Presuming you’ve got a wooden staircase, refinishing a staircase is a job that’s well within the capabilities of a DIY/home enthusiast. However, before stripping and re-surfacing the staircase take a few moments to cure any creaking treads or slipping risers. Making these repairs can be quite easy and straightforward. Squirting a foam filler to fill in any visible gaps may well also stop some creaks by preventing one piece of wood from rubbing on another; whilst angle blocks, screwed between a tread and a riser, will firmly tighten up any looseness.
The trend in recent years for leaving staircases unpainted, to show off their natural timber, remains highly popular. So the following takes you through the things you’re likely to need to do to refinish a staircase back to its natural best.
Stripping a Staircase
If your staircase has been painted, you will need a lot of patience to strip it back to the natural wood. It’s not impossible but it won’t be a job you can complete in a couple of days. The first thing to do is to remove as much of the surface paint with a blowlamp. If you’re not experienced with this item of DIY equipment, make sure you read the instructions first.
You will need to use one of the proprietary gel-type paint strippers, but to start with, using a blowlamp will be quicker, will be less messy and will be cheaper. However, especially if you have ornate balustrades or handrails, you’ll probably also need to use some liquid type paint remover to get in to those really awkward spots; not to mention removing the ingrained paint primer and undercoats.
Whether you’re stripping off paint, stains or layers of varnish you’ll also need to do a lot of sanding. In fact, although some manual sanding will be unavoidable, you really need to get an electric sander with a pointed base to get into those awkward corners and shapes. As you’ll be doing a lot of sanding, in your home, it might well be worth splashing out a few extra dollars on a sander with a dust extraction bag too.
To get at really awkward spots use an old chisel or the blade from a wood-plane. Finally, thoroughly clean all the areas you’ve been stripping; first vacuum it, then wipe it over using white spirit on a lint-free cloth.
Probably the first thing going through your mind is to varnish the staircase. This is OK but solvent-based varnishes can take a long time to dry and will ‘yellow’ with age. Water-based varnishes retain their original color and brightness and dry faster, meaning you can apply more coats in one session. Whichever you opt for you’ll need two or three coats at least – and do read the instructions for how to mix/apply them carefully. Oh yes, and do treat yourself to a new good quality brush, it really will give you a better finish than that old thing you’ve been using for ages!
However, how about considering this alternative; why not use an oil-polish? Just as hard wearing as varnish, in fact it’s less likely to ‘chip’; an oil-polish could really bring your timber floor to life. You might need to do some heating and mixing to get exactly the look you want and it can take 24 hours for one coat to dry. However, after applying and buffing two or three coats, you will have a truly silky and natural looking sheen to the staircase.