Stairs Painting: A Professional Guide

Want to paint your steps, and you don’t know how to go about it? We’ve put together a complete guide to help you through.

This guide has all you need to know before diving into the stairs painting. What you must do during the operation, and what you need to know to make sure your painting remains durable without peeling.

Let’s unpack!

Pro Tips to Get You Started

Before we dive into the step-by-step guide to professionally painting your stairs, let’s help you with some important tips to make the painting a smooth operation.

  • Start the painting when no one will need the stairs for a while. Probably when the kids are in school or have gone to bed. This means you have to pause the painting as soon as the kids are coming back. This might cause you to use days to paint the stairs depending on how long the stairs are.
  • Don’t just pause the painting when you see the kids. Consider the time the paint will dry and add that to your timing plan. Because the longer you leave it to dry, the longer it will last.
  • Paint in a regular fashion. You can start from the top and paint all your way down, or you start from the bottom to the top. This will prevent you from getting stuck on the wrong floor.


  •  Paint
  • Sander
  •  Wood filler
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Masking tape
  • Paint scraper
  • Paint stirrer
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint roller/Paint tray

Suitable Paints for Your Stairs

If your stairs are made of wood, using wood paint is generally acceptable, but those designed for floors are best because they are more durable and less slippery. But if you decide to use wood paint anyway, a satin finish is more forgiving.

For the color, you can use a light color as they induce positive energy in the space, and are soothing to the eye.

Step-by-step DIY Stairs Painting Techniques to Get It Done Professionally

1. Prepare the surface

A. Remove carpets and all floor coverings

You don’t want to have an extra duty cleaning stubborn paints off your carpets. So, you have to take precautionary measures by taking off all floor coverings before beginning the painting operation.

B. Check for nails

Safety first. If you are painting the stairs for the first time, or you are just relocating to the house. Chances are that they are loose nails hanging around. You have to first ensure that your working environment is a safe one before you start. Do this by scanning for loose nails and sharp objects and pulling them off, then drilling in new ones.

C. Strip off old paints if necessary

If the old paint is relatively in good shape and still smooth, then you can skip this session to the next. But if it is already peeling or too thick. Then you should consider stripping it off. Although stripping off old paint will extend the time of the operation, it will create a much better-finished product.

D. Fill holes

It’s so common to see holes in old stairs. You wouldn’t work on such a surface. You need to get it filled. Use wood fillers, and scrape off extra with a putty knife. Leave the filler to dry for as long as instructed on the filler container. Depending on the product, it can be an hour long, or days long.

E. Sand all rough surface

Use sandpaper to smoothen the surfaces that you filled with the fillers. Also, inspect all surfaces for roughness. You can know by feeling the surface with your hands. Sand with 200-400 grit sandpaper. This will prevent your painting from having irregularities and give it a fine sight after the project is done.

F. Clean stairs

When sanding a rough surface, you surely created dust. You need to clean it off before painting. Use a clean cloth and warm water alongside a mild detergent, to clean the stairs and get rid of dust, debris, grease, or cobwebs. After the cleaning, use a dry rag to wipe off and leave the surface to completely dry.

G. Cover surrounding areas

Cover the surrounding floor with a drop cloth to protect your floor. This will save you the time needed to wash off drops of paint on the floor.

2. Paint handrails, balusters, and trims first

Now let’s begin the painting process. You should first start with the handrails, balusters, and trims. If you don’t, you might have to repaint the stair treads when paint drops while painting these parts. Also, with this, you don’t have to make sure they are completely dry before going for the stair tread. Starting from the tread, you must wait to get it completely dry before going to the handrail, and other parts.

A. Use masking tape to map out the boundary on the trim

Use masking tape to cover where you want the trim painting to end. Make sure you tightly glue the tape to the wall and there’s no space left underneath for paint to slip through.

B. First paint with a primer

This session is only important if you’re painting over an old painting. The primer will help create a good bond between the old paint and the new. This will give you a durable finish.

C. Paint with your preferred color

As soon as the primer is dry, use your paint brush and your preferred paint color from the top of the handrail, to the baluster and then the trim. Be sure to use a brush here, as rollers can’t get the paint into tight spaces. As soon as you are done, and the paint is dry, repeat the process all over. You can do this twice or thrice. 

This will give you a layer of two or three coats. More than one layer helps your painting stand the test of wear and tear over a long time.

D. Allow paint to dry before removing the tape

Remove the tape slowly to avoid peeling off the fresh paint alongside.

3. Paint the stairs

A. First paint with a primer

This session is only important if you are painting over an old painting. There’s a key tip you should take home here- Starting from the top of the stairs, completely paint the first, leave the second, completely paint the third, and so on…

This will help you to freely move as you work. It will also make it possible to use the stairs as they dry. Use a brush to paint corners. It will give you the freedom you need. As soon as the primer completely dries, you can then paint the ones you initially jumped. The second, fourth, and so on… 

Continue until the entire stairs are primed. Then wait to dry before proceeding to the next step.

B. Paint with your preferred color

Just as you primed, you are going to paint that same way. Start from the top, skip the second, paint the third, and so on… Make sure you properly paint the stairs before moving to the next. When the paint has dried, repaint to make a second coat of paint. Wait to dry. If you still see primer after the second coat, then go for a third. It takes about a day or two for a coat to completely dry.

And there you go!

You can decide to play around with some cool designs you saw on the net. As far as you follow these laid-down procedures, you are ready.

A Word from Us

Stair painting, although a task you can do on your own, is a task that is better left in the hands of professionals. Stairs painting professionals won’t have just the needed equipment, but the expertise in producing a product that will leave you proud. You will rest assured of zero mistakes, and outstanding designs that you definitely won’t be able to pull out on your own.

Color house painters is an interior house painting company here in North Wales that has all it takes to give you a professional painting tailored to what your home just needs. Reach out to us.