Post Updated: 09/04/2022
Painting staircase spindles, also called balusters, can be a tedious DIY project when you want to give a staircase a new look, but it doesn’t have to be. This how-to guide with step-by-step images will give you helpful tips on how to paint stair spindles efficiently and get the job done faster.
This isn’t my first staircase makeover. I made over a fully carpeted wood staircase in my previous home. In my present home, I know firsthand what will make the painting spindles process go faster. If you are thinking about redoing your staircase, don’t miss seeing how I first stained the steps and then painted the risers on this staircase before now taking on painting the spindles.
I originally titled this post – How to Paint Staircase Spindles Without Losing Your Mind as the repetitious part of painting staircase spindles or balusters, not once, but with a few coats and allowing each to dry is a very BORING job.
… you are rewarded with this – a beautiful staircase with a fresh clean look. All the time put into this open stairway transformation is so worth it!
Making over a staircase can be a time consuming project, depending on how large or small your staircase is. But it is a very budget friendly home improvement project.
I spend $75 for all the supplies needed to transform this large staircase with 62 balusters. This includes staining the steps and painting the risers.
How to Paint Staircase Spindles: Step By Step Guide
In this guide I am showing how to paint round staircase spindles, but the process is the same if the spindles on your staircase are square.
- Primer KILZ Stain blocking primer – any of their formulas sold at Home Depot or Lowes
- Paint – Sherwin Williams Semi-Gloss Waterborne Interior Acrylic Latex paint in the color, Pure White
- 1″- wide angled Purdy paint brush
- 100 and 220 grit fine sandpaper
- Hot soapy water, rag or microfiber cloth and tack cloth
- Painter’s tape – Easy Mask KleenEdge or wide Scotch Blue Tape
- Tape & Drape drop cloth
Helpful Painting Tips:
Plan ahead as having the prep work done and in place will make the actual painting process go faster.
Using the right painter’s tape will help the process since the tape will keep the paint off the steps for as long as it takes to paint every spindle.
Using a quality brand name primer and paint will lessen the need for more than 2 coats of paint.
Listen to music or turn the volume up on a nearby TV so you can listen to a movie or show. It will make the painting time pass faster.
Time needed: 3 days
Step-By-Step Guide to Painting Staircase Spindles
- Prep the Area Around Each Spindle for Primer and Paint
Mask off the step for every spindle with masking tape or painter’s tape. I found I liked the way the wide 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 bottom edge of each spindle so when it is time to remove, it comes up fast. More time saved.
Taping off the 62 spindles both on the bottom where they met the step and top to protect the underside of the banister from paint. It took about 2 hours. I did this a few days ahead of time.
- Protect the Staircase
To protect the staircase from paint splatters, I used a roll of plastic sheeting called Tape & Drape to use as a drop cloth. One side of this sheeting that has one taped edge… genius!
See the blue edge on the plastic sheeting? That is the 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 The Spindles
Sanding each spindle can become tedious depending on how long your staircase is, but not is not hard to do.
You may think a sanding sponge would be the best for sanding each spindle, but to sand the entire surface of each one, it will be much faster if you cut a piece of sandpaper so it measures approx: 3″ x 11″.
How to Use Cut Pieces of Sandpaper to Sand Each Spindle
Hold each short end of the sandpaper in your hand so the rough side is facing the spindle and away from you. Move your hands holding the sandpaper back and forth quickly so the sandpaper is moving against the wood.
Next, use an up and down motion to cover the length of the spindle to remove some of the previous wood finish. This will provide “tooth” for the primer + paint to adhere.
You don’t have to sand the spindles to the bare wood, but do try to remove any shine from a previous finish.
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.
- Clean Each Spindle
Clean all the spindles of dirt, grime and sanding girt with hot sudsy water and a damp cloth. Dry them off with a clean absorbent towel. Then go over each with a tack cloth to make sure all the sanding dust is removed.
- Prime and Paint
Once spindles are completely dry, use a 1″- wide angled paintbrush to prime with a stain blocking primer. Using this will ensure no tannin bleed will leach through your paint.
Using an angled brush will make it easier to prime and paint the stair spindles. I used an up and down brush strokes and when my hands got tired, I did a horizontal slapping with the brush against a spindle to apply the paint.
I then repeated the process on the opposite outer side of the spindles by bending over the railing to reach them. You could also place a ladder to get to the outer side.
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 the paint since it is very durable paint with a semi-gloss finish.
I needed 3 coats of paint and did one coat a day. The first coat took the longest – 3 hours since I had to cover the dark wood.
The second coat took about two hours and the last coat only an hour since all I needed to do was touch up.
- Painted Stair Spindles After Painting
Side by side comparison of how the spindles looked stained brown and now painted semi-gloss white.
After getting the staircase painted, we added a hidden closet. Be sure to see it in this post How to Build a Hidden Closet Under a Staircase
Frequently Asked Questions Answered About Painting Spindles on a Staircase
How do you determine the amount of paint you need?
When painting spindles the amount of paint needed will be determined by the size and thickness of each spindle and how many there are.
For the average size home staircase where there are 30 or less spindles, a quart of primer and a quart of paint should be plenty. If using a paint and primer in one formula, one gallon of paint/primer will be enough.
Can I paint stair spindles without sanding?
To save time when painting spindles on a staircase you may want to skip the sanding step. This is a mistake as sanding the surface will ensure good adhesion of the primer and paint.
Sanding also removes any glossy shine that paint doesn’t adhere well. If you want your painting efforts to last a long time, take the time to sand first. Keep in mind, you don’t have to sand the finish to the bare wood, you just want to rough the surface up to provide “tooth” for the paint to stick. You will be rewarded for your efforts in the long run.
What is the best paint brush for painting spindles?
When painting spindles, the best paint brush is an 1″ – 1-1/2″ angled brush. Using an angled brush over regular paint brush or roller will ensure you get into all the nooks and crannies of the spindles. The angle also makes it easy to paint a nice clean edge where the spindles meet the step and under the bannister.
What is the sock method for painting spindles?
The sock method for painting spindles is a paint fad that got popular on the social app Tiktok. It can work well if you use the right thickness of sock and have more than one sock ready to go for when the previous sock gets over saturated with paint.
You also want to make sure to put a tight fitting latex glove on your hand first, then place the sock on your hand. This will keep your hand from getting covered with paint as paint saturates the sock.
Don’t overload the sock with paint as it will make for a sloppy application of paint with lots of drips and too thick of a coat of paint getting applied. This causes drips to happen.
Even though the it looks like using a sock can make painting the spindles easier, it may – but if the paint is applied too thick, it will just peel off eventually. If you use the method, have an angled paint brush on hand to evenly spread the paint around the top and bottom of each spindle to ensure a lasting paint finish.
How to paint stair spindles with carpet?
If you want to paint spindles on carpeted steps, the process is the same as in the painting guide in this post. You will just need to make sure to press the painter’s tape into the carpet around each baluster and definitely use an angled brush to keep a clean line where the spindles meet the taped carpet.
How do you paint spindles without drips?
Painting spindles in a production line way one after the other, can become tedious and paint can get applied too heavy when you are trying to get the job done fast. To keep drips at bay, apply the paint in light coats.
The way to ensure you have no paint drips on your spindles is to go back and check after painting about 10 spindles. In the time it takes to paint that amount, you will be able to go back and see any drips and brush them away before they dry.