I took on the huge task of staining and painting our staircase myself and thought I’d share my experience since I actually couldn’t find many resources on how to do this online and basically had to figure it out for myself along the way. NOTE: I’m not a professional so if you’re a pro, please don’t judge! For reference: our stairs are white oak hardwood and our flooring is brushed white oak laminate. So this is what I did:
For staining treads:
- Heavy sand with 150 (Home Depot).
- Stain (Ours is a custom gray color. I apply stain with a rag dipped in the stain then I spread it around until everything is coated and wipe away the excess.)
- Light sand with 320 (Home Depot) after the stain is fully dry
- Top coat (Ours is Low Luster. I brush it on with a paint brush and do even, parallel brush strokes. I start at one end of the stair and move evenly across to the other. )
- Light sand after the top coat is fully dry.
- Top coat again same as before.
- Light sand once fully dry.
- Top coat one last time. Since this is the final coat, really make sure it’s very even.
For painting risers and trim:
- Caulk corners with this product: Home Depot. Make sure to do very even lines – it helps to practice elsewhere first.
- Primer. I used this product: Home Depot.
- Main paint color first coat. I used the same paint sheen as our walls so that it would make cutting the edges easier and faster.
- Main paint color second coat. Final coat so make sure it’s very even.
Couple things I learned or experienced along the way:
Our staircase was challenging because it’s so big. We have multiple flights of stairs so I broke them up into sections and started with the least visible area. If this is your first time staining/painting stairs, I strongly recommend starting with the least visible area because you will always have a learning curve and it’s better to learn where it won’t be seen.
Timing was another challenge since we actually were living in this house at the time that I did this project and that meant that we were normally using these stairs each day. So I did the first sand during the day because it didn’t matter if people walked on it. Then I did the rest of the work in the evenings after everyone had gone to bed so that it could have the most uninterrupted time to dry overnight.
Also, always start at the top of your stairs and work your way down so you don’t have to worry about what you’re sitting on/touching as you work.
I debated over whether to paint or stain first and there are some pretty intense opinions out there but ultimately I determined that my best approach would be to stain first, then paint because a good primer covers any stain that gets on the risers but it would’ve been a nightmare to tape off the risers. Also the line I got with taping wasn’t straight enough for me so the answer I found was caulking the corners and that gave the paint a solid termination point which was easy to freehand.
Note: the trim in these pictures is still not fully complete.
The reason we didn’t do this before we moved in was that stain and top coat needs solid drying time before it properly sets especially when you’re not doing high gloss and I wanted to wait until we could ensure that nobody was going to stomp on them with shoes so I decided to do them after construction.
I hope that helps!!