We did a DIY staircase remodel by painting our stairs. Learn how to paint stairs with this tutorial and find out how our staircase renovation has held up over the last 5 years.
Today, we’re talking about how to paint stairs. A stare-worthy painted staircase remodel, to be exact.
Truth is, I guess these stairs have always been fairly “stare-worthy”. But in the beginning, I don’t think it was really for good reasons. But I’ll let you be the judge.
*This post most recently updated 7/2020. This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Please read our full disclosure policy HERE.*
If painting your stairs is something you’re seriously considering, then grab the free printable stair painting guide!
Click here or below. I’ll send your free printable stair painting project guide immediately⤵
Before we get into the how-to, here’s what you’ll need for this stairs project →
Supplies for a Painted Staircase Remodel:
- porch paint for base color (Behr porch & patio – ultra-pure white)
- porch paint for runner color (Behr porch & patio – baltic gray)
- Frog tape (1.5″ for delicate surfaces)
- angled 2.5″ paintbrush (this is my favorite brand/size)
- paint roller, pan, and nap
- measuring tape
- palm sander(this is the one we own)
- wood putty (paintable) or Bondo (to fill large gashes or dents)
Choosing Between Staircase Renovation Ideas
If these stairs look familiar, that’s because I’ve shown you these basement stairs of ours before. Truth is, we’ve had to renovate stairs MANY times in our day, and the problem is, staircase remodels are almost always $$$.
Well, we didn’t have $$$ for this project. We had more like ¢¢¢. Problematic.
Our first plan was to stain the stairs.
However, after a ton of sanding work, we realized this plan was going nowhere. These treads are made of pine. Pine is soft, and the treads have tons of wear on them. Gashes, divots, etc.
The sad reality is that stain doesn’t take evenly to pine in this condition. If we were willing to put a ton more time into the staining plan, it MIGHT have worked, but we weren’t willing to spend that time and energy on a ‘maybe’. So, we abandoned ship on Plan A.
We priced out a Plan B of purchasing new oak treads to stain. Holy moly. We realized quickly that wasn’t in our ambitious (cheap) budget.
So, we moved onto Plan C. It took a while for the hubs to embrace Plan C, since, admittedly, it was a little “different.” Sure, we’re not the only ones in the world to have painted stairs, but they are not universally loved and accepted on a regular basis…yet.
I love the look. Since it was certainly the right price point, he agreed to give it a try.
Don’t forget! You can make this project easier by downloading the free guide!
Click here or on the image below. I’ll send your free stair painting printable guide immediately ⤵️
How to Paint Stairs: An Affordable Staircase Remodel Option
With Plan C as the chosen route, we got right to work on our staircase renovation.
Step #1: Preparation
The preparation for painting wooden stairs is much less than it would have been for staining the stairs (bonus!).
First, take off any old paint or coating to ensure the new paint sticks well to the stairs. We used a palm sander to remove the glossy coating that was on our stairs.
If you have any HUGE gashes/divots/etc, you might want to try to sand those out or fill them with wood putty or Bondo to smooth them out a bit.
Once the sanding portion of this staircase remodel project is complete, simply make sure the staircase is wiped down and clean to remove any leftover dust.
Step #2: Prep Your Landing (if Necessary)
In our case, the landing was subfloor that had been covered in linoleum. We decided to cover the landing with utility oak hardwood flooring.
This stuff is outstanding, and the best part is that we purchased it from Lumber Liquidators for .99/sq ft!!
We were able to use the old nosing piece to finish the edge of the landing, but we had to raise it up 3/4″ with plywood to match the height of the new oak flooring. Once the oak flooring was installed, we used the palm sander to sand the floor until it was nice and smooooooth.
Here’s what it looks like installed…
And if you’re wondering, YES, we do put our children to work on all our crazy DIY projects. And YES, pajamas are the standard business attire around here.
Step #3: Paint Your Base Coat(s)
We painted two base coats of the Behr ultra white porch & patio paint on the stairs (risers and treads) using a combination of a roller and brush.
This part of painting basement stairs isn’t really any different in terms of supplies or technique than other paint jobs you’d take on.
Step #4: Tape Off Your Runner Starting With the Outside Edge
This is the ONLY somewhat challenging part of this staircase remodel project. Take your time as you tape so that the results are great.
Otherwise…you’ll either have to live with the paint job being flawed OR redo the entire project. Neither one of those options appeals to me; trust me, it’s totally worth it to take your time on the taping.
Decide on the thickness of the gray “stripe”. We settled on 1.5″ because it was the width of the painter’s tape. 😉 That decision, alone, made taping the steps much easier.
Then decide on how wide you want your gray runner to be. In the image above, the blue painter’s tape was placed where our gray stripe would eventually be painted.
TAPE THIS PART FIRST.
Once I figured out where the stripes were going to go, I measured from the edge of the stair to the blue tape. Then I cut a spacer out of wood and used that to help align the blue tape as I went down the stairs.
**Note: we are using the regular blue painter’s tape for this portion because it’s cheaper and only being used as a placeholder. We personally prefer the Frog Tape to actually “do the job” here. The blue painter’s tape will be removed before you start to paint.**
Make sure to grab your printable DIY guide for this project! It’s free. Click here or below on the image to get started!
Tape off the Rest of Your Runner
Once the blue tape was installed and we were happy that it was nice and straight, we took the yellow tape (the Frog Tape) and ran it next to each side of the blue tape.
Repeat this for the other side of each stair.
Once you have your two lines of Frog Tape in place, remove the blue tape so that you’ll be able to paint-on your gray stripe in that location. Remember: under that “inside” yellow tape is where your white “stripe” will be once the tape is removed.
Now repeat this process on the opposite side of the steps. Below is how the stairs should look prior to painting the gray runner.
Step #5: Important Step BEFORE You Paint Your Runner
Go back and do a light coat of base color (in our case white) over top of the tape, everywhere. This seals the tape edges so that you won’t end up with any paint seeping under your tape job!
This step is the most important tip for ensuring you will have clean lines created on your painted stairs!!! Just make sure it is a very light coat of paint that you put on.
Step #6: Paint Your Runner in Batches
You’ll be tempted to start at the top of your stairs, or at the bottom and just paint EVERYTHING now that you have everything taped off.
DON’T DO IT.
If you do that, you likely won’t be able to get to the other end of your staircase once you’ve painted! Yikes!
Instead, paint your runner in sections so that you’ll be able to get to the top or bottom of your stairs by skipping a step here and there. Once the first application of your runner paint has dried, go back to those steps you skipped, and give them the first coat.
You can see in the image below that we didn’t hold back with the gray paint. You really want to go all the way to the tape, and then paint OVER the tape as well so that you won’t have any unpainted little spots.
As a reminder, (you can see how we did it), leave painting the landing for last so that you can still negotiate the stairs even in the middle of your project.
Step #7: Tape and Paint Landing (if Applicable)
Taping the landing was a little more challenging. I first taped the stairs above and below the landing. The reason I did it that way is so that when I went to tape the landing, I could match up the runner from the stairs above the landing and the stairs below the landing.
I used a straight edge to get the tape as straight as I could, but in the end, I had to eyeball it a little bit to get the runner on the landing to match up with the runner on the stairs.
NOTE: Where the tape turns 90 degrees, you will have 2 layers of tape. In order to fix this, put a sharp blade or a box cutter and cut a 45-degree line through the tape. Remove the excess tape so that now you have a single layer of tape forming your 90-degree turn.
The important parts here are to:
- use a new, sharp blade
- only cut through the tape (so you don’t cut into your landing)
Don’t forget to grab the printable guide! It’s free! Click here or below to grab your copy now⤵️
Step #8: Remove Tape
All that’s left to do is remove that tape!!
Step #9: Enjoy Your New Stare-Worthy Staircase Remodel
And that, in a nutshell, is how to paint stairs! We love how these painted stairs turned out. For the cost of 2 gallons of paint, we have renovated an old staircase into something new-looking.
A couple more uber budget-savvy DIY projects finished off this space:
And we took that builder grade flush-mount “boob” light and created a beauty out of it in about 5 minutes. No joke!!
As I update this post, the painted stairs are going on being done for 5+ years! If you want to see some updates about how they’ve held up, here are a couple of links:
Staircase Remodel Updates:
This super inexpensive project has even been in print! Check ‘er out in This Old House magazine. Not bad for a couple of cans of paint and a little DIY time and energy!
Pin this post for later! And if you try this project, leave a picture of your finished staircase remodel on the pin! That will help others decide whether they want to tackle this painted stairs project, too!
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