Refinishing stair treads
OMG! It’s been a little while I know. These stairs have been kicking my ass.
I fully understand why the median cost for refinishing stair treads is roughly $100 per stair.
When I think these projects up in my head they always seem straightforward and simple. When I try to actually tackle it, it’s a whole different story.
When we last left off, I began hand scraping the finish off of the stairs. I scraped all the corners using my nifty little scraper tool and then I spent a good 6 hours sanding each tread with #80 grit then #100 grit then #220 grit sandpaper. When they were all done they looked like this.
Now that’s what you call some good looking wood. Red Oak which is what is found in 50% of homes in the United States. Nothing exotic to see here, just good ole American Wood.
I was anxious to start the staining process so I wasted no time getting to it.
Because this process would take a few days, the hubs and I needed a way to get back and forth upstairs. I cut rectangular pieces of craft paper and taped it to every other stair. I grabbed my stain, a disposable plastic cup with lid, my foam brush and a tongue depressor (guess where I got that from?)
I preferred to keep my stain in the cup so that I could save the brush for the next use and avoid making a mess out of my can.
In order to achieve maximum absorption of the stain I used a process called “Water Popping”. It means to dampen the wood with a wet cloth prior to staining and then apply the stain before the wood dries.
I kept a damp rag close by inside of a plastic bag and “popped” each stair prior to applying the stain. I was able to apply stain to 2 stairs before it was time to wipe off the excess stain. I used the timer function on my cellphone to make sure I didn’t leave the stain on for too long.
Then, slowly I moved my way from the top of the staircase to the bottom skipping every other stair.
When I got to the bottom most visually important stair, I got distracted by my sister who paid me a quick visit. I forgot to water pop prior to applying the stain and the stain was really blotchy and uneven.
I was forced to let it dry then hand scrape the entire stair all over again then sand and re-stain. Here’s how things looked after staining half of the stairs.
My husband was under very strict instructions to only step on the stairs that have paper on them and to not step on the stairs barefoot. I let them dry overnight then the next morning, I began applying polyurethane.
I went with my new favorite low odor fast drying poly. I also sprung for a high quality brush after the problem I had making the ChalkBoard Frame . I vacuumed each stair then wiped with a tack cloth to remove any foreign matter that I didn’t want stuck underneath the poly.
To avoid dipping into my can, I poured the poly into a plastic container with a lid and applied from there.
Can I just say that this brush is the bomb. It is so smooth and leaves almost no visible brushstrokes. The ones that are left behind quickly level themselves out and are not noticeable once dry.
After the first coat of poly was dry, I repeated the whole process three more times, allowing each coat to dry for at least 2 hours before putting the next coat on. To make sure my treads were really smooth, I lightly sanded the first coat of poly with a #320 grit sanding sponge. Every coat after had a silky smooth finish.
I let the 4th and final coat dry for 48 hours before starting the entire process all over again with the stairs that I skipped in the first round.
Now don’t they look just beautiful?
I’m not a fan of chocolate but if I was, I’d want to eat these decadent chocolatey stairs.
Because I was so sloppy with the stain and didn’t wipe it up as it dripped and ran down the risers and stringers, I had to hand sand and then prime everything that had stain on it. In order to keep my stairs that I worked so hard on beautiful, I covered each step with three sheets of chipboard and taped off every corner with my Scotch Blue painters tape for delicate surfaces.
All the stringers and risers got two coats of primer and then I decided to wait on painting. I plan on installing decorative moulding on the walls of the staircase and would rather paint it all at once rather than to do some now and then do it all again in another week or so.
But even with the primer, things are looking so much better.
My next part of this process is to build a newel post for the top and bottom of the staircase. In order to properly measure for that, I needed to remove some trim moulding as well as the banister.
The banister will be refinished and stained and put back in place after the newel post is built. I scraped some of the paint off of the existing newel post to see how it was installed and found it to be toe nailed into the post. My only solution was to saw it as close as possible to the post. Before I removed the post, I used a odor free stripping gel to remove the paint.
It went on super smooth with an old paintbrush and was almost falling off the wood within 20 minutes. A friend pinned this stuff on Pinterest and I was dying to try it. I was not disappointed. It took me about an hour to strip all the paint off of the banister but once it was gone, I sawed off the banister and set it aside for refinishing later.
I’ve begun building the Newel post and I plan on returning later this week to give you the play by-play of how I built that. It really depends on how many snags I hit with that one.
Now that the stairs are covered, I cannot wait to see them again. This should get my butt in gear.
I hope you are enjoying this journey as much as I am. See you soon