How to Re-Stain Stairs & Railings and Paint Stair Risers White

Our prior home was built in 2005, the height of the orangey oak hardwood floors, hand rails, stairs and cabinets. You would see them in every new house that was built, and at the time they were appealing, especially if you had never lived in a home with real hardwood floors. You would think, wow these beautiful floors come standard in this home? Let’s jump on it!

Fast forward 10 years, styles have changed dramatically and now those oak floors don’t hold the same appeal they once did. As you know from my prior posts, we replaced all the oak floors in our home with a dark wide plank maple hardwood when we moved into the home in 2013.

When you enter into such a big project as replacing all your hardwood floors, you do so cautiously, it’s a very big and costly step. But when you make that big decision, you also know that you will be replacing or re-staining your stairs as well.

We had 2 options, to replace the steps and banisters (cha-ching!) or to try to re-stain them (sounds more reasonable).

Of course, we chose the later. When we embarked on this project in 2013, it wasn’t all that common to re-stain hand rails and steps. There wasn’t much information about the process, so it was very risky to attempt this project.

No risk, No reward!

We cautiously went forward with the project. Here are some before pictures. As you can see there are many banisters/railings in the house. Luckily, the spindles were white, which was the look we wanted. We pulled up the carpet on the stairs from the main and basement staircases.


These are the oak banisters/railings upstairs.img_0449img_0486img_0487

This is the before picture of the oak basement staircase, which was re-stained as well.fullsizeoutput_6a69

As I mentioned earlier, at the time, since we didn’t know any better and were just learning about the process, we chose to sand the heck out of the railings….which was a very long and time consuming process! We sanded down to the bare wood! Took FOREVER! But we have since learned, it is not necessary to do that to achieve that deep rich darker look. Who knew???? Not me!

Later on in the post,  I will share a product with you that requires minimal if any sanding! It’s pretty unbelievable.img_0095

Here is another picture of the sanded railings.img_0096

When deciding on a stain color for the rails and stairs, we chose a dark Java to match our dark hardwood floors. We sanded the top of the stairs to remove any base coat of oils so the stain would adhere well. We also sanded the risers. After sanding the risers, we painted them with a white paint.

The results were incredible!


Remember those ugly basement stairs with carpet?



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The project was well worth the effort and the results are amazing.

I’m not suggesting everyone go out and replace their hardwood floors. But if you are looking for an economical way to get an updated look in your home, re-staining your stairs and railings is a way to get that look. Do you have carpeting on your stairs and just want to re-stain your railings?  Or are you thinking about pulling up the carpet and staining the stairs? How about those oak bath cabinets, or kitchen cabinets, this is a great DIY project for under $100.

This product requires little to no sanding, and the color is a beautiful dark java and the texture makes it so easy to apply. Re-staining your kitchen and bath cabinets with this gel stain has never been easier. Click on highlighted link for product details and don’t forget the top coat.

Here are some tips before you begin the project

  • I suggest using a foam sponge brush to apply the gel stain. You will need several coats to get the look you want, we applied 4 coats of stain to the stairs and railings and it looked great, but we wanted a dark rich color. For a lighter color, 2 or 3 coats would suffice.
  • After staining, you will also want to apply several coats of a high performance top coat, make sure to allow enough drying time between each coat. I would use satin so the stairs won’t be slippery.
  • Before you start painting the risers, use painter’s tape to mark off the areas you aren’t paining so you get clean crisp lines.
  • When you re-stain your stairs, do every other stair, so you are still able to walk up the staircase while it is drying.
  • If you do not want to sand here is an important tip. If your staircase or cabinets have been previously painted with a stain or oil paint, you can not use a latex paint over the oil paint. You must use an oil based primer, and then you can use a latex paint.
  • When you paint the risers, using this painting tool will make your life a lot easier.

I hope I have inspired you to take on a new home project. Thanks for stopping by!

5 thoughts on “How to Re-Stain Stairs & Railings and Paint Stair Risers White

  1. What a beautiful transformation, night and day difference in looks! It’s crazy how much “design” and color schemes for a modern house changes in just 10 years. Awesome job.

  2. Thank you for your post and information. Yes, you have inspired me! I am trying to decide what to do with a dated honey oak railing on our main staircase. The information about the gel stain is much appreciated. You have done an amazing job and really changed the space.

    1. Thank you for the nice comment! I wish you all the best of your staircase! I’d love to see pictures when it’s done.

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