How To Makeover Your Staircase

When we remodeled our basement, there was one piece we debated over and over: the stairs. The staircase into the basement was in need of a major makeover. Each tread had plenty of nicks and bumps, and they had been painted a dull blue gray. Ben and I discussed every option. We didn’t want to have carpet in the basement. The vinyl treads that match the flooring were $50 a stair. The only other option was to paint the staircase and we were hesitant.

Paint pulls off easy, so we were really hesitant about painting them again. The reality, however, was that we just can’t afford to redo each tread so painting is really all that is left.

So we got to work!


Step 1: Prep the Staircase

To prep the stairs for paint there are two things you need to do: clean the stairs and sand the stairs. I actually recommend cleaning, sanding, and cleaning again right before you paint.

Especially if, like us, you just did a bunch of drywall work.

I vacuumed each stair. Got any and all pet hair, dirt and dust. From there I went over the stairs with a paint scrapper to get any drywall mud droppings or big bumps in the wood. After the surface of each stair was clear of big uneven spaces, I went in with the sanding block. I absolutely hate sanding, as I type this Ben is actually sanding the first coat of paint for me. It’s just so tedious and I get super impatient. After that first sand, I went over the stairs again with the vacuum and then followed up with a damp microfiber cloth to get any tiny particles.

Once everything is cleaned up you are ready for the next step.

Step 2: Time to Paint!

For the first coat, I used the paint brush. This is necessary because you need to be able to get in all of the corners and 90% of the stair is a corner.

There are two things to think about and have a plan for. First, have a system in place to keep kids/animals off of the staircase for the next two hours at least. Second, how are you getting back upstairs? We are fortunate enough to have a walkout basement, so I was able to work from the top of the stairs down and then just walk around the house. If you don’t have a walkout basement, plan on hanging out down there until everything dries. OR you might want to just paint the risers and the side from top to bottom and then do the treads bottom to top. I don’t know BUT have a plan of action for this.

Be patient as you go and keep an eye out on the riser for any drips. As I said, I went from top to bottom so I was able to keep an eye on things. Check the one’s you have already completed every three or four, this way you can still reach to brush over any drips.

I had a ton of brush strokes after this first coat. Unless you are a pro painter, you probably will too but don’t worry! This is just the first coat.

Depending on which paint you choose, we went with Pittsburgh Paint Fast Dry, the paint should be dry to the touch within an hour or two. However, I recommend letting this first coat dry for about 24 hours before moving on to step 3.

Step 3: Sand the First Coat

After letting that first coat dry for 24 hours, we went in with 220 grit sanding block again. As I said, Ben did this for me because it bores me. This is going to help even out the two coats of paint AND helps the second coat stick better.

Once everything is sanded, you have to clean off the stairs again. For this I went over everything with my Swiffer and then a damp cloth again. Once they dry after that quick clean, you are ready for step 4!

Step 4: Second coat of Paint

For the second coat, you want to use a foam roller but keep the brush on hand. The foam roller is going to give you a really smooth finish and should close out any brush coats you could see after the first coat.

Keep in mind your block + exit strategy from step 2!

Depending on your first and second coat coverage, you may need a third coat. If you do, make sure you sand between the 2nd and 3rd coat again for extra smooth finish!

Optional Step 5: Tread Carpet

The bad side of painting stairs is that the paint is going to chip/wear down. To keep these stairs looking fresh longer, I we bought these tread carpet mats from amazon. I ordered three colors, tan, gray and black, so that I could compare and decide. I went with the tan ones and returned the other two (I freaking love amazon).

I am really happy with house this stair makeover turned out! In total we spent under $100 ($50ish on paint, $45 on the tread carpets). It was not a difficult project, was done in two days, but had a huge impact on the look down here!

Now we really need to get the baseboards and trim installed and this basement remodel will be complete (for now!)

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