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Stairway to Heck Becomes Stairway to Heaven

Well, I think I've almost gotten over the nightmares that were sparked from last week's post. This marvelous beast of a DIY really made us work for results, but like I said before, it was well worth it. In case you don't remember the painful project from last week, I'm mid-tutorial on the worst DIY project known to man: Staircase Facelifts. Picking up where I left off, I had just finished complaining, er... I mean explaining all about how to refinish the 114 balusters of the two staircases in our home. Next steps in finishing off the project are to gel stain the banisters and paint the risers. Smooooth sailing, folks. It's an easy downhill ride from here, so just sit back and relax.

The Project (Banisters)

First off: Gel Stain. Gel Stain might just be one of my favorite projects ever. It requires little to no prep work, and produces excellent results. This is the route that we chose for our banisters, and I haven't regretted that decision once. It looks awesome. Gel stain, for those of you that don't know, is really just that. A wood stain in gel form. The obvious difference between gel stain and regular stain is the consistency, but my favorite thing about gel stain is the lack of necessity to prep much. We all know how I can be a bit compulsive (if you don't know what I'm talking about, you can refresh your memory here and here), and so a project that allows me to see results quickly is right up my alley.

The Details


Gel Stain (we used Minwax Dark Walnut)

Sock or old rag (I prefer an old sock)

Rubber gloves

Sand Paper (optional)

Poly Top coat

Like I mentioned, Gel Stain prep is optional, so you can pretty much cut right to the chase if you so desire. You are welcome to lightly sand down your banister (or other wooden object of choice), but it isn't required. Because our light oak banisters were a bit on the shiny side, I did run some fine grit sand paper over them before we began. If sanding is in your cards, you will want to wipe down the excess dust with a damp rag to ensure that your surface is clean and smooth before you apply the stain.

Once your working surface is nice and prepped (or not), you are ready to rock with the gel stain. Now, pay attention, because this part can be tricky. The key to doing this correctly is scoop some stain out of the can and wipe it on the banister (if you didn't figure it out by now, I was totally joking about that whole "tricky" thing). Armed with rubber gloves and an old sock over one hand, just wipe that stain on, one layer at a time. That's honestly it, guys. Like a freaking peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Once you get one coat on, you will want to wait 12-24 hours between coats for drying time (depending on directions on the can). The stuff goes on pretty thick, so 2 coats will probably suffice, but if you want them darker, then you do you, boo.

A poly top coat is encouraged, especially for something like a banister that is going to get a lot of hand traffic. Using an old brush, we painted one on, and just like that- our banisters went from drab to fab (can I get a "hands in the air emoji")!

The Project (Risers)

The risers were equally as simple, if not more, due to the fact that I didn't use poly on these. And that wasn't even out of laziness. I actually found that if you use a poly on the risers, it gives a bit of a yellow tint, so I decided to skip it. Ah, I love it when a plan falls into place.

The Details


White Trim Paint

Paint Brush

Fine grit sand paper

{Yep, that's it}

A light sand on those risers, a little wipe down, and paint your little hearts out. I used trim paint because it's thicker than normal paint, and it's also a bit more durable. Again, I didn't poly these, and although they are also high traffic areas, they have held up pretty well. And personally, I would rather touch up the bright white here and there than have to deal with a faded, yellowish look on the risers. So, no poly it is for this gal.

And THAT, ladies and gents, is how you update an outdated staircase. Again, not everything in life can be easy, and the stuff that you have to work for is the stuff that tends to really give you all the feels in the end. Plus, you usually don't remember how bad the work was once you see the finished product. Such is the story with our staircases. I can barely even remember how hard it was (until I wrote a blog post about it and relived that nightmare), but they really give me all the feels when I see them, and maybe even more so, knowing that we did them ourselves.

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Apr 30, 2019

So good to see you as well! And thanks so much- this was certainly a project! And thanks for joining the site! Feel free to sign up for email updates on the home page as well if you’d like!


So fun to see you and your mom today! I lovve what you did with your staircases, looks much more interesting.

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