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Friday, June 10, 2016

The Stairwell Makeover, Part 2: The Process

Welcome to the Stair and Hallway Makeover, Part Two! 
I'm sure you've been waiting on pins and needles to see how we continued the stair makeover since I posted Part One... 
I kid, I kid!  

But here it is in case you've come back for more (and linking up with Kelly today, too)! ;)

The stairwell has been one of the most painstakingly LONG DIY projects we've taken on to date.
KIND OF think it was worth it now, but I don't know if I did by the time we wrapped up.  
I mean, YES, it looks ten times better than it did, BUT our stairs aren't a main feature of the house, like they are below - 
Talk about GRAND!!!

It's not a "grand" staircase because you can only see the first 5 steps and landing when you walk in.  You also can't see the stairs from any other room in the house, only when in the small entryway.  So honestly, after we finally finished them, I kept thinking, 
was this worth it???!!!

I guess if the stairs are the first thing anyone sees, it's probably good that we gave them a facelift at the end of the day, but MAN O MAN, did it take forever!!!  
*If you're thinking about refinishing yours, just know that it's pretty time consuming; but of course you can do it if we did!!! 

I posted PART 1 last week, including a few pictures of what the stairs looked like when we bought the house and then after the walls were stripped of layers of wallpaper.  
Go check it out here if you're interested in seeing the beginning of the process! 

This is where we left off last from the last post -

Bill had gotten the tops ready to be stained:

1. I first stained every other step so that we could get up and down the stairs to go to bed (after working so hard, I didn't want to be stuck downstairs on the couch overnight) - it's a great tip most stairwell DIYers share.

I stained 3 coats of Minwax Jacobean with a rag.

As you can see, Jacobean is a really, really dark stain (their second darkest shade before Ebony): 

We knew we wanted the stairs to be VERY different from the floor color, which was stained with a mixture of Provncial + Special Walnut, so we went back and forth between Dark Walnut and Jacobean, two stains that would really stick out from the floors but still be in the neutral range (just darker).  Both of these stains are darker while still being neutral (no warm orange undertones).

We bought them both and ended up using the darker of the two.  The Jacobean just really stood out from the floors, which is what we were going for, although I think either would have turned out fine.

And since we can only work at night while the little ones asleep, using a huge spotlight is necessary to work by!

Hello spotlight! 
After one coat of stain, it was pretty clear that I'd have to keep going to get the darkness I was going for, and I ended up doing 3 coats to make it pretty dark -

2. Then the next night, we made sure to put a piece of tape on the steps that were already stained so we'd know which stairs to step on going up and down (another great DIY tip we found).

*Staining was trickier than I thought it was going to be - carrying the rag and stain with me while I stepped up backwards was tough.  
I wasn't very pleased with the landing at the end of the night, but now I don't notice it :) - 

3. Next, I painted 3 coats of the poly with Bill sanding the stairs down between each coat.  
We did this over 3 nights to allow the stairs to dry each time.  
We used a Satin finish, just like we used on our main floors - 

All set and ready for the handrails! 

4. Then I PAINTED the handrails using Polyshades in Espresso.  
It's a stain and poly mixed.  
It's a pretty cool new product (although not recommended for actual stairs)... but I think it's fine for furniture or hand rails, like I used it for.    
I thought the dark, dark brown (almost black) Espresso color would be good to bring out the darkest part of the stairs stained with Jacobean.  
Again, the stairs are in this Jacobean stain - 
And then I did the handrails in this - 

I painted 3 coats of the polyshades to get it evenly coated and dark enough.
As you can see, a few coats of polyshades was necessary.

Done on the left, natural on the right-

Here's a look at Polyshades Espresso finished - 

Phew, now onto painting if you're still with me!

5. Then Bill taped the treads off so I could paint the risers and spindles -

6. I knew it would take me awhile so I asked Mom to help me prime the spindles one night -
It's always a family affair! 

Bill took his TAPING job seriously -

And then I had to prime the risers -

7. And then lastly, of course, it was time to PAINT - 2 coats of SW Pure White everywhere - 

I'll leave you there and post The AFTER PICTURES tomorrow!!!

*For a recap of the paints and stains we used, please check out the Before and After pictures in PART 3 of this makeover!

Have a happy HOT HOT weekend! 


  1. Wow!! Such a transformation!! Good work

  2. Oooooh, that's gorgeous! This would have looked great on the stairs in our old house, I hadn't thought of painting just the risers, but it would have added light to the whole thing. Brilliant transformation :-)

    1. Thanks, Catherine! I'm beginning to those late nights were worth it! :)

  3. Looks beautiful to me, but probably I'd be thinking the same thing: "Was this worth it???" Home improvement projects always take twice as long and cost three times as much as you think they will.


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