How to Paint Stairs - 5 Simple Steps to a Great New Look For Your Staircase

November 26, 2020

Stairs are not just an essential way to connect different levels of your home; they are a beautiful part of it! However, these high-traffic areas can start to show signs of wear from their daily use, making your home look tired. Read on for our tips on how to make your stairs look brand new with a fresh coat of paint. 

Then to plan the budget for your painting project head over to our Painting & Decorating Price Guide for further information!

Essential Materials For Painting Stairs

Before you begin the project, make sure you have the right materials on hand. This will ensure you can work steadily after you’ve started without interruptions. 

If you hire a painter and decorator they will take care of gathering these essential materials for you once you've picked out the paint colour. Keep in mind though that if your painter and decorator is purchasing the supplies the cost for this will be added to their invoice to cover the material expenses.

  • Sandpaper in a variety of grits from coarse to fine 
  • Paintbrush (use a type recommended for the paint you have purchased)
  • Paint roller 
  • Drop cloths
  • Painters tape
  • Primer
  • Paint suitable for flooring surfaces (look for durability and slip-resistance)  

Painting Stairs

If your stairs are in an area that sees a lot of use, you will also want to have a scrap of cardboard handy to make each level accessible while you’re painting. This can be used as a reminder of which steps can be used during the painting.


How to Get Your Stairs Ready

Getting your stairs ready for painting is crucial for getting good results. In fact, proper preparation is a key factor in performance and longevity, so don’t skimp out when it comes to preparation. 

An important step is deciding on the new look for your stairs. This will help you get the right materials to start the job, and assurance that it will be executed properly. Look online for some ideas about how stairs can be refreshed or even transformed! 

In general, you’ll want to choose a darker colour on your stair treads. The parts being walked on regularly tend to accumulate dirt, and a darker colour helps to disguise this. A lighter colour works well on the riser for contrast. 

You can also use a single colour on your stairs, blending them with the shade on the walls or in contrast. Remember that your railing is another part of your stairs that needs to be painted, so include this in your calculations for paint coverage!

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Fixing Issues 

Any squeaks, creaks or damage needs to be fixed before you paint your stairs. Have a professional inspect the issue to be sure it is not caused by a structural problem.


Assess Your Stairs 

Once you have the all-clear on the condition, you should assess the existing finish on your stairs. Are your stairs wood? Do they have a special wood sealant on them that will need to removed before painting?

Staircase in a loft

If you have carpet, this is the time to remove it. Take note of any current covering on your stairs, such as paint or varnish. This will help pick the right product to go on first before you prime.


Prepare The Surfaces

Use your sandpaper to remove any uneven spots from wear or paint buildup. You’ll want to use a fine grit to make the surface rough to the touch to better adhere finishing coats. 


Make sure to wipe down your steps in between sanding to ensure that all dirt is removed. This is especially important before you prime. If you are switching from paint to stain or vice versa, you will need to remove it so you are working with clean or bare wood. This gives you the best results, especially if you are choosing a more transparent stain! However, if this seems like more work remember that primer and paint is an excellent coverage option.


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Before painting it is essential to lay down a primer first coat. When dealing with bare or unevenly covered wood, you won’t know how your paint will cover. To save the hassle and frustration, use a primer to even the playing field.

Primer gives you a clean starting surface that gives the best results at the end of the job. This can also eliminate any dirt or grime that has built up on your stairs so you are starting fresh as you paint. 

How to Paint Stairs in 5 Simple Steps

How to Paint Stairs in 5 Simple Steps

1. Prepare Your Surfaces

The preparation steps above aren’t just helpful, they are essential! Make sure you have properly sanded, washed, and primed your steps before you begin to paint. Leave enough time for the primer to dry thoroughly before planning time to paint. 

2. Paint Your Handrail 

Use your painter's tape to mark off areas that should not be painted. This makes it easier to paint around your railing and balusters.

Painting a Handrail

It can be awkward to get in and around these areas, so using the painter's tape helps keeps things clean while assuring you get good coverage. Start with the handrail before moving on to your next post. 

3. Paint Your Balusters

Following this, move on to your balusters. If these are going to be the same colour as your railing, you can begin painting right away. If these are going to be a different colour than your railing and treads, bring out the painters tape once again. Make sure to mark off any places where your balusters meet your steps, such as near the tread.

4. Begin Painting Your Steps

Once your railing and balusters are painted, you can start on the steps. We recommend starting on your top-most step. Generally, the top “tread” surface is part of your floor, and may not be the same surface as your steps. 


Paint the riser first. Here, if you are painting the treads and risers a different colour, you’ll want to paint all risers before embarking on the final step of painting treads. 

5. Finish Painting Your Treads

Get underneath the nosing, the front part of your tread that tends to curve down towards the riser. Before careful not to get paint on the riser if using different colours. 

As you move down the staircase, paint every other tread. You’ll want to have scraps of cardboard handy for this too so your family has a safe space to step on as a reminder that work is being done. Use this on the non-painted steps to indicate what hasn’t been painted. 

When the paint is dry, you can move the cardboard to rest gently on the newly-painted steps for safe spaces to step.



With this helpful advice, you can make any staircase in your home look amazing. From choosing a new look to simply refreshing your space with a coat of paint, updating your stairs is a simple home improvement project. Once the paint has dried, you can appreciate the stairs in your home once again and enjoy their great new look!

Short on time? Why not hire a professional painter and decorator to get your staircase looking its best with a new coat of paint!

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