DIY Painted Stairs

We had carpeted stairs in our Florida house for 7 long years. 4 kids, 2 dogs and many friends ran up and down those stairs. I never ever felt like I could get them clean as over time they got stained and gross.

I always hated that when you opened our front door you looked down the hall directly at the furry stairs. It was one of those illogical things that bothered me because what I really longed for was a pretty hardwood staircase.

All of the woodwork was oak when we moved in and it felt country and even dated to me even though it was new construction. I painted the handrail black and the post and rail white to match the spindles to update it a bit. Here you can see the updated woodwork AND furry steps.

One day I took a utility knife and sliced open a piece of carpet. Builder grade stairs under there. Bummer.

Not pretty but the wood construction was solid and I was sure anything would be better than carpet. So I began the long, dusty and dirty process of removing the carpet in small sections from 18 steps and a landing.

Once the carpet was off in a section I removed the padding, wood tack strips and staples. My removal tools involved an arsenal of items including a flathead screwdriver, pliers, the back of a hammer and a crow bar. I carried a cup as I went to drop the staples in and would complete one section at a time when no one was home or in bed.

Once everything was removed I vacuumed and cleaned up the dust and carpet fibers really well. Next I began to chip off/sand off glue and used wood putty to patch nail holes.

I used my palm sander to sand over the surfaces to make them as smooth as possible. This was a huge mess with lots of vacuuming again.

The prep takes forever and is hard work requiring lots and lots of patience. Plan on a many hours on task and a ton of patience {wine helps}.

We couldn’t afford to have a professional come in and add hardwood over the builder grade case. It was just plain cost prohibitive and I felt paint or stain could look decent and would be an improvement over the carpeted look.

Upon close inspection I didn’t feel stain would look best due to the massive amount of wood repair that was done. So, I took the paint plunge.

I painted all the trim on the sides of the stairs a fresh coat of semi gloss white made for trim and doors.

The back of the stairs (or risers) were really ugly and had stubborn adhesive squirted all over them. I opted to cut new risers from plywood and painted them in place.

***In hind sight I would add the new risers last AFTER painting the steps and would paint them prior to install**.

Taped off all the fresh white paint so I could begin working on the painting the stair treads. I chose a dark chocolate Brownstone porch paint to match our wood look tile flooring color.

When you begin painting or staining your stairs you will need to work on every other one so you and your family can still use the stairs. This tip will save your sanity.

4 kids lived upstairs in this house so I worked on painting on a coat as soon as they left for school. It was dry enough to walk on if they forgot which to use by the time they got home.

Touch up went on for days and days and days. Once satisfied all the tape came off.

We lived on the painted stairs for 3 more years. The stair tread paint was pretty durable but did need touched up now and then. The risers could be scrubbed with Mr Clean- a bonus of semi gloss paint. It was louder having them run up and down the stairs without carpet plus a real shin killer if you tripped.

A few years later I came to hate the white spindles. {I need a lot of change I’d you haven’t picked up on that yet} Took a saw one afternoon and chopped them all down. I hired a handyman install this X detail. Loved this look in lieu of traditional spindles.

Yay!!! I was finally happy with the stairs.

And then after all that work we listed the house for sale! I had new wall to wall carpet installed on the entire upstairs floor…. and over the painted staircase!!!

Painted stairs were a risk I was willing to take. We wanted a move in ready house that was turn key. She sold 3 days later.

Here’s a pic as we were walking out for the last time. So pretty but all I see is that nick in the handrail from the movers. Sigh.

Guess what we have in the Virginia house????? Yep- we have carpeted stairs that are also the first thing you see when you walk in the door. You know what’s coming next…

Am I crazy enough to do it again?You bet I am!

Would I do it the same way? I’ll remove the carpet just as before, patch, sand and step back.

If the steps look decent I’m considering painting my steps/risers black this time then adding a pretty runner with padding. It could be replaced every few years by moi!

If they look bad I’m considering new hardwood treads this time. We have fewer stairs and it may be more affordable.

We won’t know until they are stripped bare! Stay tuned …


About Laurel Dane Designs, LLC

I am customizing our final house into a home one room at a time. This is our 11th and final home so every detail is curated to create our FOREVER home. I've worked on many homes of our own and client's home so there is plenty of inspirational for all home sizes and styles here. There are tutorial blogs for DIY projects to recipes- this blog is all things HOME. I hope you will join me and find inspiration here.

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