This is the third part of a long staircase makeover!

Check out Part I: Removing the Carpet

And Part II: Railings

After removing carpet, cleaning, and sanding the stairs, we still had a lot of work ahead of us.

I worked hard to sand and paint the stringers and the railings.

Next, I painted the risers.

Here, we reached another point where we had to make a decision about the stairs themselves. This was a difficult decision. Initially, we wanted to refinish the pine and add a clear coat of polyurethane, but it was clear that the pine was not holding up well. And while it might look good from a distance, there were plenty of holes, cracks, splinters, discoloration, screw holes, and other issues. We decided we would have the stairs carpeted, but then decided to paint the stairs in the mean time to see if we might like that better. Keep in mind that we have two kids and two cats, and messes can happen fast. In the couple months I did not have time to work on the stairs, the wood accumulated dirt, and my thought was that the same dirt would simply be accumulating in a carpet. Hence, I started researching stair paint.

For this project, I needed the following materials. Keep in mind that we had most of these items, and the only things I purchased were the stair paint ($40) and some extra rollers (about $6).

~ a mask (for during sanding and painting)
~ sanding block and sandpaper
~ wood filler for repairs
~ vacuum
~ small paint rollers and handle
~ small paint brush for edging
~ larger paint brush for manually painting under stair nose
~ primer (I used Zinsser BIN Shellac Base Primer)
~ floor paint and sealer (I used Rust-Oleum Home Interior Floor Base and Coating Kit, in Matte/Pearl Gray)
~ painter’s tape
~ rags or paper towels on hand in case of paint drips or messes
~ optional – fan to help with drying

I started this project by wiping down the stairs, just to remove any excess dirt or stains, residue from sanding, etc.

The first step was to fill in all of the imperfections in the wood. I used a white wood filler that we had, since it did not matter if it matched with the wood color.

As you can see, I ended up using a lot of wood filler. I would say I used most of the 6oz tube. This really was a tedious job, as you can see I ended up filling quite a few spots, including all of the spots where the carpet was stapled on.

You have to allow the wood filler to dry, and sand it afterwords. I did this in the winter, and between the dry air and the dry wood, it dried very quickly. I tried using a spackling knife to spread the putty, but ended up using my fingers, as I found it got into the imperfections better.

I also had to deal with the gaps around the stair nose, and under the stairs. So, if you looked directly at the stairs, there were a lot of big gaps under each bullnose that I also had to repair. I have to admit that on the bottom couple of stairs, I was a little lazier about this process, as you aren’t going to lay on the floor and see under the last couple of stairs.

After using the wood filler, I carefully sanded, then vacuumed.

I also decided to prime the stairs with Zinsser BIN Shellac Primer. The paint kit that I bought for the stairs specifically stated that there is no priming needed. However, the stairs were in rough shape, and very dry and porous, so I wanted an extra layer of protection and to smooth out imperfections. Additionally, by putting on the white primer, I was able to spot imperfections that stood out, and was able to use more wood filler or sanding.

For the paint, I ordered a floor paint kit from Home Depot. (This post is *not* sponsored). There are a lot of great shades to pick from. I had to order this online and it took about 10 days to arrive, so my project was on hold for a little bit. When I purchased this, it was not available in the store. The kit cost $40 for two 1 quart containers (and a floor cleaner). The only alternative was to buy a full gallon of each, in store, for $40 each, so for me, it was worth the wait.

I chose “pearl gray”, which I gravitated towards first. I also chose the “Flat/Matte” finish.

When the kit arrived, I was excited, but I also had a lot of anxiety. I had a lot of last minute panic – would the quart actually cover 14 stairs that are about 40″ wide? What if the paint is too slippery? What if the paint is too shiny? What if I hate the color? (Spoiler – there was no reason for any of these concerns).

To prepare for painting, I followed the directions carefully, starting with the base coat. “Apply base coat using 3/8 in. nap roller in 4 ft. by 4 ft. sections. Keep a wet edge. Let dry for 6 hours before top coat application.”

For this project, I would say using painter’s tape is a must. I do a fair amount of painting, and thought that I could cut in by hand and that I would have ample space with the roller. However, 1) it didn’t look great when I cut in by hand, and 2) I ended up running the roller close to the edge for good coverage (you can see the pearl gray paint on the painter’s tape). I was about at my limit with all the tediousness of this project, but it was worth putting down the painter’s tape even though it was a pain.

After the base coat, I actually had to do a second coat, even though the kit says that one coat is sufficient. Because there is some texture to the wood, there were a few spots that needed better coverage, and rolling out the paint was easy enough with my small roller. Note: after the first coat of paint on the stairs, I had used about 1/3 of the 1 quart can. So, no worries there!

I let the two coats of paint dry for a couple of days. While it says 6 hours is sufficient, I had to time it so that there would not be foot traffic on the stairs, plus I had some other commitments. The downside to this is that the kids did track some dirt on to the stairs, so I ended up carefully vacuuming and wiping down the stairs before the final topcoat.

Again, I followed the instructions carefully. “Apply topcoat with 1/4 in. nap roller in 4 ft. by 4 ft. sections. Keep a wet edge. Allow 24 hours before light foot traffic.” The top coat has a milky appearance and goes on clear.

I did have some moments of panic here as well. The topcoat goes on quite shiny, and my fear was shiny, slippery stairs. It even felt a little slick to the touch before it had completely dried. We live the Northeast, so cold winters mean wool socks, and this is not the kind of thing you want to risk falling down the stairs.

However, the stairs dried PERFECTLY – a beautiful matte gray.

I absolutely love the final effect. I love the color and the matte finish. The stairs feel smooth, but not slippery. All of my concerns did not become issues.