Painting or Staining Stairs & Railings

Painting or Staining Stairs & Railings: Transform the Look of Your Home

When transforming your home to a new look, one of the more overlooked areas are the stairs and particularly the railings. Painting or staining stairs & railings can do wonders in changing the appearance of your home with relatively minimal effort. If you want to freshen up the home décor and stick to a budget, then the stairs and railings is an excellent place to begin.

Before getting started, it may be helpful to define the terms used with stairs and railings. This will help you in identifying the specific areas that you want to address.

Handrails: The rails where you place your hands when on the stairs.
Newel Posts: The large, vertical supports for the handrails.
Balusters: Smaller verticals supports for the handrails that are attached to the stairs.
Spindles: Same as balusters, except they attach to a bottom support that is horizontal.

A banister may be interchangeable with handrail, but it usually includes the baluster as well. Plus, guardrails are functionally different than handrails even if the look the same. A handrail guides you up the stairs while the guardrail keeps you from falling.

Now that you know the terms, the next step is to repaint or stain the stairs and railings to meet your needs.


To get what you want, you want to know what you have in terms of the condition of the stairs and railings. You will want to make any repairs now before the painting or staining process begins.

Once that is completed, the next step is the type of appearance that you want to achieve. This will be based on the location of the stairs. For example, stairs seen near the entrance of the home are different compared to stairs leading to the basement.

To Paint or Stain

Painting is generally easier as it adds a layer of protection to the stairs and railings. However, staining brings out the beauty of the wood and is preferable in older homes. There are positives and negatives to each approach.

Painting is cheaper and offers more options in terms of color. However, it is not as attractive compared to staining. Plus, staining lasts longer and will hold up better compared to painting. Once you have decided which method you desire, it’s time to take the next step.

Preparation & Application

Prep work is key. There are four steps to a quality paint job: 1. always prepare the surface correctly; 2. use a top-quality paint; 3. use the proper tools; and 4. always paint in the right weather conditions – of all the surfaces, wood is the hardest to paint because it breathes.
Painting Staining Stairs - Before & After

Sand the stairs or railings until they are smooth. Any imperfections that cannot be sanded may be filled with wood putty. Once you have properly sanded the wood, the next step is to clean up the sawdust and protect the areas around the stairs and railing from the paint or stains:

  • Cover any area where you do not want the paint or stain to drip.
  • Ventilate the area with fans and open windows.
  • Apply at least two coats of paint or stain.
  • Let it dry, assess the results, and add another coat if needed.

Painting or staining stairs and railings can be time-consuming, but relatively straightforward to accomplish. Just remember to ventilate the area properly when you are using paints or applying stains. Plus, be mindful of the floors and walls, so you do not get any paint or stain on them.

Email or call Tilo Martin Painting for more information 310-230-0202.

Tilo Martin Painting is the top choice for interior and exterior painting in the Pacific Palisades, Malibu, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Bel Air, and the West Side. Call us today at 310-230-0202 to get a free estimate for your project.