When last we spoke, I had just finished the arduous task of ripping all the carpet off my stairs, removing the banister, pulling out 10,000 staples, and filling 7,000 staple holes with wood filler. For a recap, click here.
Next on the list was dealing with this hot mess and getting ready to stain it by way of sanding off all the wood filler and any rough spots on the treads.
I started with 80 grit pads then finished with 120 grit pads using my electric sander. What a GD mess. I unfortunately didn’t take a picture of it, but I hung a sheet across the area between the stairs and the landing and it did a fairly good job of keeping the dust at bay — but still it was everywhere. Please always wear eye protection and a mask! The dust is so fine, I still had it up my nose, in my eyelashes, and all through my hair even with my gear on.
I did all the treads first, no prob. I was feeling pretty cocky. When it was time to move onto the risers, I realized it is a whole lot easier to sand down onto something than it is to hold the sander sideways. This was problematic, because even though the wood filler is “stainable”, the idea is to sand it down completely flush with the wood so only the tiny little hole is showing filler. If you’re going to stain, you really have to make sure you get ALL the excess off, or it will look like garbage. This was not happening, and because I am so lazy, I immediately switched gears after realizing how hard it was to sand the risers and decided to paint them white, rather than stain them which had been my original plan. Filler is much more forgiving under paint than stain, so I sanded the risers as smooth as I could and called it a day.
After cleaning all the dust off of everything (I swear it was INSIDE closets!), I assembled my staining gear: Minwax stain in Provincial, latex gloves, staining rags and foam brush, tack cloths.
I waited until it was almost bed time (so the stain would dry over night) and started at the top of the stairs, working my way down to the bottom. I did NOT tape any of the walls or risers off because again, lazy. I ran my tack cloth over the tread to pick up any last dusties, and then used the cheesecloth to wipe the stain right onto the stairs. The foam brush was for “cutting in”. I left a strip down the middle so we could get up the stairs for bed afterwards; I knew I would be installing a runner which is why this wasn’t a big deal.
Honestly, I was not thrilled at this point. I have used Provincial many a time: on our breakfast bar, dining room table, and photo ledge. It’s the perfect warm medium brown without a lot of red or orange undertones, and because of this has become my go-to. However, on the stairs it was looking really dark. Like, Dark Walnut dark. I shrugged it off because there was no way I was going to change it at that point.
When we woke up the next day, it was a lot lighter after drying, which was great, but still pretty dark. To seal the treads, I applied 3 coats of Minwax Ultimate Floor finish in satin that I had left over from when I refinished our hardwood floors. I LOVE this stuff. It’s so great to work with, easy clean up, fast drying, and stays clear. I used a pad applicator for each coat and it took no more than ten minutes per coat — super fast! It also really warmed up the stain to a color I was happier with than prior to clear coating.
I let the clear coat dry for a few days before moving on to the risers. As I mentioned earlier, I switched gears and decided to paint them white instead of staining when I realized how long it would take to get all the wood filler off — I *probably* should not have been so heavy handed with the stuff, in retrospect. I used a Walmart brand paint specifically designed for porch and floors. (It seems ok, we’ll see how it holds up.) I did three coats using a Wooster Brush (I LOVE those things) and this time I did tape off the treads so I could paint with reckless abandon.
So things were starting to come together! There was still a long way to go: installing the runner, new trim, and painting the stairwell: none of which I was particularly looking forward to. However at this point we were on to week three of a project I had promised Matt would take just one weekend, so I knew I had to keep the momentum going and finish before Christmas.
Check out part three here, where I show you how I installed the runner and trimmed out the sides!