how to paint a stairwell

How to Paint a Stairwell Like a Pro [In-Depth Guide]

Don’t you think it’s time to give a fresh look to your stairwell by painting it? In this guide, you’ll learn how to paint a stairwell effortlessly without breaking the bank.

Staircases are naturally high-traffic areas in the home that get a lot of wear and tear as a result of daily use. However, it’s vital that they look good as they are one area of the home you see every day.

And because they play a significant role in the design of a room, stairwells deserve special attention – and one way to spruce up the look of your stairwells is by applying a fresh coat of paint.

With a new coat of paint on your stairs, railings, trim, and balusters, you can make your stairwell go from dull to charming in a matter of days.

Let’s now look at how you can achieve that.

How to Paint a Stairwell

how to paint a stairwell

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to paint a staircase. You’ll soon realize that the job is actually easier than you imagined.

All you need is the right tools and good tips to guide you through the entire process.

Preparing To Paint Your Stairwell

1. Strip off the old paint from the stairs surfaces

You can paint over your old paint if it is still in good shape and smooth. However, if the surfaces are already peeling, it’ll be wise to strip it off before anything else. To do this, you can use either a chemical stripping product or a heat gun.

If you choose to use a chemical stripper, it’s important to follow the directions on the packaging.

Generally, you will use a paintbrush to apply the stripper, and when that is done, wait until the paint starts to dissolve, then use a paint scraper or a putty knife to scrape it off.

It’s advisable to put on personal protective equipment when using a stripper. You also want to ventilate the area and wash the surface afterward to get rid of excess chemicals.

For the heat gun method, hold the gun 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) away from the paint until it foams, then use a paint scraper or a putty knife to scrape the paint off.

It’s worth noting that it’s only necessary to strip off paint from railings, trim, spindles, or the stairwells themselves if the old paint is creating a peeling, bumpy, or uneven surface.

If you notice this on any part of your stairs, stripping the paint off will create a better-finished product; however, it will result in the project taking a much longer time.

2. Use wood filler or spackle to fill small openings

With spackle or wood filler and a putty knife, fill any openings, imperfections, or dings that require smoothening. For small holes like nail holes, use your putty knife to pick up a little amount of the wood filler.

Then push the filler into the hole/openings and get rid of any extra using the flat end of the knife. Allow the filler to dry for as long as indicated on the container, this usually varies from 1 – 24-hours depending on the product.

Additionally, most spackles, such as drywall or lathe and plaster will help to fill imperfections and holes in wall and wood surfaces.

Don’t forget to properly examine the railing, the trim surrounding the stairs, the balusters, and the steps for spots that require some touch-up.

And if the openings are bigger than 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm), then a more advanced filling tactic may be required, which may include patching the hole.

3. Sand any rough surface

Examine all the surfaces to find rough areas that need sanding. You can also use your hands to feel the surfaces to find small spots that could use some sanding.

Use a 200 to 400-grit sandpaper to sand the surfaces and smooth out rough spots and any irregularities in the current paint. You can do this with an electric sander (like an orbital palm sander), or a sanding block.

Once you’re done sanding, use a tack cloth or lightly damp cloth to remove any dust that you create during the sanding process.

4. Sand every painted surface very lightly so the new paint can stick

Use sandpaper to scuff up surfaces that are completely smooth. Use fine-grit sandpaper that has a grit rating of about 400.

Rubbing the sandpaper on the surface of your stairs will slightly scuff it up, which will help the new paint to stick properly without creating a coarse surface on your final coat of paint.

Quickly run the sandpaper over the staircase surfaces that you want to paint. And no, you’re not required to be very thorough about this process. You only want a surface that is not entirely smooth.

This is especially crucial for stair surfaces that already have shiny, new paint on them.

5. Use a degreaser to clean every surface that you will paint

The last step in this section is to use a rag and a mild surface degreasing cleaner to wipe down the areas you want to paint. This will help to clean off any dust that was created during the sanding process.

Apart from removing any wax build-up, grease, and dirt that might remain on the surfaces. After wiping it with the cleaner, wipe it off with a clean, dry rag.

You can also use TSP Cleaning Products to clean the surfaces before painting them. This item is very effective at cleaning surfaces and it will equally help to dull any painted surface it’s applied on, thereby helping new paint to stick better.

Use a multipurpose household cleaner for stubborn dirt. And if the stairs are metal or concrete, you may equally use a wire brush to get rid of set-in dirt.

Painting Your Staircase

painting stairs

Now that you’re done with the initial preparation needed to paint your stairwell, it’s time to now start the main painting process.

Here’s how to paint stairs:

6. Choose a suitable paint

There are lots of paints out there that are perfect for stairs. While any wood paint can be used for the job, those meant for floors are the best as they are designed to last longer.

Apparently, it needs to be walked all over, and if you decide to use wood paint, then go for a satin finish as it may be more suitable.

However, don’t forget that floor paints are created to be less slippy. Satin and gloss might be fine for risers; however, they could be risky if used on the tread itself.

7. Paint the trim and handrails before painting the stairwells

There are several reasons why you should start the painting process with the handrails on a staircase.

Firstly, while painting the trim and railings, if you create drips, it won’t be affecting the finished surface of the stairwell.

You will equally be able to move up and down the staircase without having to create wears and tears on the finished paint job.

Secondary, with the trim, railings, and balusters painted first, you won’t have to ensure that they are very dry before proceeding to the next painting phase.

But if the stairs are painted first, they must be very dry before going on with the project.

However, the heavens won’t fall if you decide to paint the stairs first. It’s just that it’ll create a little more work for you because moving around while painting will be daunting.

8. Use Painter’s tape to cover the trim and railings edges

Run the tape edges tightly at the edges of the railings and trim where you want the paint to end. Then using a putty knife or your fingertips, push the tape down to ensure that paint doesn’t leak beneath it.

Sadly, taping off can be time-consuming, especially when you’re working in tight areas. But taping it all off properly before you start painting is totally worth the stress. So you can take your time to do this.

It might be necessary to tape off areas in segments. For instance, if you don’t want to paint the balusters and handrail the same color with the trim, then it’ll be wise to tape off the trim while painting the handrail and spindles first.

Overall, you can paint the railings and trim at the same time because they are often the same color and requires the same type of paint.

9. Use drop cloths to cover surrounding areas

In order to protect your floors from paints, you want to spread drop cloths below and above the staircase area.

Furthermore, cover the stairwells themselves as well as any furniture that you cannot move aside but that might get splattered by paints. You can keep the drop cloths in place using painter’s tape.

10. Apply primer on the railing and stairs

Starting from the top of the staircase, paint the handrail first, working your way down the balusters and to the trim at the bottom.

Depending on your choice, you can paint a small part of the entire railing at a time, for example, 2 feet (0.61 m) portion, or you can prime from the whole handrail to the entire balusters, and then to the whole bottom trim.

You will probably use a paintbrush for the railings and the trim, as a roller is difficult to get into small spots. But paint sprayers can also do the job.

Moving on, prime the whole handrail as well as all the trim before proceeding to your finish coats. You want to choose a primer that will get wear and tear, and one that can easily adhere to previously painted surfaces.

Using a good primer is crucial in order to create a long-lasting finished surface by creating an excellent bond between the previous coats of paint and the new paint.

11. Once the primer is dry, apply many coats of your final color

Wait for the amount of time written on the container for the primer to properly dry, then start your final coats.

With smooth and consistent strokes, work your paintbrush down from the peak of the railing, to each baluster, and to the bottom trim, not forgetting to coat each surface.

Just the way you did with the primer coat, work your way down the stairs. It’s advisable to do 2 to 3 coats of your final color.

NOTE: Each layer should be completely dry before starting on the next one. This will help to create a stronger paint finish that will endure the wear and tear that stairs often experience.

12. Allow the paint to completely dry before removing the tape and drop cloths

Use a razor blade or a putty knife to score along the edge of the tape. Then peel off the tape slowly. This will help to ensure that the tape doesn’t pull off the new paint with it.

When your stairwell painting job is done, you can now pick up the drop cloths you used to cover the surrounding areas before. But be careful so you don’t smear your work by touching the trim or railing with the drop cloths as you remove them.

Finally, watch the short video below for a more understanding of how to paint stairs:

Is there a ladder that can be used on stairs?

There’s nothing to build. You can use it with most light- or medium-duty single and extension ladders. There’s nothing to install, so you can pick whichever ladder is right for the job at hand, and if you don’t need it, it’s out of the way.

How do you prepare a stairwell for painting?

  • Prepping The Stairwell For Paint
  • Clean The Stairwell Area.
  • Lay Out Your Drop Cloths.
  • Spackle Any Imperfections In The Walls.
  • Sand Your Stairwell Walls Smooth.
  • Clean The Trim.
  • Tape Off Your Baseboards.
  • Using A Ladder To Get To The Ceiling.
  • Cutting In The Ceiling.

How do painters reach high ceilings?

Step 1: Choose a Ladder or Scaffold. Start your project by deciding on your method of reaching the high surfaces. Using a ladder or a scaffold along with an applicator extension pole is the safest and easiest way to enable you to reach high walls and ceilings with a brush or roller.

Which number is the closest to total deaths resulting from ladder misuse each year?

Each year, there are more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries and 300 deaths in the U.S. that are caused by falls from ladders. Most ladder deaths are from falls of 10 feet or less.

Do I need to prime stairs before painting?

Prime. Since the stairs will likely be getting a fair amount of wear, a good primer is key. Paint this on and allow it to dry before you start on your top coat.

How long should it take to paint a staircase?

Do the math that’s about 31 hours. Plus add a little extra time for taping and touch ups. Yes, that’s a lot of time, but (now that it’s over) well worth it.

Can you paint stairs without sanding?

To refinish wood stairs without sanding, you need to cover the stair treads with the final touch. Therefore, you should use painter’s tape to make sure that the paint doesn’t stray from the stair treads. Even if it does, it will be easier for you clean if you have the painter’s tape on.

How can I get high without a ladder?

Use the blue painter’s tape on the baseboards that you can easily reach without a ladder. The tape pulls up quickly without grabbing the paint and does not have any adhesive residue. You are also going to need an angled cut-in brush and a screw-on extender pole.

What can I use to paint high ceiling?

Ideally, you are going to want to spray your ceilings if at all possible. A small airless paint sprayer and a 30″ extension tip should allow most people to paint ceilings with a height up to 12 feet.

What paint to use on high walls?

The four main tools you need to tackle those super high walls are:

  • one SMART Roller.
  • one SMART Edge Roller.
  • one ceiling paint edger.
  • one extension pole.

How to Paint Stairwells | Conclusion

As you can see, painting your staircase is not really rocket science. If you follow the steps listed above, this will only take you a little time, and your stairs will regain its lost glory.

Trust me, the worst mistake you can make in your lovely home is to leave your stairs old and unpainted, this will always give you a bad mood whenever you come back to your house after a busy day.

You want your home to be always neat, tidy, and inviting – and the staircase should not be left out. Pay more attention to this part of your house as it’s one of those places that will always attract your attention.

Finally, if you have any questions regarding how to paint stairwells, simply comment below, and I’ll do my best to respond to you