How To Stain Stairs

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In this article, you’re going to discover how staining stairs can be done in five simple steps. We’re also going to answer common questions surrounding staining stairs and how to get the best and longest-lasting finish. If you’re like us, you’ve lived in your house for a while now, or maybe you just moved. Most homes have carpet on the stairs since it’s a bit easier than installing wood, sanding, and properly staining it. Nowadays, carpet isn’t necessarily everyone’s first choice over hardwood.

If you dream of having beautiful hardwood steps, then this article will show you how to get them.

Step 1: Prep The Area

Before you even touch the stairs, you’ll want to move or cover furniture and other items near the staircase. You will create a lot of dust from sanding and you’ll also want to avoid spilling or dripping any of the stain or varnish on said furniture. Any items that can’t be moved can be covered in a drop cloth.

You’ll also want to lay down drop cloth.

You’ll also want to create ventilation by opening the closest windows &/or doors. This will allow some of the dust from sanding to dissipate and keep all of the chemicals and fumes in the stain from congregating in one area while you’re applying the stain.


Step 2: Prep The Stairs (And Yourself)

Strip away any carpeting material with pliers and a pry bar. Completely pull the carpet and padding including any carpet stripes, tacks, staples, and anything holding it in place. Make sure to wear heavy-duty gloves and cover all exposed skin because you will encounter your fair share of sharp objects like tacks and staples.

Next, you’ll want to sand the steps with medium-grit sandpaper. Clean all of the wood with a damp cloth to remove all of the dust, dirt, and grease from the old stain and paint on the wood. This is important because if you stain over anything like dog hair, lint, or any kind of dirt, I will be embedded in the stain for life.

Step 3: Apply Pre-Stain Conditioner

If you’re an amateur, we suggest applying a pre-stain conditioner so the stain gets applied evenly. You only need to apply one coat of conditioner. After application, wait 15 minutes for it to settle then immediately start applying the first stain. You’ll want to apply the stain within 3 hours of applying the conditioner. 

Step 4: Apply 2 Coats Of Stain

Similar to painting, standard practice is to add two coats of stain lightly onto the stairs. Too much and you will end up with a stain that’s too dark. For the love of God, do not use a staining sponge. Instead, use a rag to stain since you only need a small amount of stain and it needs to be worked in. Dip the rag into the can of stain (make sure you’re wearing gloves) and apply using long circular motions until an even coat is applied. Always wipe up any excess with a clean rag then let dry.

Step 5: Apply 1 Coat Of Polyurethane

After staining your stairs, you’ll want to add some protection from all of the foot traffic your stairs will receive. Simply apply 1 even coat of polyurethane to the steps after letting the stain settle for a few hours. I’d suggest having your family out of the house while applying the polyurethane. Then again, anything with a name like that probably shouldn’t be breathed in by kids and pets.