Friday, July 11, 2014

Best Mom Tip #190: Refurbish your stairs

Ok, honestly, I can't say that everyone should do this because it was kind of hard and inconvenient. Also, the finish will still be "rustic" because this wood was never meant to be seen. If you don't like that, this isn't for you.  However, I showed you the stairs a couple of posts ago so I thought I'd show you how I did it. Here is the finished product:

I really like the way it looks and it is definitely more interesting than it was before, but it was a lot of work.

To the right is the before picture. There was nothing wrong with it, it just had 8 year old carpet and was really beige throughout our entire foyer.

 If you're remotely interested in removing the carpet from your own stairs, I suggest the following tools and materials:

  • good work gloves                                                        
  • pliers
  • crow bar
  • hammer
  • carpet knife
  • flat head screw driver
  • miter saw
  • caulk gun
  • electric sander/sandpaper
  • heavy duty staple gun/staples
  • quarter round trim
  • wood filler
  • paint (primer, color, brushes)
  • a ridiculous amount of caulk
  • flat trim for bottom edges
  • I also needed to create a stair lip so I needed some screws and a length of wood (1x2)
  • liquid nails glue

If you don't have these things, or are unwilling to buy them (materials cost about 100 bucks), you probably shouldn't try this. You could use a miter box and sand the stairs by hand, but only if you have a lot fewer stairs. You will hate your stairs and everyone else in your household without power tools.

 Removing carpet is not that hard. I just grabbed hold of a corner and pulled. I did just a few stairs at a time and then cut the carpet with the carpet knife. That made it easier for me to carry the really heavy pieces of carpet and allowed us to still use the stairs. You know, because I have four kids and this is our only staircase.

This was actually the easiest and most satisfying part of the whole project, which is sad, because I still had a lot of work to do. Like...

Removing carpet tack strips and carpet stables. This is what the crow bar, hammer, pliers, and screwdriver are for. I hammered the crow bar under the tack strips to remove them--there were three for every stair. Then I pulled out all the carpet staples with the pliers--there were about 30 for every stair. The screw driver came in handy to slide under the head of the staple if they wouldn't come up. Taking up the carpet, tacks, and staples took an entire day (my kids watched a million hours of TV).

Once I got all of the carpet, padding, staples, and tack strips removed, I had very rough looking stairs. They needed a lot of sanding, some wood filler, and trim.  There were gaps at the bottom of each stair and along the sides of both the risers and treads. Thus, the need for trim, a miter saw, and caulk. All of these steps took me about four days, but we still lived our lives and fed the children and went swimming and stuff. The stairs were safe to use after the tacks and staples were removed, so it didn't impede our ability to go up and down the stairs. I did the wood filler at night so it could dry without kid feet getting in it and Jay and I just stepped around it.

I am not great with a miter saw and made some wrong cuts, but once I got into the groove of it again, it was not that hard to cut the trim pieces. The kids played outside while I made cuts and then laid the pieces out in place. Once I had all of my cuts made, I glued them down with liquid nails and let them dry overnight. Some of them needed to be taped into place with painter's tape until the glue dried. The next day I caulked the heck out of every seam on every stair. It took 5 tubes of caulk, my trusty caulk gun, and most of a day.

I also mentioned in the materials that I needed to make a lip for the top stair (you can see it in the picture on the left). I cut the carpet a few inches from the top landing and cut the padding out from behind it. Unfortunately for me, there was no overhang on the top stop to staple the carpet to. So I screwed a length of a 1x2 to the face of the top riser and wrapped my carpet around that. I stapled the carpet on the underside and, voila, a carpeted top step.

With all of the sanding, wood filling, trim, and caulk in place and dry (picture on the left) it was time to paint. I used floor paint, which is less slippery than regular interior paint and is made to be walked on. I painted every other stair (picture at right) so that we could still use the stairs and then painted the other half the next day.  I eventually put three coats on the white parts of the stairs.
After I got all of the white finished it was time to add some color. I went with colored risers in an ombre effect using using the same teal paint color strip from which I chose the color for our lower kitchen cabinets and the walls in our living room. I kept the bottom landing steps completely white and focused the color on the 15 regular stairs. I used 5 colors and painted 3 stairs with each color going from the darkest color on the paint strip up the stairs to the lightest.  I actually had all five of these colors in sample paint cans because I used them when trying to pick a color for the kitchen. These also got three coats of paint.
They cost about 5 dollars a piece if you want to try it and I just used the regular paint that comes in sample cans--it was the same satin finish as the floor paint.

Teal ombre stairs after carpet removal
So, here is the final product again where you can see the ombre better. Feel free to hire me to veerrrryy slowly redo your stairs. :)


  1. This is brilliant! Good work, you. It looks amazing.

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