We all love our homes and every nook and cranny that come with them. Even our trusty stairs wear out with time, and they need a bit of tender, loving care. Repairing and painting stairs is a must when it comes to home improvement, not just for aesthetic reasons but for safety purposes as well. Today we will discuss how to go about painting and repairing your stairs as well as the reasons painting your stairs is something to consider.
Why You Should Consider Painting Stairs
So why paint your stairs instead of using other options like carpet or stained wood? If you love the modern look and colors that pop or you're the type who likes to change things up occasionally, you will find that painting your stairs is a viable (and cheaper) method of giving your stairs a makeover.
Painting stairs will give them a fresher look and feel. The fun part is, you can play with colors and patterned runners. You don’t have to be stuck with a boring finish either—you can change it up as you go along with future home improvements.
Remember, the staircase is one of the focal points of your home. It also gets a lot of foot traffic. Use your own creativity and design sense when painting stairs.
How To Repair Stairs
Before painting, make sure that your stairs are in good shape. Painting stairs in need of repairs will do you no good. They will wear out soon enough, leaving your glorious paint job looking shabby.
The most common indications that your stairs are in need of repairing are the following:
Squeaks and Creaks
Those squeaking and creaking noises are often caused by wood that has dried or shrunk. Squeaks can also be caused by a loose tread that rubs against a riser or stringer. A tread usually becomes loose because of wood shrinkage or because of loose blocks and nails. You can fix the problem in two ways; approaching from above the stairs, or approaching from below them. The latter is a better choice because the repairs you make won’t be as visible.
Find The Source
You will need to find the source of the problem. Where the noise is coming from will determine where the tread needs repairing. If the noise is coming from the rear of the tread as you step on the front, or if it’s coming from one side as you step on the center, then it means the tread is moving or shifting. Stairs with closets built underneath allow you easier access. Otherwise, you may have to open the ceiling under the stairs to find out where the noises are coming from.
Once you find the source, you can do the necessary repairs. Before working on anything, start by using talcum powder or powder graphite to minimize the friction between the parts that are rubbing together. Blow the powder forcefully into the joints, specifically at that point where the back of the tread meets the riser.
If that doesn’t work, you may have to do a bit of carpentry to fix the problem. If the wood wedges that lock the treads are loose or are falling out, use wood glue to put them back together and tap until they are tightly back in place. The blocks under the treads which meet the riser may also need re-nailing or re-gluing. Inspect the width of the stringers for signs of lengthwise splitting or cracking.
To find out if the stairs are bending in a particular direction, examine the vertical plumb and the horizontal level of the major parts. If you see any leaning or movement, it could mean that the structure is compromised.
If you have access to the underpart of the stairs, use wood blocks, brackets, or wedges to secure the treads to the risers. Reinforce the tread by gluing and screwing wood blocks under it and against the riser. Be careful not to drive the screws all the way to the tread’s surface.
If you have to work on the stairs from above, before putting in any nails or screws, drill pilot holes to avoid splitting the wood. If you’re using dowel plugs, make sure to counterbore the pilot holes then secure the stair newels to the staircase or floor framing.
Broken Stair Treads
Depending on the extent of the damage, broken stair treads can either be repaired or replaced. However, there are staircase types which can make removal and replacement tricky.
If the tread is held by balusters mortised into each step or are glued into mortises that are cut into the stringers, it may require some disassembling. You may need to consult with a professional. For treads that open on both sides with the handrail balusters unattached to the steps, all you need to do is pull up the damaged tread and then remove the nails which secure it to the risers. Unfinished hardwood treads are easy to cut and custom-fit.
Loose Or Broken Balusters
A loose baluster can be remedied by placing screws on unsecured parts or by inserting wedges.
Squeeze wood glue on both the top and bottom of the baluster sockets (a syringe-type bottle is advisable when doing this). When using screws, avoid splitting the wood by drilling pilot holes first then using wooden plugs to cover any visible screw hole. Nails may also be used for tightening by drilling pilot holes. Use only small finishing nails and a nail set. Conceal the nails and the nail holes with wood putty.
A broken baluster will entail more work. If re-gluing is not possible, cut through it using a saw and remove the parts from their sockets. Use a replacement baluster, but cut it such that it is a quarter-inch to three-eighths of an inch longer than the original. Deepen the existing top hole in the handrail by about half an inch, but make sure not to drill through the top of the rail. Insert the baluster into the top hole while letting the bottom end fasten into the socket and then glue and nail the replacement baluster into the sockets.
Loose Rails Or Posts
Stair newels are often subjected to a lot of stress and weight as they anchor the handrail. To repair a loose newel, you might need to work through a ceiling or to remove a piece of the flooring on a stair landing. Older stairs usually have the base of the newel doweled or mortised. Modern stairs typically have bolts and lag screws to secure the newel. You can resolve the problem by reinforcing the newel with new hardware. Make sure that the newel is vertically upright and perpendicular before setting it permanently in place.
Now that your stairs are structurally sound, it’s time for the fun part — painting them! This is where you can let your design sense shine through. The wonderful part is that you can always repaint the stairs when you feel the need for a change. You can go as far as using reds for risers and black for the treads, or you can use more neutral colors. You can also opt to just stain the bare wood of the tread and paint the risers with a complementing color.
Experiment With Colors
Painting stairs requires careful planning. Experiment with colors by getting swatches from your local hardware or paint store. If you know how to use Photoshop, take a picture of the stairs and then use the image to experiment with different colors. If your stairs have nice wood on them, you can just opt to do a wood stain instead of painting over the tread. However, it's advisable to paint the treads and risers if your stairs are made with manufactured chipboards or a lower grade of wood.
Remove all nails, staples, and other debris from the stairs to make sure you will have a smooth finish. Use a belt sander with 60 or 80-grit sandpaper and hand-sand all corners for an even finish. Don't forget to sand the risers, sideboards, and trim. Vacuum all dirt and debris before painting.
A dark stain will conceal imperfections, so it's ideal to use if your stairs aren't in the best shape, but it's really all a matter of preference. Remember to apply a clear, oil urethane finish when you are done to protect the treads from high foot traffic. If you opt to paint your treads instead of staining them, priming is a very important part of the process. Pick a high-quality primer that's suited for floors and high foot traffic.
When you're done painting stairs, you can add texture by choosing a patterned runner to complement it. You can also opt to paint it all the way through instead of using a runner, but remember to use an additive for added traction. You wouldn't want anyone to slip and fall on the stairs!
By repairing and painting stairs, you will boost them aesthetically while also ensuring the safety and comfort of your family members. Often stairs go unnoticed for anything beyond a utilitarian nature, but it doesn't have to be that way. You can make your stairs a focal point in your home.