Refinished Staircase: Ideas and Inspiration

This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure statement for details. 

In this post: A refinished staircase project that begins with removing old carpet from the stairs and ends with a totally transformed space.

grain sack fabric tote bag hanging on stairway

When I began this refinished staircase project, there were three things I didn’t know.

1.) That it would take forever.
2.) That there was so much more to it than just removing some carpet.
3.) That it would be the biggest transformation I have ever accomplished.

Here’s what I did know:

  • I wanted to remove the carpet.
  • The wallpaper had to go.
  • The brass finishes needed an update.

stairway with carpet red wallpaper

When the carpet was removed, I was totally elated to find oak hardwood steps and risers in very good condition. I wasn’t so lucky with the walls under the wallpaper. The drywall was a mess…but I’ll get to that later. Steps first.

Here they are (in the picture below) before we started the refinishing process. Really not bad at all.

stairway with wood treads

Refinished Staircase: The Stairs

The first thing we did was sand and fill in the holes on the treads. After that the stain was applied and then 3 coats of poly. We opted to apply the finish on all the steps at the same time and get the process over with. The other option was to do every other stair over 2 days. (The day the poly was applied we slept downstairs.) Here they are stained, sealed, and the risers painted.

refinished staircase in small entry

I had help refinishing the treads, but I painted the risers myself. It took a few days from start to finish. Here is my step by step process:

1. Tape off the treads.

2. Caulk the gaps all around the risers. Remove the tape and let caulk dry overnight.

3. Tape off treads again. I tried leaving the tape from the caulk step on for the painting step, but that was a disaster. The caulk came off with the tape. Thankfully I started with just the top 2 steps so I was able to re-think my process before painting all the risers.

4. With fresh tape, I primed the risers followed by 2 coats of paint.

refinished staircase with blue pumpkins

Refinished Staircase: The Walls

With the steps finished we moved on to the walls. We applied a skim coat before priming and painting two coats of Sherwin Williams Upward. I really think it was the most important step in the painting process. Wallpaper can hide a multitude of sins…paint not so much. After sweating it out refinishing the steps, I didn’t want to go only halfway on the walls. It took longer and was no fun. Honestly, it was awful, but in the end I am so glad we did it.

interior front door with blue striped rug

I replaced all the brass hinges, door knobs, switch plates and the ceiling light with new Oil Rubbed Bronze fixtures. I got all the hinges on eBay for much, much less than I could find at my home improvement stores. I started buying all the new fixtures right after Christmas and was able to spread it out over several months. It was so much easier than spending a big chunk of change all at once.

The only hinges I didn’t change were the ones on the front door. I taped them off, primed and then painted them with some ORB spray paint. I just sprayed the paint into a throw away bowl and used a little brush. They look great and you would never know they were once brass!

interior of front door and light fixture

The last step to complete this refinished staircase project was to re-hang the gallery wall pictures. I waited a long time to do this. The walls turned out so good that I had a hard time pounding nails in them! But hang the pictures I did and now I love it.

paint stick tool to hang a picture

I used this little tool that I saw online. Just put a screw in the end of a paint stick. Hang the picture on the screw and figure out your placement. Gently push the screw into the wall. Use the little indentation in the wall as your marker for the nail. I hung all these pictures in just over an hour and that included figuring out the placement first.

Affiliate links included. Click HERE for my disclosure statement.

diy stairway gallery wall in foyer

This project wasn’t quick or easy. There were times when I wondered if I was nuts to even be attempting it. I can truly say now that it was worth every sore muscle, every tear (yes, there were a few,) and all the mess and confusion.

Update 12/6/2018: It’s been six years since this project was completed and I love the space as much today as the day it was finished. It’s worn well, especially the stairs. Removing the carpet was perhaps the best thing we’ve ever done. We added value to our home, and we have a space we can be proud of. Until next time…

To learn more about my stairway gallery wall, click {HERE.}

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  1. Elizabeth Craven says:

    5 stars
    Love your staircase, paint still tip and front door! I think we have the very same house! Everything is the same… all the way to the buyer’s remorse ! LOL… We purchased our 1962 home in 2005 from my dear relatives, so did not think about all that needed to be done. I am finally getting time to do the many renovations that I had to put off while raising my family. I am still dreaming of a new kitchen, but bathrooms also await. Love your site!

  2. I was wondering if you have found your stairs to be too slippery without the carpet? We are thinking about removing our carpet from the stairs but I have concerns for us in stocking feet and for our lab who goes up & down them. Can you share your thoughts now that you have lived without the carpet? Thanks. Btw….it looks beautiful!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      It took us a while to get used to it. I had trouble with black marks on the risers too…from shoes. I slowly trained my husband and now I have hardly any black marks! Our dog used to fly up and down the carpeted stairs. She learned the hard way to slow down. She fell down them twice at the beginning but then adapted and has been fine ever since. I don’t have children who live here so it’s just the two of us and the dog. We do fine…and the trade off for not having dirty carpet on the stairs was definitely worth it!

  3. Pingback: Stairway Gallery Wall - On Sutton Place
  4. DeDe@DesignedDecor says:

    OMG, this is one of my projects to do! I just told my husband I wanted to take up the carpet and have the stairs exposed! I am getting ready to re- do my gallery wall also. I hope mine turns out as beautiful as yours! I too have recently quit my job to peruse my dreams on blogging and selling on Etsy! I think we were sisters separated at a young age! LOL!
    Happy New Year!


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  6. Your entryway is gorgeous. I really hope that wallpaper doesn’t come back into style for a long time. I have stripped way too many walls in my time and there’s always a surprise to be found underneath. Love the skimming idea. When we sold my MIL’s house the contractor did that and I had totally forgotten about it until you mentioned it.

  7. Pingback: 46 Reinvented Staircase Projects
  8. I love the way your entry turned out. It reminds me of our former home. We didn’t have the money or the time to do that house up the way I would have liked. I always wanted to do the gallery up the stairway. I can just imagine that it would have looked like yours.

  9. That entry makeover is beautiful! You did it well!! Gives me hope for our basement project that also started out small and morphed into major. I do wish we were finished though!

  10. Hi Ann! Oh, I just love your pretty entry! Love all you did and I’ve got to remember the paint stick tool – that’s a great idea.
    Your items are always so beautiful!
    Be as sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  11. You did a beautiful job! I cannot imagine HOW I am going to redo my stairs with all my fuzzy friends running amok!?



  12. Denise T. says:

    Gorgeous entry! Love this soft color . The stockings are adorable!

  13. Yvonne @ StoneGable says:

    I love your entry! It is so fresh and so welcoming. LOVE the colors!!! Your stockings are like everything you do… gorgeous! LOVE the fabrics!!!!
    They look like they could hold lots of goodies from Santa!

  14. Judy Clark says:

    Ann – Your entry is just beautiful! I love the wood and paint finish on the stairs. It looks so rich. I know it had to be alot of hard work but it was definitely worth it. Looks great. Good job!


  15. I always hit my favorite stores when I need some inspiration, it works every time! I either come home with something new or I’m motivated to not spend any money and recreate something I already have! LOVE your new stairway, you have inspired me to update my bedroom hallway, Thanks!

  16. Just beautiful & I love every stocking in your shop! Have a great week :)

  17. Your stairs are gorgeous. I would love to do this with our stairs.

    I was just thinking the other day I need to start getting my Christmas organized. Not doing as much, but definitely want to use your stockings again this Christmas.:-)

  18. shirley@housepitality designs says:

    Gorgeous stairwell and entry way Ann…such a light and fresh look that you have so beautifully accomplished…Christmas decorating?…I have already started!!….Wonderful stockings!!

  19. It’s amazing, Ann! I feel the same way… not in the mood for fall decorations, but it’s too early to start on Christmas… but I’m doing it anyway!

    Your stocking are gorgeous… Those puppies should sell out quickly!

  20. Nana Diana says:

    IT looks SOOO good, Ann. Really beautiful! You know I just scrolled up to see if you had an e on the end of your name and I could not find your name showing anywhere on your blog-unless I am missing it somewhere. Anyway, that screw on the end of the paint stick is a wonderful idea. How smart is that….and your walls and stairs look perfect. I also LOVE your Christmas stockings- xo Diana

  21. Katie @ Wildwood Creek says:

    Love the fresh look of your entry!

  22. Pamela Gordon says:

    I love your front entry/stair makeover Ann. You did a beautiful job and it looks so much fresher and brighter. The Christmas stockings are really sweet! I love the 3rd one with the pillow case edge for the top cuff. I hope you find some inspiration for the ‘in-between’ season. Hugs, Pamela

  23. Now if I can just talk my hubs into doing this for us !
    It looks wonderful and clean crisp !


  24. Your entry way is so pretty!
    Love the stockings that you made. I’ve been working on stuff for my Christmas show that is on Thankgiving weekend.
    No help on where to get inspiration at…I’ve been having a really hard time with that too.

  25. Your entry way is beautiful, it’s always worth the huge effort that it takes to make a room the way that you’ve imagined it to be. Now you will enjoy it for a long, long time, it’s a look that will always look good.
    Hugs, cindy