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 . . . ”


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296 Responses to “Finished Staircase!”

  1. Liz says:

    Absolutely gorgeous! I love it!

  2. Oh my! GORGEOUS!!!!! I actually like that the stairs and floors aren’t matching. I’d leave it that way. And I know what you mean about the stairs being louder. I took the carpet off mine when we moved in 2 years ago and our stairs are SO LOUD!

  3. lana says:

    my word! you killed it! they look AMAZING! well done lady does-it-all!


  4. Kim says:

    It looks amazing! What a fabulous transformation!

  5. Marisol Bonilla says:

    Fabulous the stairs look wonderful I cannot wait until we can remove our carpet in our new home I so dislike carpet on stairs..fabulous job. : )

  6. i love your stairs too! i would like to do this for my house too. my stairs look like your before now, but my wood is a bit darker…next year maybe. good job with yours, it looks awesome!!

  7. Janis says:

    Congrats! What an accomplishment! You did an amazing job! :)
    Can’t believe what a difference it makes!!

  8. AmberLee says:

    you are superwoman! they are gorgeous.

  9. Delishhh says:

    WOW – those stairs look amazing. Nice work.

  10. What a difference those changes made! Wow! I bet you wished you would have done it sooner.

  11. Donna says:

    Absolutely gorgeous!!! Job well done! I agree that I like the light floors with the light floors.

  12. Donna says:

    Sorry! I meant the dark with the light floors!LOL

  13. Catherine says:

    I love your stairs! Your blog was an inspiration when I painted my handrail and spindles this summer. Now I’m noodling over what to do with the carpet on my stairs… What kind of flooring do you have at the top of the stairs? Is it hardwood also?

  14. Jessica says:

    What do you plan to do about dings on the white risers? I have white risers and two kids, and I have a hard time keeping them from looking banged up and dirty as every shoe seems to leave a scuff mark. In fact, I am thinking about installing a carpet runner just to cut down on noise and dings. Any suggestions?

  15. Jana says:

    Wow! That looks great! So much more style then the carpet.

  16. Miya says:

    Floored by this floor! I have almost this exact same staircase scenario, and the same blonde wood floors. I considered painting the rail white because the light rail seems dated, but now I’ve seen this and I’m inspired. If someone had told me the different colors would look great, I wouldn’t have believed them…This is gorgeous! I, too, have young children with draggy, jumpy feet (not to mention a medium-sized dog with sadly neglected nails): I’ve been told by some that the dark stain shows every scratch and every speck of dust…How does the dark finish hold up?

  17. Kel says:

    your before and after is AWESOME!!! LOVE the color of the stain..the detail on the wall….it looks TOTALLY different and great!!!!

    Nice job!

  18. Ellen says:

    Love the stain on your railing! I have been searching for the perfect color for my railing and think I just found it! Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  19. Ashley says:

    This is beautiful! What color is your wall color…it looks like it’s the same in the foyer as in your dining room. I love your dining room. I would love to know where you got your paint and what color you chose. Thanks!

  20. […] Santa!) but I’ve recently discovered this handheld 3M sander, it was perfect for our recent staircase remodel and for revamping the boy’s dresser, I love […]

  21. […] new staircase is decked out with a garland of mixed greens (faux + real), topped with lights, silver beads, some […]

  22. […] down, my favorite DIY project this past year, the new staircase […]

  23. Hi Kate,

    First of all, what a fresh breath of air these photos are.
    This is such an amazing transformation! I know personally what kind of work you had to go to finishing it. I haven’t posted on my blog our staircase redo, but it sure was months of work.

    Well done to you and your husband! What a Great team!

  24. Sonja says:

    Where did you buy the silver picture frames? The ones hanging by your stairs. Thank you!

  25. jojo says:

    Love the look of the staircase w/o a carpet however, do the kids slip on it?

  26. Jackie says:

    It looks absolutely Beautiful! You did a Wonderful job! I love it! Also love the candle sconces. Would you mind telling where you found them…I love them :)

  27. david says:

    so i loved your stairs so much i went out and got the duraseal stain. how did you get it so dark? did you leave the stain on and let it dry that way? after i wipe the stain it becomes lighter than the minwax dark walnut stain i have.
    granted I have red oak and not blonde oak, i cant imagine it making that huge of a difference.

    -a clueless remodeler.

  28. Rachelle says:

    Ditto with david. I saw the sampler and it was lighter.

  29. Rachelle says:

    Also, what type of poly did you use? Was it the 2 coats of poly that made it darker or did you put multiple coats of stain?

  30. Barbara says:

    I lovve your staircase! Im trying to get my unhandy husband to do fake waincoting going up our stairs. Hopefully I can convince him he can learn as he goes! I love your wall sconces. Can you tell me where you got them? Thanks so much

  31. Chris says:

    What angles are you cutting to make your boxes on the stairs…I can’t figure out the angle to create my boxes and I am dying to put them on the stairs.

  32. Sarah says:

    You’ve inspired me…however working with stain and polyurethane in the humidity of June and July is not something I’d recommend in my neck of the woods. Anyhow, I striped, stained, retreaded, striped, stained…again, and applied 3 coats of poly. My mocha brown hardwood steps are b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l! The QUESTION: Now, how long do I need to wait to use the white primer on the risers? I am scared that taping the paper onto the steps will take off the poly. AHHH!!! I can’t have that happen (for my sanity and that of my family) and I can’t seem to find help in Internet land. Can you please advise me? Again, thanks for your inspiration- you’re work is beautiful!

  33. Brenda says:

    What’s the color on the wall? I saw in another website you’d painted the wainscoting a different color what’s the color too?

  34. Jen says:

    what kind of poly did you use on the stairs? sheen and brand? thanks!

  35. Patricia says:

    You did a fabulous job. I have thought of doing this on ours but he non-slip carpet has won out and now we are moving into a new house.

  36. Katrina says:

    I love the work you did! I have been hesitant to attempt painting and staining my stairwell….until I read your blog. After reading what you had done I started painted my stairwell bainster spindles and went and got the Minwax polyshades in Antique Walnut. 2 coats of white on the spindles and one coat of the stain/poly mix on the railings, platforms and main posts. So far, looking really good! Our stairs are carpet (for now) but the foyer has hardwood, I’ll be starting that this weekend!
    Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  37. Elesa says:

    This is just what I want to do to our stairs. I’m curious how it is holding up over time? And if you still like it as much as when you first did them? Do you have to sweep them everyday? Do they show dust a lot? Anything you wish you had done different?

    And thanks for all the inspiring stuff you always share. My house is going to be so much more beautiful because of you.

  38. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Elesa, the staircase is holdin gup great, absolutely no regrets! Yes, I still love them as much as when I first finished them, definitely an improvement on what was there before. I sweep them about twice a week, more like wipe them down only when necessary. Dark floors do show more dust.

  39. Karen Stoll says:

    I’m another person who you’ve inspired with your tutorial. I’m finishing a kitchen project and then it’s on… vs. The stairs. I have the same setup you started with and can’t stand to look at it anymore. I love the color you ended up and am even going to try the craft paint trick. Thank you so much for the inspiration and the tutorial.

  40. MikeF says:

    Hi, really beautiful!!! I love your work!

    Actually, you inspired me and my wife, we’d like to do almost the same as you. Our only concern is the matching dark-light at the top of the stair! Can you send us a picture. Because the fact that the stair don’t match the floor, we think it’s beautiful, but which color is your nose a the top of the stair?

    Thanks a lot

  41. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Mike, we have cream colored carpet at the top of our stairs, and natural wood floors at the bottom. I go back and forth whether to stain the downstairs floors dark, but I confess the natural wood is much better at hiding debris, the dark shows everything. So while I like the look of the dark, for a family with kids, the light is more practical.

  42. Maggie says:

    I am considering doing some thing simmilar to my stiars! Just out of curiosity are the stairs slick when you are in your socks? I could really see myself taking a digger :)

  43. Julie Dial says:

    WOW – those stairs are AMAZING! You do great work. Just found your website and can’t wait to look at everything!

  44. Catherine says:

    I was wondering if you ended up staining your floors. My staircase looks almost identical and I love this look. I have oak coloured hardwood floors right through though and am worried how the dark stained staircase will look as I have no intention of changing the flooring throughout but need to modernize to my style a bit. Thanks. I love it.

  45. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Catherine, still haven’t changed the floors and not sure I’m going to – yes they are two different tones of wood, but I’ve grown to like it! Lighter floors hide more dirt/dust and with little kids, I’ll take all the help I can get! :)

  46. Danielle says:

    I’ve been researching stains and have vowed to use Minwax since it obviously superior however I am having the same issue with not being able to find the perfect color just as you mentioned in this blog post. The Duraseal in Antique Brown appears to be the perfect color from what I can see here. We are re-staing our very light wood kitchen cabinetry and we are looking for a dark/rich/chocolate color/kind of modern-sh. What would you think of using that product for the kitchen cabinets? Any extra tips/tricks/suggestions would be super-duper!!!! Thanks!

  47. Jane says:

    Love your staircase has inspired me to tackle mine

  48. kristin says:

    Question: After pulling back carpet to reveal underneath, there is a gap between stair and wall/railing. The stair itself isn’t flush across the width.

    Also, my stairs are squared off at the ledge. It appears yours are rounded – did you sand to make them smooth and rounded?

    What did you use to removed the carpet tacks/nails?

    This looks like something I may attempt – our carpet needs replaced on the stairs, I may try this before replacing…if it doesn’t work carpet will cover it!

    Thanks !

  49. Tiffany in Kentucky says:

    W.O.W. Yes, I am in love with your staircase wood redo as well. Heavens to Betsie, girl! I must say you have more guts than I could poke a stick at! I’m right there with you on having a hesitant DH since I pitched the same idear to him a couple months ago. Though, our stairs are already wood which takes a couple steps off of your plan, it’s still a big undertaking. Our floors are the 80’s honey oak, yes..lovely. Oh, and don’t get jealous now..we have a mondo matching oak fireplace mantle! I know.. take a breather. The rest of our house said bye bye to the 80’s a very long time ago so I say it’s time for me to cut the Aquanet aresol cord and bring our staircase up to par. Seeing your results gives me much hope I can swing it. And I think that mantle is screaming for the same redo as well.

  50. CentsationalGirl says:

    That’s so exciting Tiffany, email me your pictures when you’re all done!

  51. Danielle says:

    I was wondering if I could get your opinion on using the Duraseal on cabinetry? We are about to re-stain our very light wood cabinets and I’m struggling to find a good color. Since the product is for floors I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea? Thanks!

  52. Amy says:

    Gorgeous transformation!!

  53. […] See this link first.  That.  I’m doing that to my future […]

  54. helen says:

    I can’t get enough of looking at this… So awsome!!!

  55. helen says:

    I can’t get enough of looking at your new staircase… So awsome!!!

  56. helen says:

    I can’t get enough of looking at your staircase… So awsome!!!

  57. Amanda says:

    OMG PERFECT!! I CANNOT WAIT to do ours! Great job! They look AHHHMazing!

  58. Debbie says:


    Your stairs look great. I see you finished the bannister first and then later finished the stairs. When you finished the bannister, you used minwax dark walnut and then added the craft glaze to help remove the graininess. Question, instead of doing this, would you recommend just using two coats of the dura seal and finishing with the polyurethane as you did with the stairs?

    Thank you,
    Debbie Boylan

  59. Laura M. says:

    How long did you wait after polying the stairs to put down the tape? My husband and I are currently tackling this project, and I’m not sure how long to let the stairs cure after he applies the poly. Thanks! :)

  60. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Laura, not sure what you mean by tape, but I added the poly to the stain after it cured for 24 hours.

  61. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Debbie, had I known about Duraseal at that time, I would have used it on my banister!

  62. Anna says:

    Dear CG,

    Love the way it turned out, I am in the middle of doing a similar thing in my house. I can’t find the Duraseal; is there anything on the market like it, that a regular girl can buy?

  63. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Anna, it’s available to the trade, but I believe if you shop around online, some supplier will ship it!

  64. Clarke says:

    We are thinking of doing this to our staircase. What did you do on the landing?

  65. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Clarke, at the top of the staircase, the riser meets the carpet thatwraps around the top so there is no top wood step, it meets the carpeted landing.

  66. Mana says:

    So would you recommend dura seal on cabinetry as well to get the espresso color, also do you recommend any particular kind of polyurethane over another?

  67. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Mana, I’d use Duraseal on cabinets for that same rich dark color, and the same wipe on polyurethane, I like the Minwax formula.

  68. Dawna Thomas says:

    I am redoing my stairs! I Love this look. I have used a dutch oil on the stairs to the basement and they are great–not slippery. i wonder how the duraseal and poly compares to that. I have lots of kids and wondered how your stairs are for sock feet? Are they slick? Thanks!

  69. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yep Dawna, they can be slick especially with socks but the kids are now “trained” to hold on to the rail and we haven’t had any tumbles. *fingers crossed* :)

  70. Ashley Schultz says:

    Hello Kate
    Im wondering what color white paint you used for trim and risers and what finish eg.egshell, semi gloss? did you put the poly on the risers or just treads? did you apply the cover stain on only the stained area or use it as a primer for all white areas? what angle did you cut the risers at?

    Thank you


  71. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Ashley, I color matched the white, can’t recall which one but it was eggshell on the risers. No poly on the risers, just the treads (the wood) – the risers were pre-primed so as I recall I only primed the parts where the stain got on them. Not sure what you mean by “what angle” for the risers – pretty sure those were straight right angle cuts but measured precisely for each one – no wall (or tread) is ever perfect so we measured them and cut them individually. :) Still looks amazing !

  72. Jennifer says:

    I’m so glad you posted this! I was just talking with my husband about what we could do about our staircase and this is just what we needed to see. I think you did a great job!

  73. Tracey says:

    You are so talented and brave! Question,…now that you have had your staircase finished for a year and a half…how has is held up? Has it become dull or scratched? If not, is that because you do not wear shoes in your home? I have 4 kids and we wear shoes inside our home so im a little worried we would destroy ours.

    Also, how did you install the hardwood on the landing (not the top of the stairs, but the landing where the stairs turn to the left at the 10th step) Did you just butt some boards up to each other?

    Thank you so much for your time!

  74. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Tracey, our staircase looks just as great after all this time, no scratches or anything, shoes and all! Those extra coats of poly help but note it can get slippery with socks but my little ones are “trained” to go slow and/or hold onto the rail and we haven’t had any accidents. On the landing we installed regular hardwood flooring with a specialty edge to match the rounded steps ordered through our hardwood installer, just like with the bottom step.

  75. Sue says:

    Hi Kate

    I am in the middle of painting my staircase all white with a carpet middle. I was wondering whether you could recommend what primer I should use and what paint finish to get the best result.

    PS. Your staircase looks amazing!

  76. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Sue, I’d use porch and floor paint, it’s supposed to be more durable for floors.

  77. Christine says:

    How did you do the paneling up the wall of the stairs? My stairs are exactly alike and I would love to know. Thanks

  78. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Christine, it’s just a chair rail and framing, no paneling! Matt cut the molding at those angles on the miter saw then we tacked them to the wall and painted it all white!

  79. Shelley says:

    Beautiful work! I’m in the process of finishing my stairs but I’m at a loss when it Comes to the landing. I have a landing 2 steps from the bottom, and I see you have one in the middle. What did you do there? Wood, flooring?

  80. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Shelley, we installed wood flooring on the landing!

  81. Mana says:

    Did you use te cover stain white paint for the steps too?

  82. Stephanie says:

    You’ve inspired me! I’m about to tackle my staircase too. Did you use the wipe-on poly on the treads or a poly made for floors?

  83. Leanne says:

    This is the staircase of my dreams! Of course my place doesn’t have stairs… But maybe someday. ;) LOVE this! :)

  84. cindy says:

    Just beautiful! I have been eying your wonderful foyer and reading your tutorial. My husband has agreed to let me try this on our stairs! Although, he has a concern and has been resistant. Are your stairs more hazardous (slippery) with the wood instead of the carpet? We have three teenagers and they run up and down the stairs regardless of our attempts to stop them. And we all run around the house bare foot. He is concerned that the wood finish might be more slick (and therefore hazardous) than the carpet. What has your experience been? Thank you sop much for your tutorial. If you would like, I will send you my results when I finish!

  85. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Cindy I have two small kids (6 and 8) and it’s not slippery with bare feet but with socks yes, so they just know to hang on to the handrail when going up and down in fast motion! No accidents to date and it’s been a couple of years…

  86. Auntiepatch says:

    Beautiful! What a difference!

  87. Jackie says:

    Hi Kate,
    I rarely have anything to ask or say on your wonderful blog but I do follow it. My questions is, I did my stairs exactly as you detailed above in your article but after a few days the poly and the stain started peeling off..I put on two coats of poly and two coats of stain. After all my hard work, it now has to be redone because the stairs look awful again. Ideas/suggestions? I’m open. Please.

  88. Jessica says:

    Random, but what is the color on your walls?

  89. CentsationalGirl says:

    All the paint colors in my house can be seen by clicking the sidebar button Jessica. :)

  90. Coleen says:

    Very brave taking on such a task, but the result was well worth it. Your staircase looks absolutely gorgeous!

  91. Renee says:

    Just got my Duraseal. Mine is not as thick as other stains I have used. After putting on the 1st coat did you wipe off like it says or did you just let it dry and add the 2nd coat?

  92. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Renee, as I recall I let most of it penetrate and left it on the stairs, but wiped off any excess after a few minutes… it’s been awhile but I do remember leaving most of it on the treads.

  93. Melissa says:

    Beautiful!! We are using Duraseal Ebony and for some reason your floors look darker than ours, despite Antique Brown being a lighter shade of stain. We want a VERY dark finish. Our floor guys are using rags to soak up every drop of excess stain after they apply the stain to the floor. When you did your stairs, did you apply a thin layer and leave it to dry, or did you wipe off all excess stain? I’m just trying to figure out how you got such a rich dark color, I’d like to use the same technique! My feeling is they are just taking off TOO MUCH stain. I’d love to hear your thoughts. We had to re-sand due to them using the wrong color in the first place, now they have one coat of ebony down on popped wood and it’s still not dark enough… I’m open to any suggestions at all for the second coat application. Thanks so much – great photos!!!

  94. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Melissa, I used two thick coats of Duraseal and let it sit on their for a while, my wood was very raw so it soaked most of it up. The three coats of poly helped to darken it further.

  95. Christine says:

    Hey there! I’m obsessed with your stairs- your entire staircase is identical to mine! I even have the light oak wood floors that I plan on keeping that color- So, needless to say you’ve given me hope. We just ripped up our hideous blue runner, and we’re left with ugly nail holes and light oak treads. I’m thinking of tackling the project- however I’m curious how you put the stain around the railing bars at the bottom- it just seems so likely the stain will hit the poles. did you tape them?

  96. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes, I taped off before I stained and painted Christine, good luck with your project!

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