Stairs side view before and after

We finished prepping the stairs for our next bit of work. To see what we did you can have a look our last blog entry. Now that the offending carpet and padding were off the stairs, I put back on my hazmat suit and got back to work.

The last entry can be found at: Stair Case DIY Makeover- Article 1 of 2

Just to remind you, this is what happened to my arm when I accidentally brushed against the pile of torn out carpet and padding. This is a warning for all of us DIY'er, you never know what your pulling out of your house, so be careful and prepared. When necessary test for hazards like lead and asbestos. You can find kits for sale in your local box store or check with a local lab (it may cost you more but you should get a faster result)

IMG 0902

I figured the hazmat suit/respirator would be useful until I got the wood sealed. I started at the top of the stairs as I found that working from top to bottom is the best way to approach a job like this. 

  1. Once the carpet had been removed, I used a shop vac to vacuum the steps and remove some of the debris left from the carpet and padding. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the best idea, as my shop vac doesn’t have a filter. If I could do it again, I would wipe down the steps with a wet rag.
  2. I used a pliers to remove the 850 staples and nails in each tread and riser. This was slow back breaking work, they really wanted that carpet to stay put!
  3. I filled each hole and ding in the risers & treads with wood filler.
  4. I sanded each tread and riser with 100 grit sand paper using a palm sander and a detail sander as needed. I wore another hazmat suit for this and the respirator (and was glad I did)! It was a big clean up after this step and the next step even thought I had left the plastic tent in place. I would highly recommend tenting in your work area.
  5. I then sanded each tread and riser with a 220 grit sand paper. I used a block as I was tired of the sound of the palm sander and I had the delusional thought that this method would cause less of a mess.
  6. I used a moist rag to wipe down the stairs and then tact clothed the entire staircase.
  7. I stained every other tread with stain. In between each coat of stain I lightly sanded with 400 grit sandpaper. I did 3 coats of stain using a rag to apply. I did this step last thing at night and did one coat per night. By working on every other step, I left the family with a way to climb the stairs. It was very clear which treads they needed to avoid.


  8. Next, I stained the remaining treads and put a piece of cloth on the ends of the risers that were safe to walk on (see picture). This gave the family a visual cue which treads were safe and allowed the family to climb the stairs while I was working or they were drying. I made sure each family member wore socks on the stairs, the oils from your skin can leave marks. To do this I left a basket of socks at both the top and bottom of the stairs.
  9. I applied polyurethane to the steps in the every-other step pattern using a water based polyurethane. Water based polyurethane smells less, takes a shorter amount of time to dry and doesn’t yellow the wood like oil based. For all of these reasons it seemed like a good fit for our project. The only downfall I can see for water based polyurethane is that it isn’t thought to produce as hardy of a surface as the oil based.
  10. I primed and painted the risers using a good quality primer and the Benjamin Moore Advanced paint in Linen White. I did one coat of primer and 3 coats of paint. Due to the slight separations of my treads and risers, I didn't need to tape the risers, I was able to get a clean cut in with a good brush.
  11. Finally, we expanded the project to include a second handrail. We felt that the kids and other family members would really benefit from it. I stained the handrail that I purchased with the same stain that I used on the stair treads. I then polyurethaned it with the stair product. I called in my local handyman to install this. I really wanted to make sure it would support anyone using it and felt a professional would have to experience to insure that it was done correctly.


Actual cost for this project:

  • Waste removal $100
  • Wood filler $10
  • Sand paper 220 $5
  • IMG 0984Sand paper 100 $5
  • Sand paper 400 (already owned) $0
  • Stain (Minwax) $8
  • Sample Pine Tread $10
  • Polyurethane (Rust-Oleum) $40
  • Brush for poly $5
  • Paint for risers (already owned from last house) $0
  • Handrail (12 feet pine to match treads) $39
  • Brackets for handrail $16
  • Install of handrail with my local handyman $40

    Total cost                $278


We exceeded the budget by $78, but we expanded the project to include a second handrail. The total for the handrail alone was $95, but well worth the money.



Time to complete this project: 13 days at an average of 3 hours a day, 36 hours total to complete the job.

This project was moderately laborious but the time was long due to dry time of stain and polyurethane. We needed our stairs and the project timeline was longer due to that fact. If my kids were a little older and could have understood the importance of not walking on the work surface I might have been able to shave off a few days.

Time for my next project!