Saturday, August 24, 2013

Something Out of Nothing: Remodeling My Stairs

Our stairs were ugly.

Well, not just the stairs, pretty much the whole house, to be honest.  My husband purchased this home 2 years before I moved in with him, so I was lucky enough to never have to deal with it's full-blown awfulness, but I still got stuck with the carpet and ugly paint colors.  

The woman who lived here before us really REALLY liked dark blue.
The countertops were dark blue.
The linoleum in the kitchen was a dark blue pattern.
The carpet throughout the entire house was dark blue.


Thankfully my husband took care of all the blue except for the carpet before I moved in.  But that carpet...wow.  It was ugly.  It showed every speck of dust.  It was dark.  My house was a bit cave-like. 

In the past few months we have replaced every last bit of that carpet with hardwood bamboo flooring.  It truly is like a different house.  
Pulling staples and nails

I did something a little different with the stairs, though.  Thanks to Pinterest, I came across the idea of staining the stair tops dark and painting the risers white.  There are a ton of different tutorials out there on this subject, but my absolute favorite was this one that I found from Diane at In Your Own Style.  She has an amazing blog with a ton of stylish home improvement projects I plan on doing myself :-)

Ready to sand!

This project is more time consuming than anything.  It's not difficult, it's not expensive, and the end result is just absolutely perfect.  I love love love it!!

I wasn't starting with anything fancy, just builder-grade soft pine stairs.

The carpet itself comes off pretty easily.  I was left with tons of tack strips, staples, and nails.  Those come off pretty easily also.  This whole project is actually pretty easy- just time consuming.

Sanded and ready to go!
Many of the tutorials I came across talked about sanding by hand...yeah, not for me.  I definitely used a power sander on this job.  Every step had white paint overspray on it from the builders, who I'm sure assumed the steps would always be covered in carpet.  Talk about a pain to sand- but still, well worth the effort!

The next step after sanding is to tape.  I went through about 2 rolls of tape for this entire project.

I started with stain (since it's easier to paint over a stain mistake than stain over a paint mistake!), so I taped all edges around the tops of the stairs.  Be precise, you want clean lines on this project!

Taping- round one!
Diane used pre-stain wood conditioner on her stairs, but I skipped that step.  Mostly because I forgot to buy it and decided to forge ahead anyway- my results were still awesome.

Stain is messy.  Stain, well...stains.  I applied the stain by first putting on a disposable plastic glove and then putting my hand in an old sock.  This kept my skin clean and worked very well for me.  I used my sock-covered hand to rub the stain into the wood.  I ended up using two coats.  I used Minwax Wood Finish in Dark Walnut and I am absolutely in love with it!  It took less than one of those small yellow cans to do both coats, a little goes a long way- and now I have some left for my next project!
After two coats of stain

I was lucky enough to have a rare weekend alone in the house to knock out the stain, so I just stained from the top down and found ways to occupy myself downstairs and out of the house while it dried.  You could definitely just do every other step (that's what I did with the polyurethane in the next step) so that the steps stay usable while you're working on this.  One warning- just like Diane also mentions in her tutorial- watch out for pets!  Our cat was pretty furious with me while I had wet steps, as I had to keep shuttling him between our back porch and the basement to keep him away from the steps as they dried.

Two coats were definitely enough.  The next step was to coat the steps with polyurethane.  I used Cabot Gloss Polyurethane and did 3 coats, lightly sanding with very fine sandpaper between each.  Never having done anything like this before, the sanding made me nervous, but I'm glad I did it.  It kept the coating smooth and glassy, but from what I understand it also gives the next coat something to which to adhere.

Aaaand this is where I stopped.  For like 2 months.  I really just completely walked away from this project until the desire to get it finished overtook me one random afternoon.  I got lazy and sick of working on stairs.

The finished product!

When I finally returned to my project, it was pretty straightforward.  I re-taped the steps, taping off the risers so I wouldn't get paint on my beautiful stair-tops.  It took 3 coats of Valspar Gloss Paint+Primer in Ultra White to get the full coverage and look that I wanted.  I painted all of the white surrounding the stairs too.


I still have to go back and stain the banisters, but that's a project or another day.  For now, I'm thrilled to have my like-new stairs!

You can tell from the pictures that my house really is still a work in progress (missing baseboards, etc..) but it's coming along very nicely.  I would absolutely recommend this project to ANYONE, I'm certainly a novice when it comes to things like this and I had absolutely no issues.  Time consuming, but well worth it!

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