10 Tips to Paint Your Stairs Properly

No matter how great the rest of your home, a dingy staircase can easily let it down. If you want to instantly update and refresh its appearance, a lick of paint can work wonders (and be a much cheaper solution to your staircase woes than a carpet ever could be). Find out how to give your stairs the wow factor with these ten top tips for how to paint your stairs.

1. Plan ahead

Before you start painting, work out a plan of action of which area’s you’ll need to tackle first. Yourhomeonlybetter.com recommends you start by painting the risers, before moving onto the treads. Next, tackle the spindles. Once the spindles are dry, tape them off and paint the rails and posts. Remember to let each painted area dry out completely before moving onto the next. It may sound obvious, but don’t forget to work from the top down.

2. Preparation is key

Before you so much as think of opening a can of paint, prep. And then prep some more. If you want your paint job to look professional rather than amateurish, it really does all come down to the prep. One of the most important things you’ll need to do in preparation is to clean the stair’s surface. Even the tiniest speck of dirt or dust can stop the paint from adhering to the surface, resulting in a flakey, patchy finish that’s far from ideal. As Family Handyman recommends, use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe away any dust, pet hair, or sawdust, and a solution of dish soap and water to tackle any sticker substances or grease spots.

3. Repair as needed

If your stairs aren’t in the best of states, you’ll need to tackle any minor dents or broken parts before you start painting. If they’re covered in old layers of paint, it’s best to strip them before applying any fresh coats. Depending on how old and thick the paint is, you can use a paint stripper, a heat sander, or a regular sander… if the paint is particularly well ingrained, you might even need to use all three. Once the paint has been removed, go over the surface again with a fine-grained sander. As you sand, don’t be tempted to use anything other than a gentle hand action – anything too rough might scratch the surface.

4. Don’t forget to tape

If you want a professional finish, tape is going to be your new best friend. Not only will it protect any trims, it’ll also leave a clean, crisp line when you remove it. Before you start, clean the area with a damp cloth (you might need to use a detergent solution if there are any tackier grime spots) and allow to dry completely before applying the tape. Once applied, press it down with a flexible putty knife to ensure it adheres.

5. Prepare for an emergency

Regardless of how carefully you work, accidents can and do happen. Avoid a minor spill turning into a major disaster by planning for an emergency in advance. If you’re working with an oil-based or enamel paint, you’ll need some mineral spirits or paint thinner to hand (water is usually enough for latex paint) so you can quickly clear any spillages. And don’t even think of opening a paint can before you have a good handful of rags or clothes within easy reach.

6. Take a trial run

Paint can be tricky – what looks one color in the can look a completely different color once applied. Before you start sloshing it around, take the time to do a small test run. Make sure the paint is fully mixed, then apply a tiny amount to a small area of the stairs (if you can, do it in a spot where it won’t be noticed). Wait for the spot to dry, then take a look. If it matches up to what you wanted, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, you might need to make a 2nd trip to the hardware store.

7. Prime the wood

If you’re painting bare wood, it’s usually advisable to use a resin and knot blocking primer to guarantee the cleanest and smoothest finish. The primer will stop any knots in the wood from showing through and ruining the final paint finish.

8. Choose the right paint

If you’re happy with a second-rate job, feel free to use the same paint on your stairs as you would on your walls. If you’re hoping for a professional-looking result which isn’t going to chip, fade, or prove otherwise problematic, choose a paint that’s been specifically designed for floors. Not only will floor paint last and look better, it’ll also be less slippery – definitely an advantage if you’re heading up and down the stairs on a regular basis or have kids. If you really can’t resist the attractions of a gloss or satin paint, keep it to the risers only.

9. Use the right tools

As averageinspired.com notes, don’t consider doing anything before you’ve got the right tools for the job. Regular sized brushes used for painting walls will be too large to handle a staircase, and will leave you struggling to get into any tight corners. Stick to small rollers designed for doors and cabinets and use a trim brush for corners and touch-ups. If you prefer, you could even use a spray paint – just make sure to cover any nearby areas before you start.

10. Plan the best time for painting

Make no mistake – painting a staircase isn’t a quick job. The painting itself might not take that long, but the drying time can drag on a lot longer than you might anticipate. If your stairs are in constant use, devise a plan to get the rest of the household out of the house for the day. Once they’re gone, you’ll be free to get on with the painting without worrying about anyone leaving footprints on your freshly laid paint.



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