DIY Staircase Renovation

This is what 10 fingers in need of a manicure, 9 cups of coffee, 8 combos of curse words (ya, I said it), 7 days of this space, 6 days of takeout, 5 trips to Home Depot, 4 rolls of blue tape, 3 hammered or smashed thumbs, 2 injured feet (I cut my foot on tack strip and a wasp stung my other foot while cutting wood in the workshop),  and one big disagreement between my husband and I look like.  72 hours of labor between the two of us.  We had some moments of hindsight occur in the middle of the project that led us to redo a few things, so I am sure you can do it in less time!  My husband and I survived another year of marriage.  Nothing is easy, but somethings are worthwhile.
From outdated carpet to a freshly painted staircase, this DIY renovation will make your staircase feel brand new without the expense of replacement!



1. Remove the carpet and padding.  Pull the carpet from the bottom of the staircase up.  It will probably be in a few long sections or where the staircase bends.  Then pull the carpet pad up which is attached to the tack strip.  Having a large trash can nearby is handy!

2.  Remove the tack strip.  Here are a few tools that are handy to remove the tack strip.  The crowbar is a necessity, but was feeling shy for the photo.  So, predominately, we used the hammer and crowbar or screwdriver to tear up the tack strip.  For nails that were left behind, we removed them with pliers.  The cup is for vodka, I mean, the nails that are pulled up from the tack strip.  Don’t do this barefoot.  Im sure you can guess why.
– At this point, we used a shop vac to vacuum the carpet pad dust and nails.
Here is where we had an epiphany!  And by epiphany, I mean we did more work than necessary before we decided it was unnecessary.  This is where I said,  “I’m never doing a project with you again,” but later recanted and said, “I’m sorry; let’s hug it out.”  So originally, we planned to save the risers, so we spent hours removing nails, filling between the risers and wall with wood putty and sanding.  Then we decided to just replace them.
3.  Depending on the condition and type of wood, you can decide to replace the risers.  The risers on our staircase were cut short in some places, leaving a large gap between the wall and riser itself.  The wood was a cheaper plywood and full of large nail holes,  so we decided to replace the risers with birch plywood.  Using a crowbar, remove the risers.  Measure and cut your plywood. Note that not all the risers are the same width and height, so measure twice, cut once. Or twenty times depending on the number of risers.  Adhere the risers using liquid nails and a finishing nail gun.
4.  Fill in any seams, gaps in the tread and screw holes on the bull nose tread with wood putty.  You can use a straight razor to remove or smooth out any putty once it has slightly dried. If you wood putty large areas, you will cover the look of wood grain, so be careful not to overuse.
5.  We hung a disposable plastic tarp in the entry way at the bottom of the staircase to contain any dust before sanding. A hand sander works great for sanding large areas.  Be sure to even out the wood putty and sand any rough places.  I lightly sanded the wall trim and handrail to prepare it for paint, as well.
6.  Cleanup!  Vacuum all the dust from sanding.  After vacuuming, there was still dust from sanding, so I used a spray wood cleaner and paper towels to remove any dust.  I waited until the next day to paint to ensure the wood was completely dry.
7.  Use paintable silicone caulk to fill the seams between the risers, threads and wall. With a gloved finger, wipe off excess for a smooth line.  It takes some practice!
8.  Paint the stairs.  Decide if you are going to use one or more colors.  I used Behr oil based paint in bright white, because that is what I use for all my trim work.  The baluster, risers and wall trim were painted white.  I painted the white first so I taped off that area.  I have yet to find a tape that creates a seamless edge, so there were lots of touchups to do.
I wanted the handrail to stand out from the wall and the treads to not show dirt, so I decided to paint those areas grey using latex paint.  After painting the trim and risers, I taped off for the treads.  Perhaps,  you can avoid tape if you have a steady hand.  I switch between using tape and not on projects.

Between painting sessions, store brushes in a ziplock bag in the fridge to prevent them from drying out.  Oil paint must be removed with acetone, so rubber gloves is a good idea. I am pretty sure I saw a leprechaun in the kitchen at midnight while painting, so I am still not sure if I was high on paint or just tired and hallucinating.  Either way, I survived.
 9.  Seal the treads with Minwax polycrylic protective finish.  Use 3 coats.
10.  Celebrate, because you are done!  This project cost less than $300 to replace the dingy carpet with an updated, painted staircase that vibes with the style and color of the rest of the house.  One project at a time to make this a cuter Tudor home.
Check out @cutertudor on Instagram or use the tag #CuterTudored to be featured.


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