How to paint your stairs

  Painted stairs banner  

It's amazing how a few coats of paint can transform a dull staircase into a thing of beauty. As well as covering up imperfections, you can express yourself with a range of colours and textures that are simply not possible with woodstain or varnish. 

   Shop for Staircase Parts     


  Decorating supplies  

Getting ready

Follow our tips for getting the staircase ready for painting in the section: How to prep your stairsThorough preparation will pay dividends later on, so it's worth putting in some elbow grease at this stage.

You will need good quality satin or gloss wood paint, primer/undercoat and brushes, a mini roller set, masking tape and knot sealer. 

Having sanded and thoroughly cleaned all the stair parts, brush on a stain-blocking wood primer. This will seal in any knots and provide a good foundation for the next coat, stopping the paint from seeping into the wood.  


If you still need to use the staircase during refurbishment, only paint every other step initially so that you can still get up and down. Mark every alternate step with a cross (use chalk or small pieces of masking tape) and don't paint them until the first set of steps has completely dried. 


Prime time


For best results apply a primer first, to create a smooth base and prevent the paint from soaking into the wood.

Let it dry, smooth all the surfaces down with fine sandpaper and wipe away any dust with a microfibre cloth.

If the staircase is against a wall, mask off the bottom edge all the way up the stairs to avoid paint splashes.

You are now ready to start on the top coat. Floor paint is a good choice for stairs, as it's designed for use on wood and is extremely durable.

Begin at the top of the stairs using a small brush so you can accurately paint along the edges. Always use good quality brushes, as they are less likely to shed bristles and will give more professional-looking results.

Twisting the brush slowly while painting along an edge will keep the bristles under control, helping you to cut-in with relative ease - even with a larger brush.

  Painting stairs  
  Work carefully and methodically, making sure that no drips run down the stairs. Resist the temptation to slap on a single thick coat - several thin layers will produce a better finish and last much longer.   

Keep it rolling

  Painting with roller  

A mini roller is extremely useful for quickly covering large surfaces such as stair treads and risers.

This may leave a little texture in the paint, so go over everything with a brush afterwards to smooth it all down and achieve the best possible finish.

Paint the risers of all the steps but remember not to paint the treads that you have marked with a cross, so you will still be able to use the staircase.

Once the paint has dried you can remove the crosses and paint the rest of the steps. As stairs are such high-traffic areas, you should apply at least two coats. 

Don't walk on the stairs for at least 24 hours after applying the final layer of paint. The longer it has to dry, the stronger the paint will become. 


Stand out from the crowd


If you're keen to create a truly unique staircase, there's no need to stick to just one colour. You have the option of painting the treads in different shades, choosing a contrasting hue for the centre of the stairs in place of a carpet runner, or even using stencils to produce more complex designs.

To paint a runner down the middle of the stairs, use a tape measure and pencil to mark it out first. A carpenter's square will help you keep the lines straight, and at an identical distance from both sides of the staircase. 

You can then stick a line of masking tape down each side of the stairs to delineate the area for the runner. 

Brush a layer of primer over the whole surface of the staircase first, so that the next coat will have something to adhere to. 

Paint two coats of the base colour down the sides of the staircase, letting it dry thoroughly between each application. Take particular care when going over the nosing of the treads.

  Painted stairs  

Applying a light coat of the base paint over the edges of the tape is a useful trick, as this will prevent the contrast colour bleeding through. Brush two coats of the accent paint between the lines of tape to create your runner, allowing plenty of drying time between each layer. Leave the stairs to dry out for as long as possible before use.

  Shop for Staircase Parts