One of my most liked post last year on Instagram was when I posted this before and after of my staircase. When we bought our house we knew that we would be redoing all the floors. We have three yorkies that can be hard on carpets. So the first thing we did was rip out them out throughout the house. That left us with the gunstock oak floors on the main floor. I hated them. I wanted the hardwood floors to match everywhere so it had better flow. So we decided to stain the main floor hardwoods to match the gray hardwoods we had installed in the rest of the house. Which left us with one more dated oak area to contend with in the house, the stair rails.
We considered replacing them entirely because I really love the look of metal spindles. But we have a lot of stairs so it would be pretty expensive. Since we will most likely be selling this house in a couple years we decided to try a more affordable option, paint. All of the trim in the house is white so we wanted to do some white but I didn’t love the idea of all white railing(though it would have been much easier!). We finally decided to try a black and white combo. I didn’t think ahead to document all the steps with pictures but I will try to line out all the steps for you so that you can give this a try in your home. Its not exactly a hard process, just a very time consuming one.
First matter of business is sanding the railing. This is one of the most time consuming steps in the process. We used 120 grit sanding blocks. The goal is to take the shine off the wood not remove the existing stain. Roughing up the surface makes the paint adhere to the wood better. Once you have all the wood sanded you will need to go over it with a damp lint free cloth to remove any dust.
To ensure the paint adheres well you will want to start with a good primer. We used Sherwin Williams Extreme Bond Primer. You will want to do two thin coats of the primer. Its also important to check for drips between coats. You’ll want to sand any drips or rough spots so that your finish product is smooth. Lucky for us the stairs were being redone so we didn’t have to worry about protecting the stairs while we were painting. If you’re a messy painter like me you might want to cover your stairs with a drop cloth as you move along.
The next step if you want to do a two color railing like ours is to tape. If you are doing a dark and a light color, like black and white, you will want to start with your lightest color. Its easier to cover up any possible mistakes you make with a darker paint than it is the other way around. In our case we decided to do the spindles black so we taped off the spindles with painters tape so we could paint the top and base white. We prefer using Frog Tape to tape off since it seems to leave cleaner lines.
Once you’re all taped up its time to start painting. You will most likely need 2-3 coats. Similar to the primer, its better to use thinner coats. Not only will the paint dry quicker that way but it also reduces the likelihood of drips. We used Sherwin Williams Pro Classic in white for the top and bottom portion of the stair rails. We used 2″ angled trim brushes to paint the railing. The style we used had a short rubber handle that made it easier to fit in between the spindles. Once you’re satisfied with the coverage you can remove the tape and start taping for the darker color.
For the spindles we used Sherwin Williams Waterbased Epoxy in black. The only reason we used that product instead of the Pro Classic is because they said it was the only option available for a black gloss paint. I won’t lie, the spindles are the worst part. Making sure you get into all the little spots and don’t have drips. At this point I was ready to rip them all out and replace them. If your spindles are more detailed like ours it might take an extra coat to make sure you get every little crack covered. If you run into any drips you can always sand them down and apply another coat to that area.
It is such a drastic improvement! This DIY project took days to complete but it was worth it. Painting your railing does require a lot of time and might cause a few outburst but it is much cheaper than replacing the railing. If you’re on a tight budget, and hopefully have less railing, it might be a good option for you.
I will add that over time we did have a little wear on the tops of the railing. The paint was scratched off in a few spots. The paint was easy to touch up. We added some polycrylic to the top rail since it gets a lot of contact and needs a little more protection.
What do you think?