My Foyer Staircase Makeover Reveal

I finally got it finished.  The staircase makeover is DONE!  It took me a long time, but that was only because I only did a little bit each night, then the holidays came around and I put the project on hold.  If you decide to do this and worked on it a few hours a day, you could complete the project in just a few days.

Re-doing my staircase is something I wanted to do the minute I moved into my house – that was 17 years ago. I have always yearned for hardwood steps and white painted risers. Now I have them – yeah!!!   The carpet held up extremely well all that time, but after seeing so many successful stair makeovers on so many blogs, I decided it was worth a shot, plus it was actually a whole lot cheaper than having them cleaned!     Do you remember the before?


Carpeted Steps and Risers

DIY Staircase Makeover Before


  The Process

I always thought since my home was a builders spec house that the steps had no bull-nose.  But low and behold when I went to take a peek to see what was under the carpet I was surprised with bull-nose steps – a big plus.

 The downside: the steps were not hardwood, but soft pine boards with lots of rough knots and imperfections. I didn’t let this stop me though.

Staircase Makeover in progress-going from carpet to stained hardwood

 The hardest part of re-doing the stairs was the fact that they were opened on the outer edge. Removing the carpet between the balusters was tough and the carpet was adhered with glue and 20 staples on each outer edge.

How to make over a staircase with carpet to a stain and painted hardwood

 Once I got all the staples out, the edges were pretty chewed up. My hubby help me sand them, but they were not perfect.  Each one had overspray on it from when the detail molding piece was installed by the builder.  This was hard to remove as each edge was rounded bull-nose.

Tutorial on how to remove carpet from a staircase

The very hardest part (you may not have this problem) was keeping track of where Trax the cat was.  I didn’t want little cat paws in the stain, paint, and poly.  He of course was curious to see what I was up to every time I worked on the steps.  He thought he was my helper.  He did end up one day with a bit of white paint on his tail.

There were also some other places were the carpet was hard to remove, but it finally all came off.

How to remove carpet from a staircase

With the hard part complete, it was now time to have fun with stain, poly, and paint.

DIY staircase makeover

Since the boards were soft pine. I used Minwax Pre-Stain Conditioner on each step before I stained them.  It prepares soft wood like pine to take the stain better. Once the pre-conditioner coat was on I had up until 2 hours to then apply the stain. I used the traditional Minwax stain in the yellow can. I wanted a dark enough color to hide the knots, but not too dark as I wanted it to coordinate with the darkest part of the grain in the floor and the banister as well as the sideboard in my foyer.  I ended up mixing the colors Provincial with Early American and applied it with and old rag.

I stained the steps first.  I took the advice of Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick who recommended in her tutorial to do this first as she painted her risers first and then when she stained the steps the stain got on the painted risers and was hard to get off.

 I used Zinseer Bulls Eye Ultimate Polyurethane.  I applied 3 coats over a two day period, letting each coat dry thoroughly. I did every other step so we could still go up and down.  When those steps were complete, I did the others. I put post- it notes on the steps that could be stepped on, just  in case we forgot which steps were safe.

How to stain wood on a staircase and paint the risers

 When I painted each riser and baluster I used Frogtape to mask out the areas I didn’t want the paint to touch.  It was a teeny bit time consuming putting tape around each baluster, but when I removed it I had perfect edges. I love using this tape, I think it is much better than the blue tape I used to use when painting.

Step by step tutorial on how to remove carpet from a staircase and stain the wood underneath


Hello gorgeous!!! 

Staircase Makeover  After reveal

Why did I wait so long to reveal your hidden beauty?

DIY Staircase Makeover

I love my new stairs!  It was a very inexpensive project.  I already had the can of white paint (Sherwin Williams Alabaster) and the rest cost under $25.   Don’t they look so fresh and modern… and CLEAN?

DIY HOme Improvement -Removing carpet on a staircase and staining the wood

If your are considering re-doing a staircase in your home, all I can say is – Go Do It – now!  You will be sooo happy you did.




  1. Dave says

    Just moved to a new house…same pine stairs w/ bullnose and decorative moldings on side. I will be doing this project for sure. Thanks for the detailed process description. $40 and some sweat sounds better than $2,000.

  2. Rebecca Purdie says

    Followed your directions. This summer removed carpet from my stairs one night while my husband was at work. It took a while from start to finish because we had to order slats for the landing. But the final product was worth it. Would do this over again if I had to. Thanks for the detailed directions.

    • says

      Hi Jamie – I did not use wood putty since I was going to stain the steps. It does not take the stain well and you would see the patches. I – or I should say my husband, Ed sanded them until they were smooth and the holes blended into the surface a bit more. If painting the steps, you could use it since paint is opaque.

  3. says

    Hmm it looks like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up
    what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the
    whole thing. Do you have any suggestions for newbie blog writers?

    I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  4. Linda says

    Beautiful job! I am thinking of taking on the same project in my house.
    How were you able to contain all the dust from the sanding?

  5. Shaunna says

    The stairs look great! I just pulled up my carpet and tool all the tack strips and staples out. What did you do to get the white paint off the edges of the pine boards? I started sanding it off, but there has to be an easier way. Thanks for your help!

    • says

      Hi Shaunna -

      We sanded the paint off, my husband did most of it. You could put some paint stripper on the areas, let it sit and then remove it a stripping sponge. This may leave some stubborn spots of paint still on, but they will be easier to sand off since they had stripper on them.

  6. Ginger says

    Hi I just removed our carpet and am starting my project today! Did you have to do any caulking? I have some gaps and not sure whether to use wood filler or caulk. I don’t think caulk will absorb the stain. Help!

    • says

      Hi Ginger -

      I did not have any caulking on my steps, just lots of staples and holes after removing all the staples. I would use wood filler, but make sure it is one that takes a stain. Some do not. The one I used to fill some bigger staple holes didn’t take the stain well on my steps. They are not big areas, so you don’t really notice them, but I know that there are some filers that take a stain better than others. I would ask at the home improvement store what brand name filler takes a stain.

  7. Joseph says

    I am going to redo my staircases as well — I am going to follow your instructions — this is great — thanks much for this wonderful post.

  8. Jenny says

    You have no idea how easy you just made my life!! This is exactly what I want to do and I have the exact same problem with the carpet. Thanks so much for the amazing tutorial!

  9. Natasha McKenty says

    Hi there! I LOVE what you’ve done, my stairs have been bugging me for years too. I am nervous to bite off more then I can chew but you have inspired me. My question to you is how do I decide what color to use for the stain? My upstairs is all hardwood so it would need to match. I have had a few estimates on hiring someone to color match the stain but they want $2000. If I can do it myself I would prefer it. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Natasha -

      I bought Minwax stains in a few different colors and some pine boards since my steps are wood. I experimented on the boards mixing different stains together to get the color I wanted. I wanted them darker and chose the darkest color of grain from the hardwood in my foyer. If you want to match your hardwood, try to find what color it is – does it have more red or gold tones in it. Buy a few small cans of stain to find the one that matches the best. Use the pre-conditioner that I show in my post. It helps make the stain go on nice and even. After you practice on some scrap boards – it will give you the confidence to do it on your steps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *