Should You Paint or Stain Stairs and Railings in Your Home?

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Should You Paint or Stain Stairs and Railings in Your Home

Stairs and railings are hardworking fixtures in many homes. While they fulfill simple functional purposes, they can also be a grand and welcoming centerpiece when guests walk through your front door. But when it comes to giving your stairs and railings a well-deserved facelift, you may be wondering if you should paint or stain them — or do both.

Making the right choice can transform the look of your stairs and even the interior of your house. The wrong choice can leave you with an eyesore or with a staircase in stark contrast to the overall design or aesthetic of your home. The following tips for painting and staining stairs and railings will help you make the best decision.

Tips for Painting and Staining Stairs & Railings

Determine the Amount of Prep-Work

Your time is valuable, so it’s important to first understand how long a stair painting or staining project will take to complete. Prep work can often take longer than the painting or staining itself. Stairs that are currently painted may just need a quick sand and repaint. But stairs that are carpeted or have layers of paint and varnish will require more prep time.

Painting Stairs

By far the most popular choice today, many homeowners are painting over their stained stairs and railings. More than just about any interior painting project, painting stairs requires proper prep work. The surfaces are often taped and tarped and then sanded to remove the shiny clear coat. A special primer is then applied, followed by two coats of glossy paint in any color.

Staining Stairs

If your stairs are already painted and you’d like to stain instead, professional painters will need to expertly strip the existing paint from the stairs. From there, they will also sand your stairs before the stain can be applied evenly. Because this process is more time-consuming and costly compared to painting over stained wood, most homeowners opt for painting their stairs instead.

It’s important to note that choosing high-quality professional painters will ensure that you receive an exact quote and project timeline for your stair painting or staining project that fits your budget and schedule.

Determine the Design of Your Home

Stairs can be both functional and beautiful, and for maximum design punch, they should match the overall design of your home. Older homes generally look better with stained stairs, while updated or modern homes can usually support paint in a variety of colors.

There are also many ways to combine paint, stain, protective treads and runners into a cohesive look for your home. Here are just a few examples:

  • If you have an older home with updated elements, consider painting the risers and staining the treads.
  • For a newer home, try painting just the railings in a new accent color that pops. This will make your stairs stand out and draw attention to the spindles and handrails.

As you think through the overall look of your stairs, here are a few general tips to determine your direction:

  • If you are choosing to paint your risers and stain your treads, risers almost always look best painted white, no matter the color of stain
  • Dark stains are better for hiding imperfections on these heavy-traffic areas
  • Stains are generally more durable than paint, and lighter tread paints may begin showing scuffs and marks before stains or darker paints
  • Painting over dated, stained wood on spindles, risers, and handrails is one of the most cost-effective ways of transforming your staircase or stairwell

Determine Future Wear and Tear 

The amount of foot traffic your stairs receive can be a useful metric for whether you should paint or stain your stairs. Here are some questions to consider when deciding between painting vs staining your stairs:

  • Are the stairs you’re considering painting located in the main part of your house?
  • Do you have pets?
  • Are you a shoes-on or shoes-off household?

Properly stained and sealed stairs and railings will last for decades under heavy wear and tear, even more so if you include protective treads or a properly installed runner.

Painted stairs and railings, especially when prepared meticulously and using the right paint, can also have a long life. Compared to stain, however, they do tend to have a shorter time staying scuff or damage-free. So, you may want to consider darker paint for treads, or protective runners to maintain the overall look.

Painted Stairs: Before & After

painted stairs and railings before and after

painted railing in a home 

Seek Professional Stair Painting and Staining Services

If you’re looking to paint or stain your stairs, professional interior painters can save you hours and hours of meticulous, manual labor and help you avoid costly mistakes. Plus, when you work with a high-quality, reputable painting company, you can receive a free estimate and expert help with design and paint color choices. Get a free stair painting quote today!