DIY Painted Staircase Makeover & Repair

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Painted Staircase Remodel Tutorial

The staircase in our house was looking tired and trashed. This was in large part due to the original carpet seeing better days. No matter of carpet cleaning and restretching could save it. We tried those things as stopgap methods to other solutions before moving in and they just didn’t seem to last. And there was the issue of a persistent squeak in one of the stairs that was frankly, driving us a little batty! 

The Steps Involved In Our Staircase Makeover

Your steps may vary slightly but, our staircase makeover project went like this:

  1. Remove carpet
  2. Discover broken stair tread – cuss
  3. Vacuum dirt and dust
  4. Remove carpet tack strips and underlayment staples.
  5. Repair broken tread
  6. Sand old dried up construction debris – cuss
  7. Fill and prime
  8. Paint
  9. Paint
  10. Paint
  11. Polyurethane top coat
  12. Rejoice

This post features some commentary from my wife. Like many of our projects there are some tasks that I cover, some we tackle together and others she handles. I handled the woodworking end of things and assisted with filling, sanding, and priming, on this project. My loving wife did the bulk of the work on the decorative/painting side of the project.  

Tools & Materials

For the repair

For the paint

  • Primer
  • Behr Premium low luster porch & floor paint in Cream to match the existing trim
  • Behr Premium low luster porch & floor paint in Flintridge “blue”
  • Some brown paint
  • Polyurethane finish 
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Some Staircase Basics

Before we get too far along, you might not be familiar with parts of the staircase so, we’ve included some that we got up close and personal on this project. If you are already familiar with the stair parts, skip right along.

Essentially a stair has two major parts, the tread, and riser.

The tread is the portion you place your foot on as you ascend or, descend stairs.

The riser prevents your foot from slipping off the tread. 

Removing the Carpet

Carpeted steps before the makeover

We finally decided to pull up 20-year-old disgusting carpet off our stairs. And it was a mess. After we got all the carpet and underlayment up we removed all the staples used to hold down the underlayment.

Next, we go to pry up the tack strip. For this, I recommend some gloves and a pair of pliers.

Discovering a Broken Stair Tread & Cussing

Discovering a broken step during our makeover.

See that line down the middle of the tread, running left to right? Yeah, that’s a cracked tread! Is it any wonder this stair has been squeaking? Also, note the construction material slathered all over that crack? It’s almost as if they might have been taking a short cut when the builder installed the pre-fabricated stairs or, a half-hearted attempt at a post-closing repair. Not sure which, but when I saw it, I was pissed. Why?

Let me show you. Long before this house, we built and lived in another house. It just so happens I have a picture of what the back of prefabricated staircase looks like. You can’t see the back of the stairs in this project because they are covered up with drywall in a lower level closet. The stairs in the picture below show how they are nailed into place together and fit into rabbeted slots on either side. In addition, there are little wedges of wood driven in behind the risers to help them fit in tight. Since I had no back access to make the repair, I needed a solution.

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The backside of a flight of pre-fabricated stairs.

After removing the stair tread with a variety of tools, I found that there was a void below the stair that went straight down to the concrete slab below.

Originally the stair tread was nailed to the riser behind it and slid into rabbeted slots on the side. When the damaged stair tread was removed it was impossible to nail from behind. What did I do?

Glad you asked. I decided to build a brace for the new tread out of 2′ x 4′ to support the tread all the way across the width of the staircase. I measured so that the new tread would slide in right on top of the brace and then, used some countersunk SPAX screws and nails to hold it all together.

It looked like this when I was done. The new tread is in the middle.

Picture of our makeover stairs after the repair.

After the tread repair, we started prepping the stairs.

Sanding Off Old Dried Up Construction Adhesive, Wall Spackle and Who Knows What

(Via, my Wife) Been sanding off the construction debris, and I’m at the point in the process where I think “what was I thinking?” I know I’ll love it once it’s done, but yikes…the sawdust is going everywhere.

Filling, Sanding and Priming

Stairs being primed for the makeover

With everything prepped my wife began the process of painting.

First, I taped off the runner. Then, painted the outside edges, cream color.

Stair makeover starting with the trim color paint.

Then, painted Flintridge/blue “runner”. I then added another strip of tape to mask off the brown stripe area. About the width of the tape. Painted the brown stripe. Finally, sealed the stairs with three coats of polyurethane. 

Total project time was about a month.

Our Finished Staircase Makeover

Staircase makeover finished.


Have you completed a similar project? What did you do? Post in the comments below.

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