carpet.
  3. Re-attach the loose carpet. 

This article will go into more detail on exactly what you need to do to re-tighten your carpet, how to avoid loose carpeting and some alternatives to carpets on your stairs. 

1. Identify the Section of Loose Carpet

As straightforward as this might seem, there’s a little more to it than just a cursory glance at the most affected parts. When looking for loose carpet, first identify the most glaring parts, as this will make your job much easier. Once you have noted the loose parts of the carpet that have come undone, check around for other sections of carpet that are coming loose.

Loose carpet found on stairway.

It is essential to take your time here. The parts that have already come loose from where they are attached are important, but at the same time, there might be other sections of carpet that have not come undone completely but are slowly getting there. These sections can be deceiving because, at first glance, they look just fine.

The problem with them is that while they are not fully loose, they are loose enough to become a problem in the future. To avoid this, it’s best to identify these spots early and fix them.

2. Stretch Out the Carpet

The next step involves stretching out the loose carpet to tighten it. Stretching the carpet primes it for re-attaching it to the staircase, ensuring that it doesn’t remain loose afterward. To stretch out the carpet, you can use one of two methods:

Stretch It Out by Hand

Stretching the carpet by hand is the first and most straightforward method. There aren’t any complicated tools involved, just you and your upper body strength. Grab the loose section of the carpet by hand and stretch it until it is as tight as you can get it. Be careful to grab the carpet not just from where it ends but from where you intend to attach it. 

The process can be confusing, but try to mentally mark off the spot you intend to attach the carpet. Since the carpet was previously loose, you could end up having to cut some of it off to make sure it stays put this time. Hence, attach the carpet from the point you intend to cut, not from the end of the carpet. 

Use a Carpet Power Stretcher or Knee Kicker

A carpet stretcher does exactly what its name says: it stretches the carpet. While it isn’t completely necessary to fix your carpet, it can make the process a lot easier than it would be otherwise.

The Power Stretcher has a head with a lever that does most of the stretching work and an attached pole to hold it in place for you and maintain tension in the carpet. It can seem complicated at first, but you can get the hang of it in a few simple steps:

  1. Extend or contract the tail of the stretcher to fit it onto the staircase.
  2. Raise the lever on the stretcher to ready it for the carpet.
  3. Place the head of the stretcher where the carpet is loose and place the tail against the wall.
  4. Press on the lever to stretch the carpet.

Alternatively, you can also use a ‘knee kicker’ for your stairs and might even find it more suitable for smaller sections of carpet if your stairs aren’t too wide.

A Knee Kicker Carpet Stretcher (link to Amazon) can be a good investment for the future and will bail you out anytime your carpet begins to come loose again. 

To use the knee kicker, simply place the head with the tacks on the loose carpet and “kick” it with your knee to create tension.

Here’s a great video on using a knee kicker:

Mastering the Carpet Kicker: Learn the Best Techniques

3. Attach The Loose Carpet

Once you have stretched the loose carpet with a power stretcher, knee-kicker, or by hand, all that remains is to attach it and make sure it stays firm. For most carpets, you can usually find a “tack strip” to which the carpet should be attached. The tack strip is just a piece of wood with tacks attached to it for holding the carpet firm.

Carpet track strip on stairway.

From here, simply hook the carpet onto the tack strip, making sure that it is attached firmly to the head of the tack strip, so it doesn’t come loose again.

If the tack strip is damaged or you simply cannot attach it properly, you can use a staple gun to hold the carpet in place. However, this will likely only be a temporary solution, and you should seek professional help after. 

Once the attachment is done, make sure you cut off any excess carpet and tuck the rest of it into the stair tread if possible (source).

Reasons Why Your Carpet Is Coming Loose

Over time, most homeowners notice that loose carpet becomes an occasional and sometimes common occurrence. It can be frustrating for you when you notice it, and you might think you’ve been conned by the crew that installed the carpet. However, this is not always the case.

The most common causes of loose carpeting are:

  • Poor quality carpet 
  • Humidity
  • Dragging heavy items
  • Water damage 
  • Bad underpad
  • Incorrect installation

These are just a few of the usual suspects when it comes to loose carpeting. While there are some more potential causes, you need to look no further than these most of the time. The good thing is that, like many problems in life, these also have remedies.

Poor Quality Carpet

Poor quality material is a problem that needs to be solved before any installation even takes place. Buying low-quality carpet will save you a few dollars temporarily but might end up costing you far more in the long run.

The costs associated with refitting it if it comes loose and maybe even changing it entirely when the hassle comes to a head will likely amount to the same(if not more) as a good quality carpet.

When choosing a carpet, the first thing you should take note of is the knot density. While it might seem unimportant at first, it is a good way to determine carpet quality without extensive research.

A higher knot density indicates a tighter weave, while a lower knot density indicates a looser weave and lower quality. This density is important because a looser weave is more likely to bunch up, fray, and of course, loosen over time.


Humidity refers to the moisture content in the air and is directly relevant to the condition of your carpet. In locations where humidity is high due to hotter climates, water vapor in the atmosphere can penetrate your carpet, causing it to deform over time and eventually come loose.

Usually, the carpet returns to normal as the average daily temperature changes with the seasons. However, in extreme cases where the temperature stays high for extended periods, the deformation in the carpet can last longer and eventually stay permanent if it lasts long enough.

A good counter to it is to keep the room as cool as possible when it gets hot. An air conditioner or fan can help greatly here to keep the temperature down and counteract the humidity. 

Dragging Heavy Items

Dragging heavy items across your carpet is another factor that can cause your carpet to come loose. Once you begin to drag heavy items across the carpet, it makes the carpet come loose from its fittings. The more you do it, the worse it gets. 

That said, this does not mean that you can’t move anything at all just because you have carpet at home. You just have to lift instead of drag. Lifting this way can sometimes be easier said than done, especially with very heavyweights.

Water Damage

Water damage is yet another factor that can irreparably damage carpets. You should take care of any water spilled as soon as possible, regardless of the amount. Carpets, like wood, can take in a lot of water and seemingly remain fine. 

However, like wood, the internal damage is rarely ever obvious until it is too late. It is better to err on the side of caution and take care of any spills as soon as possible. Taking care of smaller spills is usually easy and can be done with things like a fan, air conditioner, or even a hairdryer if you’re in a pinch.

For more significant damage like plumbing leaks and massive spills on your carpet, the solution is a lot more difficult but not impossible. If you want to forgo the stress, the quickest solution is to have the carpet replaced or get a professional to help with the drying. However, if you intend to take care of it yourself, a high-powered vacuum and increased airflow should help.

One thing to note is that extreme water damage can pose serious health problems like mold and an increased insect presence. Due to the potential health problems, it is best to get professional help with carpet drying in extreme cases.

Bad Underpad 

Poor quality underpads beneath your carpet can also cause your carpet to come loose over time. The function of the underpad is to provide support for the carpet laid on top of it, making it more durable and less prone to damage. However, if the padding beneath the carpet is of poor quality or improperly laid, it loses the support it needs and can easily come loose from its fittings. 

Bad padding can also lead to increased wear on the carpet from everyday traffic, reducing its overall lifespan.

Incorrect Installation

When choosing carpet for your home, how you choose to install it is equally important. A high-quality carpet with poor quality installation can sometimes look no different from a poor quality carpet.

The initial tightness is extremely important when installing your carpet, and it must be stretched using proper tools. When the installation is not properly done, it is easy to get creases and folds in the carpet where it starts to bunch up. 

To avoid this, you should keep an eye on whoever you hire to install the carpet and ensure it is done properly. Everything from proper stretching of the carpet to using the right tacks is important here, and sometimes even the most innocuous problem can cause a snowball effect.

Alternatives to Stair Carpeting

Taking care of a carpet or rug can be stressful. This stress is doubly so when you place your carpet in high traffic areas like stairs that are used multiple times a day. Over time, the maintenance involved can wear down even the most determined homeowners and leave them feeling overwhelmed.

If you feel tired of the amount of care involved in managing your stair carpeting, you can try any of the following options:

  • Carpet runners
  • Leather treads
  • Stone stairs
  • Wood Stairs
  • Tiles


Carpeting on stairs is a popular option for many people. However, the amount of care involved can sometimes be daunting. Once it begins to come loose, a proactive approach is necessary and can save you a lot of money in the future. 

Hiring a carpet stretcher from your local hardware store is a good choice, but you can also pay a professional to solve the problem for you if need be. If you decide to go the carpet route, most of the things I talk about in this article should help a lot if any related problems come up.

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