Home Improvement

10 Tips for a Successful Staircase Redo

10-Steps to a Successful Staircase Redo | The Chelsea Project | www.thechelseaproject.com

After I finished my staircase redo,

I vowed I would never post anything about it on my blog.

IMG_1730 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com

After all, what could I possibly add to all of the other wonderful blogs and information posts?

 Then….based on questions I received about how I did certain things…

I realized…

……Oh hey….it looks like lots of folks have gotten various parts of the story………


…at least…


that I can find….

has told the rest this side of the story.

IMG_1736 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com

So… I assembled a few tips that were incredibly useful to me…..

and humbly submit them to this most excellent body of knowledge.

Even if it turns out that these are not

the rest of the story…

…which I doubt they are…

perhaps they are

…at the very least….

another most helpful chapter.

IMG_1743:2069Collage #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com


Tip #1 – The Big Seal…..keeping stuff out.

For many reasons, it is so important to seal off the work area.  Long dry and cure times for certain kinds of paint mean human and/or pet hair, dust, lint, bouncing balls, and etc. can undo an awfully lot of good work.  Protect the work area with some kind of seal and make every effort to keep all pets and nonessential persons out of the work area.  It may sound ridiculous, but one stuck hair on a semi-dry step can create a resand and redo situation.  Nightmare.  Time consuming.  Ugh.

This is actually the seal to my kitchen redo.  I am embarrassed to tell you that I didn’t get a snap of the staircase seal.

IMG_1225 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com

Tip #2 – The Big Seal…..keeping stuff in.

When the carpet pull begins, dust and dirt will likely fill the air.  The two easiest ways to control this are….(1)  seal off the area…and (2)  run the vacuum during the pull.  Even the cleanest of carpets will set loose lots of dust as it is pulled from the steps.  This time we’re thinking about protecting the rest of the home.  This dust does not need to land all over the kitchen…upholstery…drapes…beds.  You get my drift.

IMG_2071 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com

Tip #3 – Cut It If You Can

Try to cut the carpet and pull it up in sections.  It’s easier to handle and lessens the amount of flying dirt.  Once a section of carpet is pulled, take it immediately to the outdoors.  Don’t set it down and keep pulling the next section.  Then, pull the pad separately.  Keep the vacuum going….generate a draft for the dust…..right into the snoz of the vacuum. Then clean.  Vacuum.  Pull ALL of the nails.  Fill holes with wood filler.

IMG_2073 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com Tip #4 – The Sand Man Cometh

Once the sanding starts, nobody should go up and down the stairs without shoe covers.  Instead of shoe covers, I laid heavy pieces of construction grade brown paper over the steps.  Part of sanding is to remove dirt and grime….and the other part is to smooth the surface.  Paint will not stick to dirt and grime.  Stain will actually show the foot or hand prints.  Either way…it creates a real mess.  So get strict about this and protect the sanded stairs against new grime.

Tip #5 – Clean Up Your Act

Once sanding is complete, it’s time to clean the steps and the woodwork as if you are prepping for surgery.  I put a HEPA anti-allergy filter in my vacuum cleaner and actually ran the vacuum during the entire sanding process.  Some hand sanders have bags attached to collect the dust, but they don’t catch the fine stuff.  You know….the stuff that causes grit and prevents paint from sticking.  I did follow the vacuuming with a wet wipe.  The painted areas were ok to wipe with a damp cloth, but wetting the raw wood on the steps can cause the fibers to rise.  And, no…they don’t go back down when the wood dries….the wood has to be sanded again.  Hence, my Type-A approach with the vacuum.

Tip #6 – See You at the Top

I looked at a boatload of blogs and not one talked about how to tie-off the carpet at the top of the stairs.  So.. here’s the deal.  The carpet on the floor has to be finished off somewhere and that somewhere is by cutting it so that it butts up to a little guy called the stair nose molding. IMG_1749 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com I had to get mine from a hardwood wholesaler.  But, I made a template of how wide the piece needed to be and even included the cut-outs on the left side.  The standard depth is about 5 inches… which matched my other molding perfectly. IMG_1746 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com The man at the warehouse cut the piece to fit.  I just brought it home and installed it.  Easy peasey.  It plopped right into the spot.  The keys:

  • Make a template.  

  • And…cut the carpet back AFTER you have the molding to use as a guide.

Tip #7 – Meet You at the Bottom

Some carpet may roll over the last step and end at the floor.  Such was the case with my carpet….so I had to find shoe molding to fill the gap.  The problem I faced was that my home improvement store didn’t carry the exact shoe molding that was on the left and right sides….and I didn’t know how to install curved molding.  So….I took the closest molding I could find and sanded it down to match as best as I could.  It’s not 100% perfect, but is also not noticeable unless you are REALLY inspecting the staircase.  And…so.  I think it’s A-ok. IMG_1750 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com


Tip #8 – Painter Up

The age-old question…which is painted first…the risers or the steps.  Well, I painted the risers and surrounding woodwork first.  I knew the dry/cure time for the woodwork paint and how it responds to having painter’s blue tape on it for extended periods of time…days and days.  This removed an unknown and made the overall process a little less stressful.  In sequence, I painted the wall its new color, then the woodwork, and then risers.  Always work with paint in a direction that makes logical sense to you and best fits your knowledge base.  Remember, too…I am using porch paint on the steps….not stain.  Even if I were using stain, I think I would still paint the risers first, but I’ve seen many blogs that did it the other way around. IMG_2113 Tip #9 – Choose Your Poison

Choose which set of steps you will paint first.  It doesn’t matter as long as it’s every other one. As far as technique, I used porch paint and fauxed painted a wood grain.  For the base coat, I applied a mahogany color and let it dry to touch… at least 24 hours. IMG_2115 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com Then… to the same stairs, I added a second light coat of mahogany and immediately worked streaks of black into the wet base coat.  Warning.  Work quickly...because the paint “sets-up” quickly…even though it takes it longer to dry.  Once the paint begins to set, do not try to keep working it. IMG_1735 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com If there’s a boo boo to repair…let it dry and then paint over it.  Otherwise, globs of sticky paint could be created..and subsequently…a redo nightmare. IMG_2116 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com THE CURE

Tip #10 – Patience Is a Virtue

I did not put a poly coating over the stairs. However, I did let it fully cure before it was walked on without the brown coverings on the steps.  Every day, I lifted the coverings from whichever set of “every-other-ones” was covered that day.  If it resisted…like it was stuck…even a little…the coverings continued.  This went on for about 8 weeks. IMG_1744 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com Now….four months later…I am happy to report that the stairs look just like they did they day I finished.  In fact, many of the photos were actually taken today. IMG_1733 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com IMG_1737 #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com I wish you well in your stair redo.  It made a world of difference in the appearance of our main floor.  As the remainder of the refresh in this area is completed, I’ll add more pictures.

In the meantime, please don’t forget to PIN the image below…

10 Tips for a Successful Staircase Redo | #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com

Or to PIN the fan favorite……..

Faux Wood Stain With Porch Paint | #staircaseredo | www.thechelseaproject.com

Until next time,

Happy decorating,




  • Reply Nancy M. Aschenbeck March 6, 2015 at 12:39 am

    Suzi, I love this! Rick may come home one day and find the carpet gone!

  • Reply Kate March 6, 2015 at 2:39 am

    I’ll be coming back to this post when I redo my stairs! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Lauren (bpatty.com) March 6, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    SOOO I need this. Lol. Oh staircase has been carpet free and unfinished for 4 years. I know. I’m terrified about the process of fixing it

  • Reply slickrick99 March 8, 2015 at 5:23 am

    Reblogged this on slickrick99.

  • Reply Jen@The Evolution of Mom March 12, 2015 at 1:55 am

    This turned out gorgeous! I keep contemplating a project like this for our stairs. I love the paint color on the walls too! Everything came together so well! Love it! Thanks for sharing with us on the Momma Told Me Link Party. We hope you’ll share again soon!


  • Reply Melanie March 17, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Whoah, that is a major project! Your stairs looks fantastic. I am amazed at your DIY skills 🙂

    • Reply thechelseaprojectblog March 17, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      Thank you so much. That means so much…especially from you. After the stair redo, I felt like I was ready to tackle furniture. After all, what are stairs….except big, bulky, overgrown furniture? Lol.

  • Reply Second Chance Charms December 31, 2015 at 3:45 am

    SWOON! This is on my TO-DO list! Great share! LOVE!

  • Reply Lesley January 7, 2016 at 5:29 am

    It looks absolutely lovely. I’m thinking of doing ours as well, and wondering why you chose porch paint over staining? Easier? More durable? Thanks!

    • Reply thechelseaprojectblog January 7, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      The steps are made of pine, a combo of pine and oak, and oak. Because they aren’t consistent, using a stain would have resulted in different grains. The only way to get one solid grain was to faux paint it on using a durable product. I chose porch paint because I thought it would be more durable. I would have preferred stain and if I ever get to install a new staircase, I will absolutely have wood steps with stain. But, for now…..it’s porch paint and pay out-of-state college tuition. Lol… Thanks for visiting!!!

  • Reply Carolann September 25, 2016 at 9:48 am

    I love how they turned out Susie. So much brighter! What a fab job you did. Amazing transformation!

    • Reply theChelseaProject September 25, 2016 at 10:33 am

      Thanks Carolann…

  • Reply Kristy October 25, 2018 at 2:42 am

    How did you apply the “woodgrain”, can you share the tools, materials etc.?

    • Reply theChelseaProject October 25, 2018 at 9:28 am

      Hi Kristy. I applied the paint using a brush and created the woodgrain working the wet paints by hand. And coincidentally, I just had a builder ask me about the graining last week. Let me get through this One Room Challenge Bathroom Makeover and I’ll get some wood and recreate the paint pattern. I still have the floor paint. This way, I can be more detailed and hopefully make a video. It will be sometime in November. Is this ok?? Not too late??

  • Reply Lisa Cullen June 27, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    What a fantastic job ..I’ve just prepared the hall stairs and landing for the plasterer, sanded the hand rail and stained it so the stairs will be next to prep ..great tip on every other stair to support the drying thank you

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