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Painting Staircase Balusters Without Losing Your Mind

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I know many of you have been patiently waiting to see how the staircase makeover in my foyer is going. I am happy… no… more like… THRILLED that I can tell you that it is done.  You can read about Part 1,  Part 2 and Part 3. The repetitious part of painting staircase balusters, not once, but 3 times – primer and then two coats of paint just about sent me over the edge!  :-)

DIY staircase makeover on a budget

Removing carpet, staining the steps, painting the risers and trim molding, and then painting 62 balusters white… is so very BORING  :-)  But once you get done…

Staircase makeover on a budget and painting staircase balusters

… you are rewarded with this. All the time put into the transformation is so worth it!  I love the fresh clean look.

I did it and am still here to post about it. I am not good when it comes to repetitive tasks.  I like to come up with an idea, do it once and then move on. To keep me from losing my mind, I did have to FOCUS and try to make the process go as quickly as I could.  Using the right painter’s tape and a quality primer and paint did help the process since the tape kept the paint off the steps and the paint went on even and smooth in only a few strokes of the brush.

One reader, Jenny, mentioned loud music and some drinks. I did listen to music and movies, but the way to keep me from losing my mind, was actually putting 3 hours each day on my calendar so I had no excuse but to get it done.

Below is the comparison of how the balusters looked stained and then painted.

How to paint staircase balusters

We still will be adding a closet in the dead space underneath, but the staircase itself is done.

Tips on painting staircase balusters

In my previous post about the staircase makeover I was on the fence about if I was going to paint the post white. I ended up leaving it stained. This way I can live with it for awhile to see how I like it “as is” or not.

Staircase makeover showing how to remove carpet and paint risers and stain steps for a clean modern look

I think keeping the posts stained, grounds all the white, especially the posts at the top of the stairs.

staircase-makeover-at the lake house

This is the view from the fireplace wall in the living room.

Here is a recap of where I started…

Staircase Makeover BEFORE

My house has a two-story foyer that has a nice staircase, but it had a carpet runner and all the wood was stained brown. I like the look of no carpet, stained steps and railings along with painted risers and balusters.

Foyer staircase Makeover showing painting staircase balusters

And that is what I did.

Making over a staircase is a time consuming project, but is very budget friendly. I spend $75 for all the supplies needed.

Stained wood staircase makeover

I made over the staircase in my previous house, but it was much easier since the balusters were already white. In the lake house everything had to be painted and I had to figure out a way to match up the stain on the steps where the carpet runner had been. You can read how I did that in these posts: How to Stain Steps and How to Paint Risers.

We still have more to do under the steps, but I need Ed to help me with this. He has been traveling a lot, so we haven’t really had time. I am hoping to get it done before Thanksgiving.

foyer staircase design planning

Forgive my lack of “photoshopping” skills, but I wanted to give you an idea of what I am planning. I have been researching hidden doors and would like to add one so we can use the dead area under the steps as storage.

I also plan to paint the sideboard and get a new lamp and add some art to the foyer.

I am thinking we will make the wall have the look of wide spaced board and batten with some trim molding around all of it. The seams for the door will be hidden next to the vertical boards.  That’s the plan for now, but I may come up with something entirely different. :-)

How to: painting staircase balusters without losing your mind

How to Paint Staircase Balusters without Losing Your Mind

Plan ahead.  Find a few days on your calendar and mark it -“Baluster Painting”. Taping off the balusters took about 2 hours. I did that a few days ahead of time since it was the only day that fit into my schedule. I needed 3 coats of paint and did one coat a day. The first coat took the longest – 3 hours.  The second coat took about two hours and the last coat only an hour since all I needed to do was touch up.  I did listen to music and turned the volume way up on the downstairs TV on one of the days and listened to a movie.

supplies needed:

  • Primer – Glidden Gripper – sold at Home Depot
  • Paint – Sherwin Williams Waterborne Interior Acrylic Latex in Pure White
  • 1″- wide angled paint brush
  • Sandpaper 100 and 220 grit
  • Vacuum
  • Hot soapy water and rag
  • Painter’s tape – Easy Mask KleenEdge
  • Tape & Drape drop cloth
staircase makeover
  1. Mask off every balusters with tape. I found I liked the way the kraft paper painter’s tape, Easy Mask KleenEdge covered more area around the balusters in one piece which means less time was spent taping off.  It only has one sticky side that you place against the edge so when it is time to remove, it comes up fast. More time saved.
Staircase makeover showing how to paint balusters

2. I used a roll of plastic sheeting called Tape & Drape for my drop cloth that has one taped edge…genius!  See the blue edge? That is tape. It costs $8 for a big roll, but was so worth every penny in the time it saved me since I could simply push the plastic to one side in between coats and it stayed right in place.  I have plenty left on the roll for a future project.

How to sand and paint staircase balusters

3. Sanding each baluster is tedious, but not hard. Cut a piece of sandpaper so it measures approx: 3″ x 11″

Hold each short end in your hand so the rough side is facing the baluster and away from you. Move hands back and forth quickly against the wood and up and down to remove some of the previous finish. This will provide “tooth” for the primer + paint to adhere. You don’t have to sand to the bare wood, but do try to remove any shine.

Repeat the process for the opposite side of each baluster by placing the paper so the rough side faces you and is behind the baluster.

4. Clean all the balusters with hot sudsy water and a rag. Dry off with a clean absorbent towel.

Transforming a staircase, steps, and balusters with paint

4. Once balusters are completely dry, use a 1″- wide angled brush to prime and paint. This will make it easy. I used and up and down stroke and when my hands got tired, I did a horizontal slapping with the brush to apply the paint. I used 1 light coat of primer and 2 light coats of semi-gloss paint. Let each coat dry before applying the next.  I did not seal it since it is very durable paint with a semi-gloss finish.

Staircase makeover tutorials

Now that the staircase is painted, time to create the closet and start painting the kitchen.  I think my blog should have been called…The Painted House :-)

To read more about this staircase makeover, check out these posts:

How to create a hidden closet under a staircase as well as a hidden door.

Check out the completed staircase: How We Added a Hidden Closet Under this Staircase.

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Home Improvement. How to makeover a staircase and paint the balusters without losing your mind

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95 Comments

  1. Good job! But I am intrigued by the unusual piece of furniture with the baskets. I have never seen a piece like this. Would you share its history with us?

    1. Hi Hannah – The sideboard/desk is a hand-me-down piece of furniture from Ed’s uncle. We have had it for about 26 years. In one house we lived in, it didn’t fit so it lived in my sister’s house for 4 years. When we moved to our previous house she was sad she had to give it back. :-) It is in many blog post photos when I showed the foyer in my previous house.

      The top center drawer slides out and then lays flat to create a desk. There is a green leather blotter attached to the inside. I believe it is a reproduction of a Hepplewhite piece.

  2. Great job!!!! Looks more open now.

    You have enough room under your stairway to make a nice nook or can add shelves with some glass paned doors in front. So many ideas…… :-)

    1. Hi Debbie – Thank you. I did relax over the weekend and enjoy how the foyer is starting to come together. Now I hope I have the stamina to get the kitchen done.

  3. Beautiful transformation! Well done!

    I must admit, I think you left out the part about how to prevent losing your mind! Surely there’s a secret involving loud music to sing along with, adult beverages in moderate supply, and a sweet treat every time you finished one baluster, right? :-)

    1. Hi Jenny – I did have music on and one day put the TV downstairs volume to high so I could at least listen to the movie, Pillow Talk. :-) Wine would have made me feel great, but knowing me would have had me missing a few balusters.