Finished Staircase!

By Kate Riley October 22, 2010

Oooooooh happy Friday friends.  Guess what?  I finally finished our staircase!  Let me tell you, with two little monkeys running around, I was forced to take this on late at night after they had gone to bed.  So for the last ten days, yours truly has been up late sanding, staining, priming and painting, plus polyurethaning (is that a word?) in order to get our staircase to look like this.

Hello gorgeous!

cg wood staircase


Remember the before from last year?  The blonde oak banister and the carpet?  Last year, you’ll recall we redid the banister and primed and painted the oak base white as a first step.  This year, we finally have wood steps at last!

stairs before and after


Last week, I started experimenting with some stain just to see how dark I could get the blonde oak treads with different colors and qualities.  I had some leftover Walnut Gel Stain from a few previous projects.  Then my carpenter recommended Duraseal in ‘Antique Brown’, which is also made by Minwax and sold to the trade to contractors.  The Walnut stains were just not dark enough, and the ‘Ebony’ (far right) was too black.

two coats


I agreed with my carpenter’s recommendation and the Duraseal won.  It leans a hint mahogany but with two coats of poly on top, it was exactly what I wanted.

Before I could stain, I had to strip the paint off the curve on the bottom step.   Some Citrustrip (which I compared to old school chemical strippers here) did the trick!

citrusstrip on bottom

I also had to fill all the nail holes on the treads and risers then sand it down.  This little 3M detail sander, used with some coarse sandpaper, worked great!  No need to plug in my orbital, yes!

putty and sand


I used an old sock over a latex glove to apply the stain on every other step for the first coat, just so I could get up and down.  The second coat I did late at night, and I stained every step, so I just camped on the couch after staining the last one.

duraseal on steps one at a time

The Duraseal was thick and gooey, unlike watery stains, so it penetrated the blonde wood very well.  I got mega messy with my stain because I knew I would cover it up with primer and paint.

messy stain


After two coats of Duraseal, and two coats of polyurethane, I taped off the stained steps and covered up the messy residue with none other than Zinsser Cover Stain!  My fav.

cover stain


I touched up the paint on the walls, painted the risers, and then painted the picture frame molding too.

Ta dah!

cg foyer

True love.

I’m not a matchy matchy girl, so I have no problem with the blonde oak floors right now, but my secret plan is to stain them darker.

Want the full chapters on the staircase from beginning to end?  Chapter One: staining the banister; Chapter Two: ripping out the carpet and preparing the plywood; and Chapter Three: installing the risers and treads.  Today is the happy ending!

I have to thank my husband for his eternal patience with me and this project.  He liked the carpet and originally was hesitant to take this on.  The carpet was cozier and quieter, albeit dingier.  He tolerated my late nights sanding, painting, staining and polyurethaning each step and riser.  But this morning even Mr. CG said “Hey, these stairs look really good.”

So tonight is date night, and after he has a glass of wine, I’ll be saying with my most charming voice, “Honey, now about those floors . . . ”



  1. This is an amazing transformation! I love the stain you chose. I actually really like the contrast of the blonde floors, too. The chair rail adds so much drama to the space…it looks awesome, Kate! (:

  2. Hahah, you are silly.

    I LOVE the stairs, they look SO amazing. Job well done! Any ideas on restraining a kitchen table? It’s orangey yellow right now and I absolutely cant stand it. I yearn for a darker stain sigh.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Kate!

  3. These look amazing!!! You really have patience to have done such a great job. Congrats on a wonderful new look for your stairwell!! Kathysue

  4. So beautiful! I can’t wait to live in a house worth of wood floors and a staircase! You did a great job and I worship you for having that kind of patience and energy! What a well deserved finished product!

  5. What an absolutely beautiful job. We did the opposite…changed our floors all to dark and the stairs for now are still light. You just made me realize I could probably change the stairs at some point. You are very talented. Enjoy your date night.

  6. This is gorgeous Kate! You did such a wonderful job! I wish we had wood under our carpet, it’s really bad partical board but we are starting to take the carpet up :)
    Didn’t you have wallpaper in the shadow boxes before or am I loosing it?
    Love the transformation!

  7. They are gorgeous! Wow, you did an amazing job! I want to do the same thing w/my staircase, but we’re moving in a year. My husband thinks I’m crazy, to go to all the effort but I think it might be worth it. Although, it sounds like you put a lot of man hours into it and I would have the same issue – blonde wood floors and dark stained steps – while I wouldn’t mind it, I’m not sure how that would do in resale?

  8. Incredible transformation! I would SO love to hire you to do the exact same thing to mine! Too bad we don’t live very close to each other. Wow, I’m still drooling.

  9. Gorgeous, Kate! What a huge project! I admire you for taking that on. Your staircase is just beautiful! Enjoy your weekend!

  10. Amazing! I would buy your house just for that stately staircase! Thank you for doing this blog, it is so addicting and gives me so much confidence and guidance!

  11. amazing transformation! And I kind of like the contrast of the dark steps and light floors … but I’m sure darker floors will look great one day :)

  12. I love the two different wood tones! It contrasts nicely! I’m not a “matchy-match” girl either! :) Great job!

  13. you never cease to be amazing!! love your work. you are inspirational in your energy and creativity!

  14. Woohoo! Gorgeous! I love it, it’s SUCH a dramatic change & with the molding on the wall it just looks so elegant.

  15. It looks like a professional did it! I love it. I agree that your floors would look great if they were dark as well, but it really does look nice now.

  16. Beautiful! Don’t do the main floors though…you’ll regret it. I have dark wood floors – and a dog – and I hate them (the floors – not the dog) every time I look at them. The dark floor will show every drop of slobber – if you have a dog – every paw print, every shoe print, every lotiony foot print – every speck of dust. They are a pain.

  17. Pure fabulousness! I love it!! We have the honey oak floors, too, but I desperately want the darker look. You’ve encouraged me to DIY it! Rather, have the hubster DIY it! :-)

  18. Kate they are beautiful! Love the dark stain. I am loving the molding treatment…hmmm, maybe after my “date night” (aka…high school football game, It’s Homecoming), I might be saying “now honey, about those staircase walls. I so want to rip the carpet off the front stairs like we did the back!!

  19. you go girl. I will be unemployed by jan 2011 so this is something that I would love to do but I don’t know if I have the guts to take something on like this.

  20. LOVE LOVE LOVE! I have natural maple floors (which I like). I always thought I wanted to rip out the carpet and stain the stairs dark, but I could never find any pictures that showed what dark stairs would look like with a light floor. Well, now I know and I LOVE IT! So pretty. And thanks for sharing all the info.

  21. Kate you out did yourself with these stairs! One question: Will you marry me?! Oprah says every wife needs a wife! I’ll let you do whatever you’d like to the house…Ha! Again girl, your stairs look fabulous! Now let me go show my hubby!

  22. Gorgeous! As I knew it would be. I cannot believe you did all this yourself. Wait, yes I can, because you’re marvelous and you take on projects not for the faint of heart. I am so so inspired. I can’t even lay eyes on my blond railing right now, I have such disdain for it after seeing your banister! Congrats – job well done!

  23. Wow! What a difference! This makes me want to rip the carpet off our stairs. I think every woman has a “secret plan” for her home – I know I do! :)

  24. They look FANTASTIC!
    You did such a great job.
    The color is wonderful and it changed the whole look of that area! So fresh and crisp!
    LOVE LOVE LOVE them!

    Layla :-)

  25. Job well done, my friend!!! I have a question about your Zinsser “Cover Stain.” Do you think that would work well as a primer for the buffet/credenza thing I bought at Salvation Army for my dining room? It is real wood, and I wasn’t looking forward to sanding it. :s The can in your picture said “without sanding.” I was thinking of painting it white?? Maybe I ought to just send you a photo of it. :s That whole room needs to be redone, and I’m starting with that piece! ;)

  26. Wow! They look amazing. You did a great job. Thank you for sharing tips on product and procedure—I appreciate it! The room would look fab with dark wood floors as well but for now it all looks beautiful.

  27. Kate, those stairs came out fantastic! But you know that!! It is what I would love to do to mine. I love the dark banister and treads with the white risers and balusters. So classy. That was a lot of work! Great job!

  28. They look fabulous! The first week I moved into my house I ripped the carpeting off mine! Took me a year to stain them and put my mark on them. My risers I stained a red color with oak highlights.

  29. kate! you never cease to amaze me!! Another wonderful job well done!! Love the stairs….but, I get tired just reading about it!! ha ha!! Thanks for a great post!

  30. The stairs look so beautiful. You did such an excellent job on them.

  31. I think this is my favorite project of yours yet. The evolution of your staircase has been amazing! This looks FABULOUS I LOVE IT AND WANT IT.

  32. Stripping paint from furniture is one of the hardest tasks out there – and you managed an entire staircase! Incredible. The end result is well worth it and the new white paneling makes all of the difference in the world. You have a great eye!

  33. You have inspired me to do my steps! I so want to do them but my floors are light. You showed me I can do a mix (and one day I will have them stained dark too). I love it and your work is GREAT!

  34. Kate! What a labor but what a result! I love seeing the before and after. Isn’t it truly the best compliment when your husband puts up with it all and still loves it? I love secret plans…girl, you know when the best time to ask for things is…mmhhhmmmm.

  35. Gorgeous! Just Gorgeous! The first thing that comes to mind is the courage you need to undertake something so complicated, and it’s the first thing you see when you come in the front door, and it always comes out so perfectly because you keep on working at all the details. A true inspiration and what an incredible transformation!

  36. They look so nice! I was wondering about the floors (I have lighter ones, two, although more orangey-tinged) since I also have been working on hubby to ditch the oak and go espresso! Very well done.

  37. Bravo! You’ve done a beautiful job and I it will help me convince my husband to do ours stairs, too. Thanks for documenting your entire process in such detail!

  38. Yay you – those are LOVELY! The house we just bought has nice new hardwoods up the stairs and the entire second floor. They are kind of orangey blonde oak – just a couple of weeks ago it dawned on me we could have them sanded and stained. I don’t see it in the immediate future as there are SO many things higher on the priorty list, but definitely something to look forward to!

  39. You know, that looks amazing. I love the contrast of white paint and dark stain. It looks professionally done.

  40. ♥ your stairs……..they are BEAUTIFUL! i am VERY impressed (although maybe a little jealous)…you did an AWESOME job!

  41. Absolutely SUPERB Kate! And to think that you did this yourself just blows my mind! I love the new look and the new wall art and light fixture too. So gorgeous. A date night and glass of wine is definitely in order!

  42. I am so impressed! Staining things and I are not really friends, hopefully one day we can be, but so far I am just not talented at it, or maybe just to impatient is a better word. I would love to have wood stairs, but one am just too darn clumsy I would slip and I have not convinced the hubby :)

  43. Beautiful work as usual, girl.

    I actually really like the contrast of the blonde flooring with the deep dark of the stairs…
    but that might just be me. :)

  44. Staircases are a standout feature in any home and you have just turned them into something incredible. You go girl a well deserved date/massage/flowers/wine should be coming your way!

  45. Kate, you should be so proud of yourself! I know I am. They look wonderful, beautiful and so inspiring to see someone stick with it for as long as you did. I commend you, job unbelievably well done.

  46. They are gorgeous. It changes the entire look of the house (or at least the part I can see). The molding you added makes it all look so much more expensive. I am trying to imagine the job it will be to do those floors, but I’m sure you will not only get it done…it will be stunning!

  47. Oh my word…this is an amazing transformation! You did a fabulous job. Especially considering it was mostly done at night after the kids were in bed. How did you get up and down the stairs while it was wet? It has completely changed the look of the house. Lisa~

  48. SO beautiful. I have already warned my hubby that I want picture frame molding, wood floors and wood on the steps. Like your hubby he likes the carpet. I bet when I show him this pics tomorrow he will agree with me! Thanks for the examples. Awesome work. Lori

  49. Fantastic job! It looks spectacular…..really!!! Thanks so much for sharing this…it’s very inspiring for people like me who have some pretty nasty carpet on our stairs!! Have a great weekend and enjoy the beauty of all your hard work! Angie xo

  50. Hi Kate! I’ve been waiting for this and it was worth the wait. It looks beautiful! I love the duraseal color and want to do this to my stairs also. I’ve been hesitating because I have a cream colored tile in my foyer. Do you think staining the treads the antique walnut color would work with the tile? I was thinking of ripping the tile out and putting hardwood. That would be quite a project.

    Anyhow, congratulations on a job well done. Enjoy your new staircase!

  51. BRAVO!!! What a lovely transformation. As you’ve updated your blog site, so have you your home;
    both are bright, fresh and welcoming.

  52. Congratulations on a fabulous job ! The staircase looks gorgeous. I love the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a long project like this one. For me, just seeing a project completed makes me happy for days on end .. far more than any shopping trip or vacation can. I’m sure you’ll be thrilled every time you walk up and down the stairs. Enjoy !

  53. iI Kate-

    They look wonderful. What a transformation and workout for you. I am in the process of re-doing my steps and I enjoyed reading your husband’s view on the steps. Are all guys alike? Mine thinks the same – liked carpet and thinks the steps are noisy now. I just had to remind him – has he ever not liked what I have done in the house? He suprisesd me that other day when I came home from work – he had removed the rest of the carpet that I had not gotten to yet. Gotta love him. Hope you had a fabulous date night last night.
    My best – Diane

  54. I just love how the steps turned out and have been dying to do this to my own staircase. The problem I’m having is I have 2 landings and I’m pretty sure there is ugly plywood under the carpet. I see that you have a landing too! Could you please share what you did with the landing? Thanks a million!!

  55. oh, wow! what a huuuuuuge, great difference! that was an excellent call. this is one of the projects that make you happy AND improve the value of your home. so beautiful! good work. :)

  56. oh, wow! what a huuuuuuge, great difference! that was an excellent call. this is one of the projects that make you happy AND improve the value of your home. so beautiful! good work. :)

  57. Ooo La La! So BE-U-TI-FUL! :-) Give yourself several pats on the back and “Atta Girl”. I saved your finished picture for inspiration for my staircase. Awesome!

  58. I am new to your blog and am absolutely blown away by your staircase transformation. I had been thinking about doing this and you have given me the motivation to move ahead with it! Now that you have the experience you do with the stairs, would you do the handrail the same way as you did or would you change it up based on what you learned doing the stairs??

  59. They are absolutely gorgeous!!! That’s freaking AMAZING! We have carpeted stairs, and it’s hard to imagine they could ever be soo beautiful. Will be bookmarking for the future! :)

  60. looks fantastic! The wainscoting and the color go so well with the rest of your house (what we can see) I think the blond floors add a nice contrast so dont push hubby too much! Great job.

  61. New reader here. I just had to comment on how stunning your staircase is. Love the wainscoting too. It is the perfect finishing touch. Bravo, outstanding work!

  62. Just one word – AWESOME!!! If I had these stairs I would be lounging around all over them day and night!! Thanks so much for sharing the complete process and all the steps it took you to get these beauties the way they look – and I love the fact that you showed your “messiness” with the stain on the walls!! Now that I have the tools and your how-to-guide – I’m hoping I can convince my DH to do the same to our stairs!!

  63. Elegant and stunning come to mind! You ahve alot of energy to take this on but the work was worth every late night. It looks gorgeous and something you can be REALLY proud of! XO, Pinky

  64. great job! it just goes to show what is old, is new again. (referrring to the old move). you have inspired me to do some new projects and get me interested in redecorating again.

  65. I heard a rumor something spectacular was being shared over at your blog! WOW!!! Outstanding job, you are amazing and did just a fabulous job…how can I be more effusive? Janell

  66. Hi CG

    Thanks for this post. I have always wanted to take up the carpet in my stairs but was puzzled if darker stained treads would work when the bottom floor is a medium colored wood. This looks amazing? Thank you

  67. so beautiful, kate! wow- that was a lot of work, but it really paid off. what a grand staircase- gorgeous to every last detail!

  68. Wow! So worth all of the sanding, staining and sweating! Beautiful staircase! You done good!

  69. Kate, you totally inspired me to do my stairs and banister when we moved into our house a year ago. They turned out really great! You did a really awesome job and i can appreciate all the labor so late at night. I almost fell asleep sanding!

  70. Fantabulous ;) I don’t care about my woods matching either…especially where the floors go through-out the entire floor as shown in your photo…you know into other rooms, etc. The moulding/chair rail up the wall just makes this “landing” area seem larger and more substancial. You go girl !

  71. Hi Tania, I I think cream colored tile would look marvelous up against dark stained wood treads. I vote to keep your floors!

  72. So gorgeous! You’ve really got my wheels turning now. My oak floors are quite similar to yours, and I’ve been thinking that removing the carpet from our stairs may be the best option (it’s ugly!), but I was trying to figure out the best way to make the treads match. Now I see they don’t have to! Thanks for the inspiration.

  73. Hi, Your stairs look beautiful. I have a similar situation, were your treads already solid oak under the carpet?

  74. I love your posts. You have inspired me so much! I have gotten a plethora of ideas for my new apartment from your blog. Upon reading your refinishing/staining blog posts I am encourage to transform my china hutch back to its true mahogany beauty. Thank you so much!!

  75. This is sooooo beautiful! That is exactly what I want with my stairs! I don’t know if I’ve got the guts to do it though. I’ll be bookmarking this project.

  76. WOWZA…… just beautiful…. truly a LABOR of LOVE! I grew up with wood treads, and learned every step by heart…. your kids will too…. the makeover, including the lovely mouldings and photographs lining the starwell,is just incredibly elegant.
    Your hub already knows his days are numbered on the floors!( He’s great, we also know ,re; pics of kitchen painting)

    enjoy a restful weekend!

  77. These came out beautiful! I’m in total awe of you, your house, your skills! I think I spent about two hours on your blog after I found it! We just bought a new house with the MOST FAB double staircase, and I WILL be following your directions and doing the same! Although ours will be double the work, I can’t imagine how amazing it will look. Thank you for this beautiful piece of art that your blog is, you are SO inspiring!

  78. They’re absolutely beautiful, Kate! Definitely looks like the end result was worth all of the hard work that you put into them. You did a great job. I had to laugh about your date night strategy. Hope that worked out for you. :-)

  79. I am finally rejoining the human race after being sick for nearly a week and just now saw your new stairs. Congrats lady! These are absolutely beautiful! You are truly magnificent; is there no DIY project you can’t tackle and conquer with flying colors?!?! Hats off to you, friend!

  80. WOW!!!! How impressive!!!!! You did a most amazing job!!
    I am sure I would have never had the patience and tenacity to pull a porject like that off!

  81. Thanks for your support Kate! I’ll keep the tile and go with the darker stain for the stairs. Thanks so much for your comment.

  82. Kate, your stairs look great, and I even like the contrast btwn the light and dark floors. I would caution you on staining the rest of your floors- I have very dark cherry floors, and wish they were lighter! Is your house fairly bright with natural light? If not, the dark floors will suck all available light out of your rooms. The dark floors also show everything. Drip some water on the floor, leave it long enough to attract some dust, and it shows as a light spot on the dark floor.
    Keep up the good work!

  83. I so totally love this…and thank you so much for the step by step instructions! Now, I can actually try this someday. :) I’m featuring this on my blog sometime soon. Thanks for sharing!

  84. Amazing!! I’m hoping to get rid of the carpet on my stairs and put down hardwood too. It is so great getting the play by play to prepare me for our future project. On a somewhat related note, I love the little table there next to the stairs. I would love to see the whole entryway. Is there any chance, if I ask really nicely, we can get a 360 degree view? Your stairs look so similar to mine, and I’m a little stuck on the entry and I desperately need some inspiration. I love your blog, you do amazing things.

  85. Your stairs looks beautiful. I have the same boring oak staircase with carpet that I dream of doing the same thing to it, but boy, that is a lot of work. I work full time outside the house and with a toddler at home, I just can’t find the time to commit to it yet.
    I have a (stupid) question, would it be easier to stain the steps after it is cut to size, then nail them in place? touch up can be done after, but that way it won’t take too many late nights. Just curious! thanks

  86. It is so worth all the work don’t you think? I live in an 1890 house. We had a carpet runner on painted stairs that had tons of paint. Lead at that! So in the months before our wedding I pulled up the carpet, then the tact nails, screws that we don’t know why they were there, staples, stripped the stairs, sanded, sanded more, sanded again then did the stain. I finished my staircase much the same. It made a dramatic difference in our foyer. I love it. I will never live with fully carpet stairs. It’s just too nice having the dark wood with white railings.

  87. Kate, I was so excited when I read you would be taking on this project. I knew it would look amazing, and it does!!! Great job!

  88. Kate, What a lovely staircase! You have inspired me to do mine. Did you have carpet at the top? If so, what did you do at the transition?


  89. So lovely. And such perfect timing. We are actually in the middle of stripping our stairs as well! How did you get the Dura Seal? I just LOVE LOVE LOVE the color. Amazing job.

  90. It looks fantastic! LOVE the dark stain on the treads. Makes me wonder about doing a dark stain on the blond/honey oak cabinets in our kitchen that Jim refuses to let me paint white… Hmmmm…

  91. It came out SO beautiful! I hate carpet on stairs and blond oak wood. You must have had a dreadful time looking at that everyday with visions in your mind on how you wanted it to be. Great job though and the fact that you tackled this project yourself speaks high volumes on how hands-on you really are. *Clapping my hands in a circular motion. Bravo! Bravo! Job well done!

  92. OK, seriously, I am in AWE! You have inspired me, we have been wanting to do the same, and now I can not wait to get at it! I only pray mine turn out as well. You have done an incredible job, THANK YOU so much for sharing the process.

    Congrats on the newly finished stairs, must feel great. I think I would be camping out on them day and night because they are so pretty…..


  93. Oh my! GORGEOUS!!!!! I actually like that the stairs and floors aren’t matching. I’d leave it that way. And I know what you mean about the stairs being louder. I took the carpet off mine when we moved in 2 years ago and our stairs are SO LOUD!

  94. Fabulous the stairs look wonderful I cannot wait until we can remove our carpet in our new home I so dislike carpet on stairs..fabulous job. : )

  95. i love your stairs too! i would like to do this for my house too. my stairs look like your before now, but my wood is a bit darker…next year maybe. good job with yours, it looks awesome!!

  96. Absolutely gorgeous!!! Job well done! I agree that I like the light floors with the light floors.

  97. I love your stairs! Your blog was an inspiration when I painted my handrail and spindles this summer. Now I’m noodling over what to do with the carpet on my stairs… What kind of flooring do you have at the top of the stairs? Is it hardwood also?

  98. What do you plan to do about dings on the white risers? I have white risers and two kids, and I have a hard time keeping them from looking banged up and dirty as every shoe seems to leave a scuff mark. In fact, I am thinking about installing a carpet runner just to cut down on noise and dings. Any suggestions?

  99. Floored by this floor! I have almost this exact same staircase scenario, and the same blonde wood floors. I considered painting the rail white because the light rail seems dated, but now I’ve seen this and I’m inspired. If someone had told me the different colors would look great, I wouldn’t have believed them…This is gorgeous! I, too, have young children with draggy, jumpy feet (not to mention a medium-sized dog with sadly neglected nails): I’ve been told by some that the dark stain shows every scratch and every speck of dust…How does the dark finish hold up?

  100. your before and after is AWESOME!!! LOVE the color of the stain..the detail on the wall….it looks TOTALLY different and great!!!!

    Nice job!

  101. Love the stain on your railing! I have been searching for the perfect color for my railing and think I just found it! Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  102. This is beautiful! What color is your wall color…it looks like it’s the same in the foyer as in your dining room. I love your dining room. I would love to know where you got your paint and what color you chose. Thanks!

  103. Hi Kate,

    First of all, what a fresh breath of air these photos are.
    This is such an amazing transformation! I know personally what kind of work you had to go to finishing it. I haven’t posted on my blog our staircase redo, but it sure was months of work.

    Well done to you and your husband! What a Great team!

  104. It looks absolutely Beautiful! You did a Wonderful job! I love it! Also love the candle sconces. Would you mind telling where you found them…I love them :)

  105. so i loved your stairs so much i went out and got the duraseal stain. how did you get it so dark? did you leave the stain on and let it dry that way? after i wipe the stain it becomes lighter than the minwax dark walnut stain i have.
    granted I have red oak and not blonde oak, i cant imagine it making that huge of a difference.

    -a clueless remodeler.

  106. Also, what type of poly did you use? Was it the 2 coats of poly that made it darker or did you put multiple coats of stain?

  107. I lovve your staircase! Im trying to get my unhandy husband to do fake waincoting going up our stairs. Hopefully I can convince him he can learn as he goes! I love your wall sconces. Can you tell me where you got them? Thanks so much

  108. What angles are you cutting to make your boxes on the stairs…I can’t figure out the angle to create my boxes and I am dying to put them on the stairs.

  109. You’ve inspired me…however working with stain and polyurethane in the humidity of June and July is not something I’d recommend in my neck of the woods. Anyhow, I striped, stained, retreaded, striped, stained…again, and applied 3 coats of poly. My mocha brown hardwood steps are b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l! The QUESTION: Now, how long do I need to wait to use the white primer on the risers? I am scared that taping the paper onto the steps will take off the poly. AHHH!!! I can’t have that happen (for my sanity and that of my family) and I can’t seem to find help in Internet land. Can you please advise me? Again, thanks for your inspiration- you’re work is beautiful!

  110. What’s the color on the wall? I saw in another website you’d painted the wainscoting a different color what’s the color too?

  111. You did a fabulous job. I have thought of doing this on ours but he non-slip carpet has won out and now we are moving into a new house.

  112. I love the work you did! I have been hesitant to attempt painting and staining my stairwell….until I read your blog. After reading what you had done I started painted my stairwell bainster spindles and went and got the Minwax polyshades in Antique Walnut. 2 coats of white on the spindles and one coat of the stain/poly mix on the railings, platforms and main posts. So far, looking really good! Our stairs are carpet (for now) but the foyer has hardwood, I’ll be starting that this weekend!
    Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  113. This is just what I want to do to our stairs. I’m curious how it is holding up over time? And if you still like it as much as when you first did them? Do you have to sweep them everyday? Do they show dust a lot? Anything you wish you had done different?

    And thanks for all the inspiring stuff you always share. My house is going to be so much more beautiful because of you.

    • Hey Elesa, the staircase is holdin gup great, absolutely no regrets! Yes, I still love them as much as when I first finished them, definitely an improvement on what was there before. I sweep them about twice a week, more like wipe them down only when necessary. Dark floors do show more dust.

  114. I’m another person who you’ve inspired with your tutorial. I’m finishing a kitchen project and then it’s on… vs. The stairs. I have the same setup you started with and can’t stand to look at it anymore. I love the color you ended up and am even going to try the craft paint trick. Thank you so much for the inspiration and the tutorial.

  115. Hi, really beautiful!!! I love your work!

    Actually, you inspired me and my wife, we’d like to do almost the same as you. Our only concern is the matching dark-light at the top of the stair! Can you send us a picture. Because the fact that the stair don’t match the floor, we think it’s beautiful, but which color is your nose a the top of the stair?

    Thanks a lot

    • Hi Mike, we have cream colored carpet at the top of our stairs, and natural wood floors at the bottom. I go back and forth whether to stain the downstairs floors dark, but I confess the natural wood is much better at hiding debris, the dark shows everything. So while I like the look of the dark, for a family with kids, the light is more practical.

  116. I am considering doing some thing simmilar to my stiars! Just out of curiosity are the stairs slick when you are in your socks? I could really see myself taking a digger :)

  117. WOW – those stairs are AMAZING! You do great work. Just found your website and can’t wait to look at everything!

  118. I was wondering if you ended up staining your floors. My staircase looks almost identical and I love this look. I have oak coloured hardwood floors right through though and am worried how the dark stained staircase will look as I have no intention of changing the flooring throughout but need to modernize to my style a bit. Thanks. I love it.

    • Hi Catherine, still haven’t changed the floors and not sure I’m going to – yes they are two different tones of wood, but I’ve grown to like it! Lighter floors hide more dirt/dust and with little kids, I’ll take all the help I can get! :)

  119. I’ve been researching stains and have vowed to use Minwax since it obviously superior however I am having the same issue with not being able to find the perfect color just as you mentioned in this blog post. The Duraseal in Antique Brown appears to be the perfect color from what I can see here. We are re-staing our very light wood kitchen cabinetry and we are looking for a dark/rich/chocolate color/kind of modern-sh. What would you think of using that product for the kitchen cabinets? Any extra tips/tricks/suggestions would be super-duper!!!! Thanks!

  120. Question: After pulling back carpet to reveal underneath, there is a gap between stair and wall/railing. The stair itself isn’t flush across the width.

    Also, my stairs are squared off at the ledge. It appears yours are rounded – did you sand to make them smooth and rounded?

    What did you use to removed the carpet tacks/nails?

    This looks like something I may attempt – our carpet needs replaced on the stairs, I may try this before replacing…if it doesn’t work carpet will cover it!

    Thanks !

  121. W.O.W. Yes, I am in love with your staircase wood redo as well. Heavens to Betsie, girl! I must say you have more guts than I could poke a stick at! I’m right there with you on having a hesitant DH since I pitched the same idear to him a couple months ago. Though, our stairs are already wood which takes a couple steps off of your plan, it’s still a big undertaking. Our floors are the 80’s honey oak, yes..lovely. Oh, and don’t get jealous now..we have a mondo matching oak fireplace mantle! I know.. take a breather. The rest of our house said bye bye to the 80’s a very long time ago so I say it’s time for me to cut the Aquanet aresol cord and bring our staircase up to par. Seeing your results gives me much hope I can swing it. And I think that mantle is screaming for the same redo as well.

    • That’s so exciting Tiffany, email me your pictures when you’re all done!

  122. I was wondering if I could get your opinion on using the Duraseal on cabinetry? We are about to re-stain our very light wood cabinets and I’m struggling to find a good color. Since the product is for floors I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea? Thanks!

  123. Hi,

    Your stairs look great. I see you finished the bannister first and then later finished the stairs. When you finished the bannister, you used minwax dark walnut and then added the craft glaze to help remove the graininess. Question, instead of doing this, would you recommend just using two coats of the dura seal and finishing with the polyurethane as you did with the stairs?

    Thank you,
    Debbie Boylan

    • Yes Debbie, had I known about Duraseal at that time, I would have used it on my banister!

  124. How long did you wait after polying the stairs to put down the tape? My husband and I are currently tackling this project, and I’m not sure how long to let the stairs cure after he applies the poly. Thanks! :)

    • Hi Laura, not sure what you mean by tape, but I added the poly to the stain after it cured for 24 hours.

  125. Dear CG,

    Love the way it turned out, I am in the middle of doing a similar thing in my house. I can’t find the Duraseal; is there anything on the market like it, that a regular girl can buy?

    • Hi Anna, it’s available to the trade, but I believe if you shop around online, some supplier will ship it!

  126. We are thinking of doing this to our staircase. What did you do on the landing?

    • Hi Clarke, at the top of the staircase, the riser meets the carpet thatwraps around the top so there is no top wood step, it meets the carpeted landing.

  127. So would you recommend dura seal on cabinetry as well to get the espresso color, also do you recommend any particular kind of polyurethane over another?

    • Yes Mana, I’d use Duraseal on cabinets for that same rich dark color, and the same wipe on polyurethane, I like the Minwax formula.

  128. I am redoing my stairs! I Love this look. I have used a dutch oil on the stairs to the basement and they are great–not slippery. i wonder how the duraseal and poly compares to that. I have lots of kids and wondered how your stairs are for sock feet? Are they slick? Thanks!

    • Yep Dawna, they can be slick especially with socks but the kids are now “trained” to hold on to the rail and we haven’t had any tumbles. *fingers crossed* :)

  129. Hello Kate
    Im wondering what color white paint you used for trim and risers and what finish eg.egshell, semi gloss? did you put the poly on the risers or just treads? did you apply the cover stain on only the stained area or use it as a primer for all white areas? what angle did you cut the risers at?

    Thank you


    • Hi Ashley, I color matched the white, can’t recall which one but it was eggshell on the risers. No poly on the risers, just the treads (the wood) – the risers were pre-primed so as I recall I only primed the parts where the stain got on them. Not sure what you mean by “what angle” for the risers – pretty sure those were straight right angle cuts but measured precisely for each one – no wall (or tread) is ever perfect so we measured them and cut them individually. :) Still looks amazing !

  130. I’m so glad you posted this! I was just talking with my husband about what we could do about our staircase and this is just what we needed to see. I think you did a great job!

  131. You are so talented and brave! Question,…now that you have had your staircase finished for a year and a half…how has is held up? Has it become dull or scratched? If not, is that because you do not wear shoes in your home? I have 4 kids and we wear shoes inside our home so im a little worried we would destroy ours.

    Also, how did you install the hardwood on the landing (not the top of the stairs, but the landing where the stairs turn to the left at the 10th step) Did you just butt some boards up to each other?

    Thank you so much for your time!

    • Hi Tracey, our staircase looks just as great after all this time, no scratches or anything, shoes and all! Those extra coats of poly help but note it can get slippery with socks but my little ones are “trained” to go slow and/or hold onto the rail and we haven’t had any accidents. On the landing we installed regular hardwood flooring with a specialty edge to match the rounded steps ordered through our hardwood installer, just like with the bottom step.

  132. Hi Kate

    I am in the middle of painting my staircase all white with a carpet middle. I was wondering whether you could recommend what primer I should use and what paint finish to get the best result.

    PS. Your staircase looks amazing!

    • Hi Sue, I’d use porch and floor paint, it’s supposed to be more durable for floors.

  133. How did you do the paneling up the wall of the stairs? My stairs are exactly alike and I would love to know. Thanks

    • Hi Christine, it’s just a chair rail and framing, no paneling! Matt cut the molding at those angles on the miter saw then we tacked them to the wall and painted it all white!

  134. Beautiful work! I’m in the process of finishing my stairs but I’m at a loss when it Comes to the landing. I have a landing 2 steps from the bottom, and I see you have one in the middle. What did you do there? Wood, flooring?

  135. You’ve inspired me! I’m about to tackle my staircase too. Did you use the wipe-on poly on the treads or a poly made for floors?

  136. This is the staircase of my dreams! Of course my place doesn’t have stairs… But maybe someday. ;) LOVE this! :)

  137. Just beautiful! I have been eying your wonderful foyer and reading your tutorial. My husband has agreed to let me try this on our stairs! Although, he has a concern and has been resistant. Are your stairs more hazardous (slippery) with the wood instead of the carpet? We have three teenagers and they run up and down the stairs regardless of our attempts to stop them. And we all run around the house bare foot. He is concerned that the wood finish might be more slick (and therefore hazardous) than the carpet. What has your experience been? Thank you sop much for your tutorial. If you would like, I will send you my results when I finish!

    • Hi Cindy I have two small kids (6 and 8) and it’s not slippery with bare feet but with socks yes, so they just know to hang on to the handrail when going up and down in fast motion! No accidents to date and it’s been a couple of years…

  138. Hi Kate,
    I rarely have anything to ask or say on your wonderful blog but I do follow it. My questions is, I did my stairs exactly as you detailed above in your article but after a few days the poly and the stain started peeling off..I put on two coats of poly and two coats of stain. After all my hard work, it now has to be redone because the stairs look awful again. Ideas/suggestions? I’m open. Please.

    • All the paint colors in my house can be seen by clicking the sidebar button Jessica. :)

  139. Very brave taking on such a task, but the result was well worth it. Your staircase looks absolutely gorgeous!

  140. Just got my Duraseal. Mine is not as thick as other stains I have used. After putting on the 1st coat did you wipe off like it says or did you just let it dry and add the 2nd coat?

    • Hi Renee, as I recall I let most of it penetrate and left it on the stairs, but wiped off any excess after a few minutes… it’s been awhile but I do remember leaving most of it on the treads.

  141. Beautiful!! We are using Duraseal Ebony and for some reason your floors look darker than ours, despite Antique Brown being a lighter shade of stain. We want a VERY dark finish. Our floor guys are using rags to soak up every drop of excess stain after they apply the stain to the floor. When you did your stairs, did you apply a thin layer and leave it to dry, or did you wipe off all excess stain? I’m just trying to figure out how you got such a rich dark color, I’d like to use the same technique! My feeling is they are just taking off TOO MUCH stain. I’d love to hear your thoughts. We had to re-sand due to them using the wrong color in the first place, now they have one coat of ebony down on popped wood and it’s still not dark enough… I’m open to any suggestions at all for the second coat application. Thanks so much – great photos!!!

    • Hi Melissa, I used two thick coats of Duraseal and let it sit on their for a while, my wood was very raw so it soaked most of it up. The three coats of poly helped to darken it further.

  142. Hey there! I’m obsessed with your stairs- your entire staircase is identical to mine! I even have the light oak wood floors that I plan on keeping that color- So, needless to say you’ve given me hope. We just ripped up our hideous blue runner, and we’re left with ugly nail holes and light oak treads. I’m thinking of tackling the project- however I’m curious how you put the stain around the railing bars at the bottom- it just seems so likely the stain will hit the poles. did you tape them?

    • Yes, I taped off before I stained and painted Christine, good luck with your project!

  143. Hi! Found your post on Pinterest when I was searching for staircase ideas. I’m curious now that you’re 5 years out, are you still happy with ripping up the carpet? I have 3 school-age kids and I’m wondering if we would regret not having a buffer for the pitter-patter (yeah right) of kids’ feet on the stairs.

    • Love the wood stairs, but my kids are now 9 and 11 – I admit it was nice having carpet with kids under 6, but now they know to hold on if they have socks on. No regrets!

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