Makeovers Projects

My Painted Steps

On a Friday evening a few weeks ago our oldest two girls were at the homes of their other parents and the youngest two had just gone to bed. I leaned in close to my dear husband and whispered, “Honey, can I rip the carpet off the stairs?”. (Seriously, that’s exactly how it happened)

His response stopped me in my tracks. “I don’t care, go ahead.”

What?! Uh, ok. I quickly ran to the garage to get the utility knife before he changed his mind. I was in such a hurry that of course, I again forgot to take a before photo (sorry). Imagine this- cream-ish white carpet, 20-something years old, cleaned a few times, and turning kind of grey-ish…. Sexy, right?

ok, I found this. All my daughter’s friends who gathered at our house for homecoming a few years ago. If you look through their legs, you can sort of see what it looked like.

Take my word for it- they needed help. Re-carpeting really isn’t in the cards. I am allergic to the glue they use in most carpet. It causes respiratory issues- knocks that one out. Hardwood is out of the question right now price wise (ok, I’m a cheapskate- I might not feel ok with paying for hardwood if I won the lottery) so through the MAGIC of Pinterest, I decided painting them was my favorite option.

I had been thinking about how I wanted to do it for months. I had shown my husband dozens of pictures. “What do you think of these?”, “That’s nice…” I’m sure he was just done with hearing about it. What color? Dark? Light? Rainbow? Crazy? Quotes and Sayings? What would really look like “us”?

In the end, I just opted to use the paint we had on hand. Mostly because if Brian changed his mind, I’d be disappointed and since it was spur of the moment, I couldn’t risk heading to the store. When we’d painted the entry way and upstairs hall, we’d painted the banister too. We had semi-gloss paint that matched the lighter of the two wall colors on hand- and a lot of it. The trim is all white and I have lots of that too for touch ups with all these children. I decided the green treads and white risers made the most sense and went with it.

First I took the utility knife at the top of the stairs and cut the carpet about 2 inches below the point it comes off the top step. NOTE: If you do this, cut at least 3-4 inches down. I had EXACTLY enough carpet to wrap under the top of the hallway floor. It would have been good to have some wiggle room I think.

I then just started pulling. Once you start pulling be prepared. This part releases a ridiculous amount of dust and dirt into the air. It’s disgusting. I vacuumed my stairs before I started and it didn’t help. It all gets ground down as you step and walk and it’s just gross- no other way to put it. Wear a mask. I regretted not just ripping the whole staircase out and getting some new ones from somewhere like Pear Stairs instead!

Also, get painting plastic and hang it up as best you can. Pulling off the carpet and sanding the wood underneath creates a lovely very fine dust that floats everywhere. You’ll be cleaning this up for ages (trust me, I didn’t mask anything).

Once you pull up the carpet and padding, vacuum. USE A SHOP VAC! You will most likely ruin your regular vacuum if you use it and even if it’s brand new, I doubt this kind of fine dust will be covered. To be honest, I might even consider reading vacuum reviews like to see if there are any vacuums that can cope with finer dust than usual. If there is one that can cope with finer dust, it would be really helpful all around the house so I might just have to consider getting one.

Then there will be carpet tacking strips. I of course have no photos of these either. be careful- they are sharp. I used my handy favorite 6-in-one tool to wedge under them and lift in such a way to bring the nail with the strip and for the most part, not need the hammer claw.

Then I used needle nose pliers to pull up the occasional staple used for the padding and vacuumed again. At which point it looked like this:

Not the best wood, certainly not the worst. We’re a house of 6 people- with a little prep, I thought they’d be fine. It was better quality than I was expecting for sure. The close up was kind of like this: some places that could use some help and luckily nothing serious. I them had an event the next day so I stopped since I felt like this was a good place to do that.

Sunday morning, I grabbed the wood filler and went to town. I filled and smoothed the significant dents and let it dry. (15 minutes or so really)

I used my husband’s mouse sander with 180 grit sandpaper and started at the top. I sanded, and I sanded, and I vacuumed, and wiped… Oh boy, I wore a mask, and it was a mess. Once I felt like it was probably good enough, I did one final vacuum & wipe. A hand vacuum may be ideal to get to difficult to reach places that your standard vacuum can’t. When considering handheld vacuum cleaner brands, take a look at the offerings from Bissell. Since I wasn’t using ASCP, I thought priming would be a good idea. After I finished that, they looked like this: After checking the dry time on the green paint, I decided I could just start at the top and work down. This paint said 30 minutes so I figured if I kept them off for an hour when I was done with the first coat I should be golden.

Ok, normally you’re supposed to cut in and then roll before it dries. I was doing this by myself and the thought of stopping and starting like that didn’t appeal to me. So I didn’t. You can decide if you think I screwed up- I honestly can’t see a line.

I started painting- I did the first step the way you’re supposed to (cut and then roll before it dries) and then I decided that took too long so I just started cutting all the steps in – and when I was done, it looked like this: the trim needed touch up too and luckily the white I was using was the trim color so I updated it all at once. The unpainted board you see on the left is our way to put up a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs without drilling into the banister and making a huge mess and disconnecting the banister from the staircase as the gate pushes on it. I took it off before I started painting the trim.

After I finished rolling out all the steps, they needed a second coat and were going to need sealant of some kind. I decided Minwax PolyAcrylic was easiest (and I already had some lots from the kitchen countertops). I went with the Clear Satin finish. The sealer takes at least two hours to dry. Keeping everyone off the steps for 2 hours didn’t really seem feasible so I decided to do every other step and see how that went. I put blue tape on the other steps so everyone would know the “step-able” treads and went to town. I have learned that the PolyAcrylic seems to work best when you lay it on pretty thick. I used a brush and a roller on the table and the brush with a little thicker application just seemed to work best. The can recommends a minimum of three coats. Once the first coats dries, you sand it lightly with 220 grit paper and then put on your next coat.

I ran out of time, then got distracted… Every other step has one coat of poly and the others need the second coat of paint and at least one coat of sealer. lol…. it’s on my list. However, here are the photos of what it looks like today. I have a feeling even when I get them all done with second coats and sealer they’ll look the same, so for the sake of this post… they’re done!

Oh I should mention I just folded the carpet under at the top and used the staple gun and a hammer to attach it to the underside of the landing. I then got a piece of quarter round and painted and attached that. The staples don’t seem to be holding it so I bought some U shaped things I am going to try next.

What do you think?

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  • Reply
    July 31 at 2:00 PM

    Have you noticed the polyacrylic is holding up well? I’m always afraid to use polyacrylic on high traffic or highly used items because I’m afraid it’ll scratch and then start peeling up more than polyurethane. Which sucks because I like polyacrylic WAY more.

    • Reply
      July 31 at 2:41 PM

      So far it seems to be just fine and on the dining table too. I will keep an eye on it- my kids are rough on any solid surface and I haven’t noticed any issues yet.

  • Reply
    Eliesa Prettelt
    July 31 at 6:55 PM

    Love how bright and clean they look now! Great job!!

    • Reply
      July 31 at 7:15 PM

      Thanks! The cleanliness is what I’m most excited about. It’s not as noisy as we thought it would be either. I forgot to mention that.

  • Reply
    July 31 at 8:56 PM

    wow!!! Your stairs look amazing!!!!

    • Reply
      July 31 at 11:13 PM

      Thank you Dana!

  • Reply
    July 31 at 10:33 PM

    Was your wood like contractor’s plywood or was it a better grade of flooring? They look wonderful!

    • Reply
      July 31 at 11:18 PM

      Thank you, I’m certainly happy with the way they turned out. I was actually rather surprised with what was underneath. It was higher quality than I expected since everything about this neighborhood seems to have been built on shortcuts. It wasn’t stain quality, but it was smooth and I honestly think they are solid pine. I didn’t fill in all the dents since I figured the kids would add more. Scars add character….right?

      • Reply
        Rebecca @ Shoved to Them
        August 13 at 9:11 PM

        Scars add character is the lie I tell myself every day. If you need me to, I’ll say it to you too.

        Yes, scars add character.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Good Time Charlie
    June 26 at 1:22 AM

    WOW! I just saw your response. I can’t believe your response to my email had gone to my SPAM folder and I just now saw it! Your stairs were in far better condition than mine! We did not have hardwood, not even smooth ply wood, it is Alt Board, which is really, really strong, but there is no way to sand it smooth. We sanded, and sanded, and sanded, then I skim coated it, several times, each STAIR with join compound, then several coats of heavy duty primer. They are now pretty much paint ready. Your stairs came out fantastic! I love that your husband was like “whatever” on ripping up the carpet! And yes, it was the grossest experience. I would rip up every last piece of carpet in my house and put down nice flooring if I could. Carpet grosses me out!

    • Reply
      June 26 at 7:31 AM

      I’m glad it went to your spam folder. I was worried you just didn’t want to talk to me anymore. 😉 nah…technology has an attitude problem some days for me too…usually picking the ones I have so much going on it’s highly inconvenient. So glad you stopped by! My steps were in pretty good shape admittedly. I can’t believe you did that much work! I would have gone to the big box store and just bought new treads I think- laziness and frustration kick in when I don’t feel like I’m making progress. Maybe I would have just put on a veneer of some kind and painted that..kind of like people do with the risers?

      I’m loving watching the transformation of your stairs and can’t wait to see what you do with the hallway! It’s looking fabulous! How are you planning on sealing the steps?

      Thanks for stopping by! I’ve got to get to my entry closet and laundry room next. The entry closet probably has another family living in it.

  • Reply
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