Tired of the look of your stair railings and banister? Learn how to paint stair rails and balusters for an inexpensive fix that you can do yourself!
When we installed new hardwood floors, 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.
Step 1: Cleaning and Prepping
Painting railings and balusters is exactly one of those projects where it was just too much work to pull out and reinstall easily. So it understandable to paint them in place.
First, everything should be cleaned thoroughly with a degreaser that won’t leave a film. TSP works very well for gummy messes, but other readily available cleaners work just as well. Use a microfiber or tack cloth to remove any dirt, debris, and grime.
As with any DIY project, preparation is key to success!
Do I need to sand before painting stair banisters?
Hand rails are probably one of the most high trafficked surface in your home. Therefore, they NEED to be as durable as possible. I recommend that the rails and balusters be sanded to achieve a proper bond. Hand sanding all of this is certainly the worst part of the job, but you really just need to “rough-up” the surface.
- There is no need to remove all of the previous varnish and stain. Just remove the glossy finish.
- Start by using 120 and move up to 220 grit sandpaper
- Flat surfaces can be sanded with an orbital sander to make it faster an easier.
- Sand in the direction of the grain always.
How to Paint Stair Railing and Spindles
Stairwell railings are 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?!).
What is the best paint for stair railings?
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 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).
Even after a few years of use, the paint looks almost perfectly new!
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. A larger brush will also work.
I taped off the spindles first to get a nice edge. Then after a few days of letting the black paint dry, I taped off the rails and painted the spindles.
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!
Paint Curing Time
In my experience, BM advance 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.
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