Finished Staircase!

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 . . . ”


Tags: , ,

296 Responses to “Finished Staircase!”

  1. L. Ann says:

    A fantastically professional job that increased the value of your home. Great effort!

  2. 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.

  3. Sue says:

    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!

  4. Lorie says:

    They are amazing!

  5. Magazine worthy, friend! Drop dead gorgeous! The white against the dark is sooooo elegant. What a gorgeous way to climb on up to bed. :)


  6. Shirley says:

    Wow! Just Wow!!!!!

  7. Lisa~ says:

    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~

  8. Lori says:

    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

  9. cheryl says:


  10. Angie says:

    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

  11. Tania says:

    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!

  12. Monique says:

    Beautiful job! Love the contrast between the steps and floor.

  13. Paula says:

    Your hard work was so worth it! Your stairs look fantastic!!

  14. Brenda Moore says:

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

  15. Anuja says:

    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 !

  16. Amy K says:

    What an amazingly gorgeous transformation! What a project – great job!

  17. Tara says:


    The staircase looks beyond fabulous! Great job!!!! HARD WORK!!!

  18. Leah says:

    Truly amazing!

  19. 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

  20. Amy Flynn says:

    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!!

  21. 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. :)

  22. 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. :)

  23. Kim says:

    Just stunning! My dream staircase!

  24. Kristy says:


  25. Iris Williams says:

    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!

  26. brenda says:

    Gorgeous! It made such a huge impact on the look of your home.

  27. Kris says:

    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??

  28. Katie says:

    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! :)

  29. diane says:

    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.

  30. Kathy says:

    Your stairs turned out AWESOME! Do you still have carpet at the top of the stairs? If so, how does it look?

  31. Bobbi says:

    Beautiful !! Good job.

  32. Lindsey R says:

    the WOW factor in your front foyer has been improved about 10000000%! GORGE!!!

  33. Blondie says:

    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!

  34. Suzanne says:

    Oh my goodness Kate.. those are fantastic.. You need a SERIOUS ATTA GIRL.. really beautiful..
    Stand tall and proud..

  35. Pat says:

    Stunning! You should be extremely proud of yourself ~ so professional.

  36. Oh just look at that! The stairs look amazing, and I agree with you on the Duraseal. Perfect color. What a great job.

  37. Debbie W. says:

    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!!

  38. jenn says:

    Wow, that looks completely amazing! Good work! :)

  39. Pinky says:

    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

  40. marsha says:

    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.

  41. Jenn says:

    It’s beautiful Kate, just beautiful! What a wonderful job you did. Looks like a TON of work but so worth it!

  42. Janell Beals says:

    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

  43. Bloggymom says:

    Beautiful!! Love to colors.

  44. Anny says:

    WOW! This is lovely :D

  45. ButterYum says:

    Really great job Kate – great tutorial. What a labor of love – it really paid off!


  46. ButterYum says:

    Forgot to mention how much the new look adds ($$$) to your home. Really great!!


  47. Natalie says:

    BEAUTIFUL! What a transformation!

  48. Congrats girl!!! Looks amazing. Now enjoy…


  49. Shannon says:

    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

  50. Oona says:

    I only have three words for you “Oh. My. God.”

  51. cassie says:

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

  52. judy says:

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

  53. I am in love with your staircase. What a fantastic job you did!!!!

  54. Rebecca says:

    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!

  55. Roberta says:

    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 !

  56. CentsationalGirl says:

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

  57. Elaine says:

    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.

  58. Vickie says:

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

  59. Jodz says:

    Oh its gorgeous. I like it so much better than before.

  60. WOW that looks amazing. Well done!

  61. Rachel says:

    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!!

  62. Danielle says:

    Looks great!

  63. Silvia says:

    Te felicito!! El cambio es notable!!! Te quedó hermoso y elegante.

  64. vicki archer says:

    The staircase looks brilliant….and yes….you must go with the darker floors….it will look fantastic, xv.

  65. Erika says:

    Amazing! You saved tons of $$$$ and it looks fabulous Kate.

  66. Rebecca says:

    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.

  67. Alice A says:

    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!

  68. 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!

  69. 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. :-)

  70. Julie says:

    OMGGGG that is soooo amazing!! Your stairs look so gorgeous! Great job!! This is some great inspiration :)

  71. Cass says:

    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!

  72. Bonnie says:

    What a fabulous job! Your perseverance paid off –big time!

  73. Sherry says:

    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!

  74. Lori says:

    Amazing job.

  75. Tania says:

    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.

  76. Peggy says:

    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!

  77. Brittany says:

    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!

  78. sandra says:

    They look awesome. Great job!

  79. Laurel says:

    WOW – don’t they look gorgeous! Totally worth any work! I love them!

  80. Lindy B says:

    Congratulations on being finished! You are a machine and they look amazing!

  81. TidyMom says:

    WOW!! just BEAUTIFUL Kate!!

  82. Anita says:

    Great job!! It looks beautiful!!

  83. Kate says:

    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.

  84. Hoang Huynh says:

    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

  85. Oh, GOSH! This is gorgeous! I absolutely adore your redone staircase (actually your whole house, too!!) Great job – as always, Kate!

  86. Daile Wilson says:

    wow! I love it a lot! I’m defiantly taking notes on this! Thanks for sharing!

  87. Sarah Lynne says:

    Wow, amazing staircase makeover! Great job!

  88. 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.

  89. Unbelievable, Kate! One of the best transformations I’ve seen. Now, I realize how ugly my own carpeted stairs are :)

  90. Pam says:

    What a great finished project. Looks more elegant finished the way it is now.

  91. Crystal says:

    STUNNING. Just absolutely gorgeous! Makes me soooooo want a staircase. :)

  92. Susan says:

    Absolutely gorgeous! Wow…what an amazing transformation!

  93. Brie says:

    Fabulous job, Kate! Like I should expect any less from you…ha!

  94. Jessi E says:

    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!

  95. Kate, The stairs are fabulous!! Thanks for the inspiration to get busy on our staircase.
    xo, Sherry

  96. Beth says:

    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?


  97. Chole says:

    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.

  98. Loribeth says:

    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…

  99. Lynnette says:

    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!

  100. Jen says:

    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…..


Leave a Reply