There’s something graceful about an elegant staircase arcing gracefully down to meet the floor below. If your staircase is one of the first things people see when they enter your home, you want to make sure it makes a good impression, and adding a bit of paint may be the perfect way. However, painting your stairs isn’t as straightforward as touching up the lacquer on trim. We have some things to consider before you begin.
Before You Start
We think that painting stairs is a great way to give them new life and update the whole room, but don’t just take our word for it. Though the results are worth it, the process is involved and can be disruptive, and it’s important that it is done correctly to ensure structural damage or unsightly mistakes don’t occur. Painting your stairs has to be a decision you are committed to, especially if it means replacing the carpet.
Clear the Carpet
Many homes have carpeted stairs, even though the trend is well on its way out the door. While it has its advantages, carpet on stairs has the tendency to get dirty and worn very quickly. When carpeted stairs have seen a lot of use, the fibers break down and lose much of their traction, making them slippery. This can make carpeted stairs more dangerous than their uncovered wood counterparts.
If you plan on painting your stairs but need to remove the carpet, do so carefully to avoid damaging the wood underneath. Remove all staples and nails from the stairs themselves, and fill in any holes with wood filler. Before you begin painting your stairs, sand them down to remove irregularities caused by filled holes and to give the paint a surface to grip. A belt sander with 60 or 80 grit sandpaper will work well for the majority of each stair, but corners will need to be hand-sanded.
You can also sand down old paint if your stairs don’t have carpet. While it is possible to paint over old paint, thick layers are better stripped away, whether by sanding, a paint stripper, or a heat gun. Be careful, since old paint may contain lead. After carpet or preexisting paint has been removed, vacuum and wipe down the wood thoroughly.
Pick Your Paint
It’s obvious, we know, but you’ll need to pick your paint before starting on your stairs. This is a little misleading since adding or emphasizing the color on your stairs doesn’t have to be done with paint. Depending on the look you want for your wood, stain might be a better choice. Perhaps you’d like a combination of the two.
Stairs are made of treads and risers. The treads form the actual step, and the risers stand upright perpendicular to them, separating the treads from each other. When choosing hues for painting your stairs, consider painting treads and risers different colors. We love dark treads against lighter risers: a rich mocha with an arctic white.
Bold as Brass
Looking to make a statement with your stairs? Paint them a bold color. Uniformity between treads and risers is better with this tack to make sure your steps don’t end up looking like a daycare, but when done strategically, a bold blue or green can really make a space with neutral wall tones pop.
If you want to add even more visual interest, paint a pattern on your stairs. We don’t mean adding chevron (though to each his own). Instead, paint a navy runner down the center of a white staircase, or line either side of a soft beige case with one white stripe.
Any of these options will set your stairs apart from the common crowd. When choosing your tones, work with the rest of the space. Whether you want your stairs to blend seamlessly into the room or to stand out, make sure the color choices you make for your stairs don’t clash with the other design elements in the room.
Remember that dark paints and stains will conceal imperfections while dirt will be more noticeable against light-colored stairs. Be sure to choose paints that are designed for painting floors, since they are generally hardier and less slick.
Into the Fray
Once your stairs are prepped and you have your paint or stain, it’s time to begin painting your stairs. Coordinate with the other people in the house and choose a time that is least inconvenient for all. Once the process begins, the stairs will be off-limits for 24–48 hours while the paint dries. Unfortunately, this also means that the other end of the stairs will be inaccessible for that same time. Make sure people retrieve what they’ll need before the paint goes on.
Tape around anything you don’t want to get paint on, including trim, banisters, and even treads or risers if you opt for a two-toned job (which will need to be done in two phases if you want clean lines between the two). If you elected to use paint, lay down a primer first and allow it to dry. Apply primer, paint, or stain with a small roller and cut in the corners with a paintbrush. Start at the end of the staircase where you don’t want to end up.
Letting Wilson’s Handle Painting Your Stairs
While painting your stairs can give your entire home a facelift, the actual process is no picnic. If you want to create stairs that serve as a beautiful focal point but are wary of the hassle, give us a call at Wilson Paint and Floor Coverings. We’ll take the trouble out of having the perfect staircase.