How I Painted My Stairs

I’ve decided I definitely want to change the stairs (treads, banister, balusters – everything) down the road a bit. But for now, I knew it made sense to just paint what I’ve got. Most of you agreed that I could change the look enough with paint that it would be worth the time and effort. Well,…

I’ve decided I definitely want to change the stairs (treads, banister, balusters – everything) down the road a bit. But for now, I knew it made sense to just paint what I’ve got. Most of you agreed that I could change the look enough with paint that it would be worth the time and effort.

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Well, there was definitely time and effort spent! And I’m pretty happy with the change the color makes in the space.

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I think it will be worth all the effort in the end, once the runner’s installed. The hardest part by far was all the sanding. And thank goodness for Bondo!

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Bondo is one of those products that might look intimidating, but is actually pretty easy to use. You mix a hardening cream with the epoxy base putty in small batches and then smear on the mixture quickly before it starts to set.

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The stuff stinks bad, but it works miracles and fills any hole/crease/crevice/seam you present it with.
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After the Bondo had dried for a few hours I sanded the filler down. This was seriously a full day’s work. Every tread took about an hour. But by the time I was finished, the Bondo had perfectly sealed all the imperfections and all the hand-scraped detail on the old wood had been sanded away.
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Michael helped me hang plastic sheeting on the walls and we wiped everything down twice.
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I used my favorite Critter sprayer to paint the stairs with the first coat of tinted blue-gray primer.
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And some of the imperfections started to reveal themselves.
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As Linus would say – Ruh-ro.
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So I caulked and did another coat of Bondo where it was needed and then sanded the whole thing again. (and sniffed and sneezed and coughed the whole time – stupid cold.)
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I sprayed a second coat of primer on and then the first of two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Chelsea Gray in the Advance line paint.
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The color is light enough to brighten the space a bit, but dark enough to hide dirt perfectly I think. 
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The treads look almost like solid planks now! I’m so happy with how they turned out. We just saved ourselves a couple thousand dollars by not replacing these oversized treads!
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I have no ideas yet for what I’m going to use for a stair runner, but I’m really excited to pick that out next. I’ll be trying something similar to this tutorial.
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Also, on a whim I pulled out one of my old gold leaf pens and painted one of the round screw covers. The pen was pretty dry so the color’s not very saturated, but I kind of like the look. What do you think of the gold just on the screw covers?
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Before I buy the runner I have lots of touch ups to do and I think I’ll paint the walls before installing the runner as well. But at least I’m happy with the direction we are headed in. It was well worth the labor, paint and about $12 in Bondo!
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Join the Conversation

127 thoughts on “How I Painted My Stairs

  1. Jenny – you so inspire me! I look forward to seeing what you do every week! I love the gold too! It adds that "sparkle"!

  2. Jenny – you so inspire me! I look forward to seeing what you do every week! I love the gold too! It adds that "sparkle"!

  3. I sincerely appreciate your work ethic. Thanks for being an inspiration and showing us that you can work incredibly hard, raise a family and have fun. Bravo!

    Love the stairs–

  4. That looks amazing – I thought your "after" at the top of the post was an inspiration shot at first. The new paint color and smooth texture changes the atmosphere of the stairwell so much.

  5. LOVE THIS SO MUCH!! It looks so much better and I love that it feels more apart of the house and not this huge statement piece anymore! I was showing the kids and Connor said, "WOW, Jen does some amazing work!!" I love checking in every day and seeing everything you have done. Hoping you sleep at some point!!!

  6. Wow – you're a real trooper! Doing what you did is NOT an easy task. You are one patient girl! Aren't you thankful for Bondo and paint sprayers?

  7. You are absolutely unbelievable – what a fantastic job and they look just gorgeous. I admire your ability to do these beautiful things. Congratulations on a stunning staircase. (have I used enough adjectives) Betty from Ontario Canada

  8. Wow! The stairs look awesome! Would you recommend using Bondo for filling the grain on kitchen cabinets before painting them?

  9. I can't get over how gorgeous this looks. i would think you could go quite a while before replacing it. Amazing. I'm on the fence about the plugs…maybe wait until you pick the runner? Great diy link, btw. CTD

  10. Just read all the comments, including yours. Glidden makes two lines of paint: one for the the big box stores and one professional line sold at specialty paint stores. The formulas are completely different and the prof line is amazing. Maybe that's the primer you used.
    I use Ellen Kennon's Full Spectrum paint colours and they are formulated with the glidden professional line. At first I thought, "cheap", until I learned this fact. CTd…again!

  11. Wow, great job on the stairs, they look fabulous. As for the runner, why not just paint one on? Then you can totally make it your own. But perhaps with kids it's safer to have a fabric runner?

  12. Well, WOW, that didn't disappoint. Holy moly, you are doing a fantastic job. My mind was so stuck on black and white that another colour didn't really enter my head so I wasn't expecting that at all. But, as usual, you knock the ball out of the park. Personally, I love the little gold screw caps. Can't wait to see the runner now! You are quite amazing in how much energy you have.

  13. I love it. Perfect color with your floors. It has a Belgian flair to it. I am not digging the gold on the buttons though as I think it fusses up the simplicity.

  14. i just ordered the critter sprayer! you convinced me!
    are you planning to poly over the stairs since it is a high traffic area? I am planning to paint my stair treads too and i'm not sure the type of paint i should choose to ensure i don't have to constantly repaint them from wear and tear.

  15. I love the color and the gold added makes it very chic indeed! I think you could also paint the front of the stairs to match the wall color if you ever want to change it up and it would look totally different but still really nice.
    In terms of a runner I have a suggestion that I've always wanted to try but never had the right stairs. You take a long runner with a pattern and get it cut and hemmed to fit each stair. The pattern is broken up but yet continuous. Any way it might like really neat! Love the Blog thanks for sharing! Stop over any time to my new and every changing little blog
    Christina Marie

  16. This is seriously amazing. Do you get tired of hearing us always asking how you do it/get so much done?! I really like how it turned out. I don't know if I would have gone so monochromatic, but I bet an awesome runner will be the perfect touch.

  17. I am kicking myself for not saving the photo, but I once saw a 'color reform' style persian rug used as a runner on a wide staircase like yours and it looked phenomenal! A fuschia or teal would look especially good with the chelsea gray.

    something like this shade:

    I think rugsusa and lulu and georgia have much less expensive versions in similar styles.

    Good luck with your dr's appt! So sorry to hear about the health troubles.

  18. Just curious to see how the Bondo held up over time. I’m thinking about using it on my risers but I’ve only ever used it on metal. Any issues with cracking as the stairs expand and contract throughout the year?

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