The stairs were a labour of love, they took about 3 weeks and only $100 to restore. They were covered in a rainbow of paint layers but with a lot of persistence we were able to expose and highlight the beautiful hidden wood.
The stairs were definitely a journey where the end result was way better than expected. Even though refinishing the wood wasn't our initial plan, we are super happy with the results.
Our initial plan was to paint the stairs, like they had been done many times before throughout the years. After sanding up storms on other restoration projects, we really wanted to avoid sanding any more; so we primed the risers and to prep for painting the treads we taped everything and thoroughly cleaned the stairs.
The red paint was decided on after peeling back the layers of paint and discovering that the stairs were originally a red colour. After letting it cure for a week the paint would flake off extremely easily and it looked awful. With some input from others and research, this mistake was most likely because we applied a latex paint over an oil based paint without doing the proper preparation (lesson learned!).
It's super deterring when you have to "un-do" a TON of work, but it needed to be done, so we got the paint stripper and striped the treads.
After pouring a thick layer on each step and waiting a couple minutes the paint started to bubble and lift from the surface.
Paint stripper is nasty stuff so make sure you wear gloves and a mask, but it's super fun peeling off the layers and revealing the wood.
The paint stripper did about 80% of the work but it left some residual paint, mostly around the edges. We think there was more paint around the edges because in the past there was probably a carpet runner. It's best to get rid of all the paint before you sand because any left over will gum up and destroy your sand paper. To clean up the excess we used a combination of tools. Mainly a sharp paint scraper which will make quick work of it.
The paint scraper scraped off all the paint but the wood was still stained. We used a power file to get into the tight spaces between the spindles.
To clean up under the treads first we put on paint stripper with a Q-tip and scraped off all the paint. Next we used a rasp and then cleaned up the scrape marks/gouges with sandpaper.
I used 5 minute expoy and black powder to fill in all the holes and cracks in the stairs.
After what seemed like an eternity of sanding we were in the home stretch. We first started with 40grit on a belt sander and worked our way up to 180 grit hand sanding.
We stained the stairs with Minwax Puritan Pine.
Then sealed and protected the wood with 4 layers of satin floor poly.
After some deliberating we decided that the hand rail needed to be redone as well, it just didn't work with the new stairs. To prep for paint, you have to thoroughly ruff up the surface with a good sanding. Ideally, if we were intending to do the railing from the beginning we would have painted it before refinishing the stairs. Now in hindsight, we actually should have left the banister wood and just painted the spindles, that would have required less maintenance in the long run.
After sanding, I cleaned up all the dust and wiped everything down with acetone and then primed and finished it off with 2 coats of interior semi gloss white paint.
We're so pleased with how the stairs came out! Even though there were hurdles on the way, we're happy that these mistakes happened and lead us to this outcome.