How to Paint a Light and Dark Staircase

Created on Saturday, 01 April 2017 13:57
Last Updated on Monday, 11 March 2019 23:44
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Give your dated stairs a facelift!  

I love the way the dark rails contrast with the lighter posts and spindles.  The dark colored paint (Mahogany) by Farrow and Ball almost looks like a stain from a distance.  The lighter color is Dove white.

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My customer didn't want the large newel posts painted and I was skeptical at first but love the way it turned out!  

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I also painted the staircase railings going down to the basement and another one down at the bottom.  

It would have saved a lot of time to just paint everything one color, but the results wouldn't have turned out this classy! 

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Below is what the staircase railings looked like before.

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These are the standard generic rails you see in a lot of homes and condos.  It is amazing to me how much better they can look when painted. 

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Here's how I painted this dark and light staircase:

  1. Covered and taped off everything. 
  2. Lightly sanded.
  3. Applied 2 coats of shellac primer.
  4. Sanded all the primed areas lightly.
  5. Caulked and filled in nicks and gashes with a patch filler.  (It's important to do this after you prime so the caulk and filler adhere to the surface better.)
  6. Applied 2 coats of dark paint to the rails carefully trimming around the balusters; lightly sanding in-between coats.
  7. Applied 2 coats of the lighter paint; lightly sanding in-between costs.

It is important to use good quality brushes.  I've found the ideal size for standard staircases is a 2" slanted edged brush.  I used Purdy which comes in a dark natural bristle for dark paint colors, and a light natural bristle for lighter colors.  

I use a 4" foam roller and a small brush to apply the primer.  This is a much easier way to prime the spindles.  I use a new foam roller for each section I prime.

The one thing I watch out for is when the primer or paint rolls around the corners, which will leave an uneven edge.  I make sure I check all four corners before moving onto the next spindles.  I usually paint about three spindles at a time, painting three sides of each spindle then go around and paint the back sides while smoothing out the corners halfway on the inside of each spindle.  This way the paint won't roll over to the other side I just finished.

Hope this will help motivate you to paint your stair rails and spindles.  It is a very tedious job and takes a lot of patience.  If you don't have painting experience and can afford it, I would highly recommend hiring someone.  

If you decide to hire someone, make sure they are quoting you for doing all the specific directions I mention above or the paint could chip off easily.  You should typically expect to pay anywhere from $40.00 - $50.00 in labor costs per hour for a custom painter.   

There is a big difference in hiring someone with experience and insurance versus just hiring anyone from an ad or off the internet.  For instance, what if they spill a can of paint on your carpet?  Are you going to get it replaced if they don't have insurance?

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