Refinishing the Stairs Part 1

We figured the wood stairs would be in worse shape than any of the bedroom floors because they endure the most traffic, but we weren’t prepared for the amount of tedious work it would take to whip them into shape. I’ll add: the jury is still out on what kind of shape they’ll be in when we’re finished with them, though they are undoubtedly already much much better than they were.


The painfully hideous risers were the first problem that caught our eye once we finished removing the carpet and padding; the yellow peeling paint and staples left behind from the carpet were a terrible eyesore. The next problem were the actual wood steps. From the top of the stairs you could see the dark stain that a once-upon-a-time runner had left behind on both sides of each step…and it bothered the crap out of me. We both considered what it’d be like to just leave the steps as is, but we knew the lines would drive us crazy. We also didn’t want to put a runner in to cover it up…we just ELIMINATED the carpet. I’ll be damned if I ADD any carpet, even if it’s the sexiest runner in all of DIY history.



We ran through the options: buy new steps (expensive), paint these steps (meh), remove the steps, refinish them outside and re-install (labor intensive). Finally we decided to try refinishing the steps where they are: sand them down past the runner stains with our hand sander, sand in the cracks and corners by hand, stain the steps, and add a coat of polyurethane. The main problem: we still can’t open a single f*!#ing window in our house! We can’t use ANY stain or poly until we can air the house out – I can’t sleep in my respirator mask and Javi doesn’t even have one. So that part will have to wait.


by the way – here’s the before / after of the upstairs hallway

Even without being able to stain and poly right away, we still had plenty of work we could accomplish. So we decided to sand the steps, then tape up the risers and trim, and add a fresh coat or two of white glossy paint. We removed all of the staples, then started sanding by hand the edges that the sander couldn’t reach. Next, we hooked up the shop vac to the sander, and I held the shop vac in place (with noise-canceling headphones on!) while Javi sanded the first four stairs. Then we switched and I did the next four and so on until we reached the bottom. At this point we were still able to see the lines from the runner, but they were much lighter and we are *hoping* that a couple of coats of stain and poly will hide most of the damage.

Holding the shop vac in place while Javier sanded the top steps
View from above after the sanding – the runner line is still visible but much lighter!

Once we finished the sanding, we taped the steps and got to work painting the risers and the side trim. THIS is where the magic happened…just a couple of coats of that fresh white paint had these stairs looking like they belonged in a family home instead of a bad Texas Chainsaw re-make. Just LOOK at that difference!!


So now we wait…the new windows are coming at the end of June. We are going on vacation in July, so I’m guessing we won’t get around to staining and adding poly on the steps until late July (when I’m 7.5 months pregnant – awesome!). Again – I’m just happy the carpet is gone and the sanding / painting is finished!​ Check out the video below for the step-by-step from my instagram story.

stairs before and after
The most satisfying before and after ❤


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