You ever notice how one project just seems to lead to another on the ‘ol list? When we had our solid hardwood floors installed, I was shocked at the price to replace the balusters, railings, and steps. $200 per step and the railings would add several thousand dollars to our project. That was pretty far outside my budget, so a $50 can of paint looked mighty enticing for painting railings and the balusters.
Preparation is Key
As with any DIY project, preparation is key to success! I am lucky enough to have an amazing paint sprayer to work on several of my painted furniture projects. However, the setup and cleaning can be a chore for small projects or maybe you want to paint something in place and the over-spray makes that impossible. Painting railings and balusters is exactly one of those projects where it was just too much work to pull out and reinstall easily. It can be very tedious and boring, but the transformation is absolutely worth it. The nice thing is that you can also do this in sections if you like to break up the monotony. We haven’t finished the upstairs banisters yet but the main floor ones are finished.
Hand sanding all of this is certainly the worst part of the job. The nice thing about paint is that you really just need to “rough-up” the surface. There is no need to remove all of the previous varnish and stain. We alternated using 120 and 220 grit sandpaper and made sure to get in all the edges as needed.
What kind of Paint to Use on High Traffic Wood
Stairwell railings are frankly high-traffic areas. They will be touched, leaned on, and maybe an occasional child who seems to think they some new style of jungle gym (or is that just mine?!). The most durable paints will be a satin or high-gloss sheen. Believe me, you do not want a use a very flat paint like chalk paint (unless you use a protective top coat like polyurethane) on a high traffic piece such as a kitchen table or these stair railings.
Anyways, the best paint for this type of situation such as painting railings, in my experience, is Benjamin Moore Advance. It does not require priming! It levels beautifully without brush strokes (with my favorite brushes that you can get at Michael’s for under $10). I painted the stair well railing in black and white right around Christmas time, about six months ago. There isn’t a single scratch, crack, or scrape in the paint and clearly we use them every day. This stuff is hard as a rock.
Since these stair railings and banisters have some detail to them, I used my favorite one-inch brush to make sure the paint was even, stroke free, and got into all of the crevices. All-in-all, it took me about 4 days to do the railing above, two long hand rails attached to the walls, and two smaller sections of banister on the opposite side. I am so happy with the results!
A Word about Curing
In my experience, this paint does cure pretty fast. In the dead of winter (low humidity), the Benjamin Moore paint cured in only a few days. However, don’t depend on those results. I pleaded with everyone in the house not to touch the railings for a week until I was sure they would be able to withstand it. True cure time can take up to a month or more if you live in a high-humidity region.
I do plan to finish painting the upstairs banister, but that will be a much bigger project because we need to reinstall it. The end wasn’t anchored properly and it wiggles quite a bit.