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. Jeannine says

    Your description is so easy to follow and understand! Thank you! My problem is we have a landing that curves about 10 stairs up. Probably around 3′ x 4′ but odd shaped. It is plywood and the stairs are nice hardwood. Any thoughts or suggestions? I want to start ripping up carpet right this minute!!

    Thank you again!

    • says

      Hi Jeannine – Have you come up with an idea on how to make the plywood landing on your staircase look good? If it is nice plywood without too many holes and or knots, you could just stain it. Once the poly is over it, it may look fine. You could also buy a box of inexpensive vinyl wood flooring and cut it to fit to the shape. If you have not seen this type of vinyl recently, it looks like real wood. You can find it in many colors at the home improvement store.

  2. Sander says

    It’s a very nice job, I must say. Looks like a $2000 staircase to me, instead of a $50 one :)
    Something I might try once.. thanks for all the tips and the inspiration!

  3. Rebecca Purdie says

    We are still loving our stairs. It has been over a year now, and they still look great. We get so many positive comments when people see them.

  4. Jess c says

    Hi Diane. Awesome stairs. We ripped up all the carpet on our stairs to be pleasantly surprised with pine, we’ve been told by several people that we can’t stain our pine stairs because there’s too many imperfections. They recommend painting them. Do you think the products you used would help? Thank you!

    • says

      Hi Jess – I was told the same thing, but proved the naysayers wrong. My pine stairs were full of imperfections, knots and staple holes. We sanded them to smooth, and used the dark stain to hide the knots. They came out great. I am soooooo happy that we did it. If you are on the fence about it, do one step with stain and poly to see how it looks. If you don’t like it, you can paint over it. Painted steps with white risers look very nice too.

  5. Alex Addison says

    Hi there .. the steps look fantastic!!
    Did you poly the white kick plate as well?

    I’m looking at doing my stairs and wasn’t sure if it was necessary in order to keep the white prestine.


    • says

      Thanks Alex – I didn’t use poly over the white paint on the risers. Semi-gloss paint has a shine and is easy to wipe down if smudges appear. I did the steps about 2 1/2 years ago and the risers still look fine. I have been able to wipe away any dirt that has gotten on them with soap and water.

  6. Amanda says


    I would like to do this to my stairs as well and I just had a question for you: I noticed that there was some paint on the treads of the stairs and I was curious if you took the paint off first or if you stained over it. I have paint on mine as well and I’m not sure how to go about it. I would love if you could email me back with your thoughts!

    • says

      Hi Amanda – If you want to stain the steps, then you have to remove the paint otherwise the stain would look uneven and get not take over the painted sections. We sanded each step to remove the paint first, then stained. I used paint on the risers so the didn’t have to be sanded.

      • Amanda says

        Thank you for responding so quickly Diane! You are a great help! I personally just refinished my wood floors and I can’t wait to do the stairs to match! Did you sand it all by hand or did you use a sander? If a sander, what kind?

        • says

          Hi Amanda –

          We used a small hand sander, one that had a pointed tip so we could get into the tight areas around the balusters. We used 60 grit sandpaper at first, then, 100 and then 220 to smooth.

  7. Theresa Wiltrout says

    Hi Diane,
    The steps look AMAZING! I was so inspired by your DIY project, I just finished ripping the carpet off of the first 5 stairs and will finish tomorrow!!!

    I wanted to ask you whether you stained your bannister. From your pictures, it looks like the bannister is darker in the last pictures than it is in the first pictures.

    If you did, could you explain how you did it…thanks so much :) And again, you did an awesome job…they are gorgeous.

    • says

      Hi Theresa – I left the banister as it was. The color difference you see in the photos is just the lighting of each photo. I did paint the spindles though. They used to be off white. I painted them white.

  8. ELizabeth says

    Hi Diane,

    I (like so many others,) love this transformation!

    I was wondering how it is holding up after a few years. Have you had to re-do it or touch it up at all?

    Also, did you paint your trim yourself or was that already white? If you did, do you have a tutorial? How is it holding up?


    • says

      Hi Elizabeth – It is holding up beautifully, even with a dog running up and down it 15 times a day. :-) I have not had to touch it up at all. I did paint the trim myself. It used to be antique white. I painted it white white. I don’t have a tutorial on that. I primed the trim first with Glidden Gripper since the previous antique white was oil-based paint. I then used the same semi-gloss latex paint over it that I used for the step risers.

  9. Catalynn says

    I am speechless!
    That is one of the most amazing transformations I’ve ever seen and the fact that it was so inexpensive takes it to a whole new level!
    To tell the truth I was worried when I saw the first pics after you removed the carpet…
    I was hoping it would turn out “okay”… well it turned out a lot more than “okay”…. your staircase is BEAUTIFUL!!
    Good job and thanks for the inspiration!! :)

  10. Patti says

    I absolutely had no idea that pine could turn out so pretty! Thank you for the detailed instructions. My medium oak banister looks very dated; is there a way to darken them with a stain?

    • says

      Hi Patti – Yes there is a way to darken your oak banister. Minwax makes a product called Polyshades. It comes in a few different colors. All you need to do is: Lightly go over the banister with a hand sanding block to rough up the surface a bit. Clean off the grit and then add a thin coat of Polyshades. Let dry, and add more coats as needed. Follow the directions on the label in terms of re-coating times and the temperature of room when applying. Also it is worth the extra expense to buy a quality brush. Purdy or Wooster are brush brands I highly recommend. They will evenly spread the stain giving you great results.

  11. says

    So glad to see you commenting on your stairs in 2015! I am wondering how they are holding up? They looked gorgeous when you initially finished. Just curious about your opinion over the years. Thanks for all your tips!

    • says

      Hi Kim – They have held up great. They look almost as perfect as the day I stained and sealed them, even with a 40 pound dog running up and down them. :-) There are a few minor scratches, but the sealer has done its job well. The risers have never needed to be touched up. I have cleaned a smudge or two from them over the years, but that is it. I would do this exact staircase makeover immediately if we moved into another house that had carpeted cover stairs.

  12. Kay says

    Thanks for posting this detailed project? Question, how long does it take each coat (stain, poly) to dry? I also have 2 cats and have no idea how I would keep them away… How did you?

    • says

      Hi Kay- It does not take the stain long at all to dry – about an hour. The poly dries in a few hours but you should not step on it for at least 24 hours so it has time to cure. To keep the cat and dog off the steps, I set the cat up in a bedroom with his litter box. The dog we kept in our mudroom that has a gate so she could not get out.

  13. Sarah says

    this tutorial is helpful. my stairs are currently taped off and ready for stain but I’m having a hard tim to committing. :( did you sand between your poly applications? and did you apply the poly with a rag too? did you only require that small can of Stan for all this stairs? thanks

    • says

      Hi Sarah –

      I did not sand between coats of stain, but did make sure they were clean and dust free before adding another coat. I used a rag to apply the stain so I could smooth it on each step quickly. I applied the poly with a brush. The quart can in the photo is the only one I needed to put three light coats of poly on the stairs. If you are afraid to commit, try the stain on a scrap piece of wood that is the same type of wood as your stairs to see how the color will look.

  14. jennifer says

    hello! did you have carpet at the top landing of your stairs? I want to do this but am wondering if we also remove the carpet on the landing or leave it and if we would stain that or paint it white if we removed? I plan to do the stain on the steps and risers white.

    thank you!

    • says

      Hi Jennifer – I left the carpet on the second floor. You can see it in the photo at the top of the staircase. If I removed it to have a hardwood floor upstairs I would have stained the bullnose to match the flooring. Every staircase is a bit different, but however yours is configured, I would stain the steps and bullnose and paint the riser sections.

      If new flooring was installed upstairs, the bullnose that meets the staircase on the second floor may have to be removed and a new one that matches the flooring installed.

  15. Sheila says

    Hi Diane,

    I’m planning to give it a go -with 4 cats!! – so thought I might do a couple of steps at a time – do you see any potential problems with that in terms of how it might work?

    Also, I’m in England, so hoping I can find similar products here .

    It looks lovely, and is a real inspiration -thanks for sharing,

    Best wishes,


    • says

      Hi Sheila – Having the cats around will surely add a challenge, but I did it with one and we all survived and no steps had little paws on them. :-) I don’t think they like the smell and stay away. I did every other step so we could get up and down still while they were a work in progress. The stain dries quickly. The paint on the risers is sort of out of the way. It is the sealer that is the most challenging part with cats since it takes 30 mins to dry and then no walking on it for 24 hours. Once the staircase is done, you will be so happy with your efforts and any inconvenience you had to deal with will be forgotten. :-)

  16. Nancy says

    How did you get the white paint off the treads?? It looks amazing and we are getting ready to do this at my daughters house!

    • says

      Hi Nancy – We, my husband really…:-) he sanded them off with an electric hand sander and 100 grit sandpaper finished up with 220 grit to smooth after all paint was removed. For the tight areas around the balusters, he used a little manual hand sanding block with a pointed tip. We bought it at Lowes. I took some elbow grease, but it all came off.


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