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Refinished Staircase: Ideas and Inspiration

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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