Why, hello there! In this week’s One Room Challenge post I am getting into the awful mess of refinishing a staircase.
This task is not for the faint of heart. To be 100% truthful it was tremendously tedious and I would NEVER do it again. That said, I don’t like to be negative or a “Debbie Downer”, but you should know what you’re signing up for!
The staircase we refinished is in a century home and we knew that there were probably several layers of paint to deal with. So if you’re finishing a newer staircase with only one or two layers of paint (and newer paint to boot) you might not find this task that gruelling (trying to spin things in a more positive, upbeat direction)!
Assess The Situation
Before you even start refinishing your staircase, first assess if it’s worth you doing it or hiring this work out to a general contractor. Or should you just replace the treads, balusters, railings or all of the above?
My husband and I are sticklers for trying to keep as much of the original character of our historic home as possible. They just don’t build staircases like this anymore. So I would encourage you to really think about what makes sense for you.
If you’re in an older home and are hell-bent on maintaining as much of the original character as possible, read on. If this isn’t your scene, you can skip down to the photos and look at the blood, sweat and tears (literally) that we poured into bringing this staircase back to life.
Is it perfect? HECK NO! It is a million times better? HELL YES! Was it worth it? I questioned this MANY times during the process, but I would definitely say it REALLY WAS!
- DS Super Remover (or other paint stripping chemical)
- Methyl Hydrate (optional, to remove gel stripping residue/stubborn paint leftovers)
- Scrapers (metal edge)
- Paint Brushes (to brush on stripping product)
- Belt Sander (optional for many layers of paint)
- Random Orbital Sander (good for most stair refinishing projects)
- 36 grit sandpaper (belt)
- 60-80 grit coarse sandpaper discs
- 120 grit medium sandpaper discs
- Stain of choice
- Polyurethane (oil or water based, depends on stain)
- Paint colour of choice (if not refinishing the entire staircase)
Refinishing Older Stairs
*note – we left the risers and the balusters as-is, since we repainted them with a different shade of white
Stripping…. Paint (mind out of the gutter!)
- Start with applying the DS Super Remover to areas with paint, and leave it on for about half an hour. It should start melting, bubbling and chewing up the paint. Check instructions, but apply generously – we originally put it on a bit too thin and had to reapply.
- Start working that scraper with some good old fashioned elbow grease and scrape away the paint. Very time consuming with many layers to deal with!
- We noticed that once we started scraping away the paint the bits that were ending up on the floor were becoming “tacky” and would get set on the treads below and would cause double work, so clean as you scrape and save yourself a world of headaches.
- If you find that the paint being scraped is tacky, apply some Methyl Hydrate (or Varsol, or Mineral Spirits – all similar) to get rid of the sticky residue and continue scraping (and cleaning) until you start seeing the natural wood.
We had to repeat step one to four a couple of times to get to the wood to its natural state.
Let the Sanding Begin – Halfway there
- Once you have the wood stripped of all layers of paint, take a belt or orbital sander starting with 36-60 grit sandpaper and start sanding the wood down on the treads, railing and newel post. Be careful with the belt sander – it will remove/damage the wood if you don’t keep an eye on it!
- Repeat second round of sanding with 80 grit sandpaper.
- Repeat third round of sanding with 120 grit sandpaper.
- Sand by hand any areas that are not reachable with the belt or orbital sander.
Staining and Painting – The light at the end of the tunnel
- Apply stain to handrail
- Apply stain to stair treads
- Once stained, tape off and paint risers and balusters
- Apply a layer or two of poly to seal the stain and protect the wood
- Remove tape and take in your awesomeness!
I love, love, love how the stairs really add another layer of interest to the space! Sure, I could have just painted them black and white but they wouldn’t have the same impact. At the end of the day, I’m really glad that we tackled this project even though it was CRAZY time-consuming. What projects have you taken on that caused instant regret but turned out to be crazy awesome?
Oh, and ladies: be warned, you will need a manicure after a project like this! Trust me!
Can you see this project coming together? Are you just joining the adventure? Check out the other progress posts in my first ever One Room Challenge:
There are so many great designs happening this Spring by the other participants and featured bloggers, be sure to check in and check ’em out! Just a couple more weeks and still so much to do!