Monday, July 30, 2012

Stairway progress: Painted stairs

After a week of intensive stair painting, this project is finally showing signs of completion. The steps are now a deep shade of olive green, sort of antique and modern at the same time.

Before someone rakes me over the coals for painting wood, let me show you a few before shots:

Originally, I was thinking maybe I could strip and re-stain the stair treads, but ultimately decided against it. The stairs are soft pine with an ugly grain, loads of stains, and a little bit of water damage. I'm certain all the work it would take to refinish them would be wasted on a junky end product.

Let's get real. This is a modest, depression-era house in a middle class neighborhood. No fancy hardwood here. So if all that doesn't grant me a license to paint wood, I'm not sure what would.

After filling all sorts of holes and gouges with wood filler and some of the cracks with painters caulk, I was ready for primer. I used latex Kilz Premium, my favorite stain-blocking primer, and then it was time to paint!

In my design mock-up, I planned on painting a faux stair runner, but that didn't go exactly as planned.

When I started taping out my runner, I tried re-positioning the tape and the paint and primer peeled up along with an ultra thin layer of the stairs themselves. I won't belabor the details because I'd rather not relive it through the photographic evidence, but I ended up having to sand the stairs even after I had already primed them. There was anger and cursing and crying. But I powered through the awfulness of that, and then slightly changed my game plan.

I knew if I still wanted white borders along the edges of the stairs, that was going to set me back about three more days while I waited for each coat of the white paint to dry. (Latex enamel suggests waiting 24 hours between coats, and after my primer not sticking, I wasn't going to bend the rules.) If I just painted the entire width green, I could avoid that whole three day diversion without giving up much of anything.

It's also worth mentioning again that this staircase is only accessed through my daughter's room, which restricts me to painting during her waking hours.

So after that whole debacle, I primed two coats and then painted four coats of a bright olive green (allen + roth's Dog Park mixed into Valspar Porch and Floor paint). It was really thin; thinner than most latex paints, hence the four coats. In hindsight, I probably should have used a tinted primer. I don't know when I'm going to stop making that mistake.

I still have some touching up to do, especially on the trim. And I haven't given up on the idea of doing some detail painting. I have some ideas, but haven't started on anything yet. Part 2 coming soon. (I hope.)

p.s. I decided against any further detail painting for now.

See all the stairway updates >>


  1. It looks fantastic! I love the color with the stripes. That's awful about the peeling primer. When projects go wrong I always think "Why do I keep doing this to myself?" but I always hop right back on the project wagon : )

    1. Thanks! Yeah, that primer fiasco was not pleasant. I didn't think they needed sanding because the finish was so raw, but apparently, they did. Lesson learned. (Maybe.)

  2. Painting treated wood can be a very difficult task. Your stairs look great! And we have to say that the photo with your cat is adorable... hope he (or she) wasn't turned green in the process... although it would match the eyes.

    1. Thanks, I kept her out of the wet paint. Didn't want to clean up that mess!

  3. I don't normally comment on things but I love your stairs they look so great I want to paint mine now! Though I rent and am sure they would not approve! Great job!

  4. Hi I just found your site online while looking up painted steps.let me just say i am now scared ,lol. You poor thing!!!! After all you've gone through i think i will now try to sand and then stain my steps,lol.Thanks for the heads up ;]

    1. Don't let my mistakes scare you! It is a lot of work but it's totally doable. I would just make sure you sand your stairs, whether you think they need it or not and use a tinted stain blocking primer if you aren't painting white or a light color.

      You could also stain the treads and paint the risers for a combo look! Good luck!

  5. OH and by the way your steps came out awesome in the end!!! Good job!!!


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