Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A little paint goes a long way (stairway makeover)

Last summer we took out the hideous grey carpet throughout the top two floors of our house (inherited from the previous owner) and installed a beautiful walnut laminate flooring. The stairs were an element that stumped us, though. They don't make the risers and treads and end caps in laminate. The hardwood components not only didn't quite match the flooring we'd chosen, but were astronomically out of our price range - we live in a three story townhome with a lot of stairs. We really didn't know what to do.

Our house is only about fifteen years old, so there are no fantastic rustic wood floors hiding underneath our carpet. It's plywood and particleboard. The stairs are that really rough chipboard. We spent weeks trying to figure out what to do before we finally decided to just paint them white to match the trim.

You'd think a simple paint job would be pretty straightforward, but painting particleboard stairs to look perfect in a high-traffic, high-visibility area of the home is in fact an incredibly lengthy, painfully time-consuming and nit-picky project.

After removing the carpet and underpad, we had to individually remove the staples and nails from each step. Roughly eighty staples per step. For each of the twenty-four steps. By the time the seven hundred million staples had been pried out the already rough particleboard was in pretty bad shape, so I did a skim coat of wood filler (applied with a drywall trowel the same way you'd apply drywall mud) across the tread of each step and particularly across the front of each step to make it smooth. It took three coats of filler and sanding before the stairs were smooth enough to begin painting. Two coats of primer, three coats of white trim paint, a whole lot of silicone, a thin strip of quarter-round for the inside edge of each stair and a coat of polyurethane over everything and we were done - the stairs, that is.

Stairway makeoverStairways have railings. Ours were stained in a honey-coloured oak, which in and of itself I could probably have lived with. Unfortunately, the light yellow-orange oak clashed with the new walnut floors and were a little too country for our taste so we decided to paint them white to match the stairs. Because they're turned pickets sanding would have been next to impossible so I used a chemical stripper to remove the old sealer and stain. Then each picket got two coats of primer and three coats of the same white trim paint as the stairs. All eighty-five pickets. Plus the railings.

I cannot even express how painfully lengthy and protracted this project was. But we're super happy with the results: from drab grey carpet and clashing yellow oak railings to warm walnut floors and a crisp white stairway, it really feels like a whole new house.


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