Ideas for Painting & Refinishing Your Stairs

Interior Stairs

The stairs in your home get a lot of traffic but often not much thought. They’re just there, and you use them. But with a little creativity, you can make a masterpiece out of these steps that take you up and down. Getting your stairs to stand out isn’t difficult. Here are some ideas for painting and refinishing.

Decide that carpet on stairs isn’t your thing

Some people love carpeted stairs. There are some advantages: they’re quieter when you step on them; they’re softer on your feet. But then the drawbacks: they have to be vacuumed rather than swept; they can harbor mold, dust and germs; wear and tear becomes pretty obvious after a number of years.

Bare wood stairs present a sleeker, more natural look. Carpeted stairs appear heavy and thick. Deciding how you want your stairs to look is important, because once you start tearing off the carpet, there’s basically no turning back.

If you’re ready for the job of painting and refinishing your stairs, here’s how to go about it.

Interior Stairs

Prepare the stairs well

Once the stairs are bare, do a thorough cleaning and prep job.

  • Vacuum or sweep off carpet remnants and dust
  • Remove any staples and nails
  • Sand well – for accessible areas, a belt sander works best with 60 or 80 grid sandpaper; you’ll need to hand-sand corners and hard-to-reach areas
  • If necessary, use a cleanser such as TSP to mop down all areas of the stairs
  • Let dry. Make sure to sweep and vacuum when everything else is done.


Stain the treads first

Stairs have two parts: the riser, which is the vertical board on which the steps sit, and the treads, which is what you walk on. Risers get no foot traffic. Treads get a lot. For this reason, a good method for upgrading your stairs is to stain the treads and paint the risers.

You also can stain the entire staircase. But here we’ll focus on the stain/paint method.

Start with a good quality wood stain in a shade you like. Apply exactly as the instructions recommend. It’s best to do the stain first, because it’s easier to clean overlapped paint of a stained surface than vice-versa.

Paint the risers

Most people prefer a semi-gloss or full gloss paint for the risers. Before adding paint, tape off areas you don’t want paint to touch – and make sure the previously applied stain is fully dry before you do this.

You’ll get a better result if you use a sash brush, which has angled bristle edges. Paint carefully and smoothly. Two coats most likely will be necessary.

Stairs e1579186863620

Color combinations

When it comes to color, it’s really up to you. Using a color for the risers that matches other trim areas throughout your home might work well. Another option is to go with a light riser color to offset the darker stain on the steps. Whatever paint color you choose, they key to a fantastic look is buying high-quality paint. Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams are two examples of outstanding paint makers with exceptional products.

Franklin Painting of Farmington, CT, can help with a stairway painting/staining job. We provide full-service, professional painting for all your interior and exterior paint projects. If you don’t want to do it yourself but demand the very best results, call us first at (877) 646-7774.

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