Home Improvement

Refinishing basement stairs

Our back hallway has already experienced a major turnaround. The bright blue walls and broken mirrors were quickly swapped out for freshly painted trim and a “welcome home” sign.

back hall compBut in order to complete the back hall, the basement stairs that lead to our (future) mudroom and guest bath were in need of refinishing. The handrails were bare wood, and the stairs were a soft pine covered in a thick varnish. (Sorry, no before pictures of the stairs!)

In order to match the look of the rest of the house, we decided to refinish the stairs in a dark stain with white risers. Our main stairs have already been stained, and we plan on finishing them with white risers as well, so this will act as our test round for that design (one step at a time, right?).

And so, just when I thought the dust had settled, Dan was onto another sanding project. A bit more tedious than he would have liked, since he was working with removing a thick varnish rather than the poly that was used on the hardwood floors. (Tedious to remove, but made sense, as the basement stairs see a lot heavier foot traffic and weather elements than the rest of the house.) We learned from sanding the main stairs that it takes chemical stripper to remove stain/poly/varnish from the edges of the stairs. A few layers of this, and the basement stairs were ready to be cleaned up and stained.

Sanding close up

Because we know from experience that stain tends to come out lighter on pine wood, Dan decided on a dark gel stain that would better match the wood tile in the basement, while also holding up against the test of time. He went with General Finishes Java Gel Stain, which is close to an espresso color. After two layers of gel stain and three layers of poly, we were halfway there.


And while that angle was great, looking from the bottom up was not as pretty.

Bottom up still needs some work

Which meant it was now time to paint the risers white, matching the trim in the back hall (and the rest of the house). Painting the risers was articulate work, with Dan using his eye for detail to paint clean lines where the risers met the wall and the newly-stained stairs. The end result was worth it, as the contrast of the dark wood against the white trim was striking.

Much better

One last step for these stairs, and that was adding a runner. While the stairs themselves came out beautiful, we also wanted them to be functional, as we’re constantly tramping into the house with mud, snow, sawdust, you name it, on our boots.

Always up for a new challenge, we got the hang of this one pretty quickly. All that was needed was a heavy-duty staple gun and a bit of double-sided carpet tape. Aside from the rug constantly trying to go crooked on us, this final step went pretty smoothly, and took just over an hour.

And while I wasn’t good about taking before pictures of the back stairs, take my word for it, the end result made a huge difference, and completed the look of the back hall and basement.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s