*AD: This post is sponsored by V33.
Next year we plan to begin renovating our bedroom, which means moving into the attic room. This room needs A LOT of TLC and unfortunately, this won’t be happening any time soon. V33 got in touch and asked if I wanted to try out their stair paint, so to make up for the fact we’ll be living in essentially a dusty storage room, I thought I’d give the staircase to the attic a quick transformation.
One day in the very long distant future, we’d love to have a stair runner, but as our house is very much still a working progress, we’d never invest in a carpet of any sort at this stage as it would just get very dusty and dirty. So, I thought I’d try adding a DIY painted stair runner to give the same visual effect instead. I think this idea is great for tight budgets and still allows for adding a carpet runner in the future too.
In case you haven’t seen this space before, below are some photos of our current attic stairs. We haven’t done anything to this staircase since we moved in 8 and a half years ago, but luckily the stairs are in pretty good condition, albeit with a few chips here and there.
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How To Prepare Stairs for Painting
Remove Existing Carpet / Runner
This one is kinda obvious, but before I could begin, I needed to remove the existing runner and underlay. These are usually nailed or stapled down and are easily removed by simply pulling them up (although be careful not to fall down the stairs!).
The underlay on our stairs was clearly very old and essentially fell apart as I removed it, so prepare for potentially a fair bit of clean-up too!
Carefully Remove Carpet Grippers and Any Staples / Nails
I used a flat-head screwdriver and crowbar to remove the old carpet grippers from the stairs, though you’ll want to do this carefully and gently so as not to damage the wood. To do this, I lightly hammered my screwdriver into the gripper near a nail and then once underneath, swapped it with a crowbar to apply pressure and lift the gripper slightly. I then repeated this process, working along the length of the carpet gripper until it popped off.
After this, I moved along each stair and removed any leftover staples and nails using pliers to pull them up. Try not to miss any, as you definitely don’t want to be stepping on these later!
Thoroughly Sand Down Stairs
Although our stairs were already painted and in fairly good condition for the most part, we did have a few areas of chipped, flaky paint, and the raw wood underneath the old carpet runner certainly needed a good sand down too.
Using an electric sander, I sanded the raw wood on the stairs (the area that was under the carpet runner) starting with some 80-grit sandpaper to remove any roughness. I then went back over with 120-grit sandpaper and finally finished with 180-grit for a smooth finish.
I also scrapped off any areas of flaking paint and sanded these areas down so the edges of the chipped paint were completely smooth.
In case you hadn’t already spotted it – sanding will make A LOT of dust, so make sure you’re wearing a suitable dust mask! I would usually hook my sander up the hoover, but working on the stairs makes it virtually impossible to do so unless you have someone who can hold the hoover for you. Sadly I didn’t have anyone to do that!
I find electric sanders hard to control on curved wood and I also find it’s quite easy to over-sand and therefore damage the shape of the curve. For this reason, I chose to sand the curve on the lip of the stair tread by hand. I wrapped the sandpaper around the curve to do this and moved the sandpaper back and forth to sand the whole area.
I also gave the painted parts of the stairs a light sand by hand too. These areas were already smooth so only needed a gentle sand to provide a ‘key’ for the new paint to adhere to.
Repair Chips and Cracks with Filler
To repair any chips, cracks, or holes on the stairs, I used a fine surface filler. I sanded this smooth once dry and when it’s eventually painted over, you won’t be able to see these areas of repair.
Clean Stairs Thoroughly With Sugar Soap
I cleaned the whole staircase thoroughly with some sugar soap and warm water to remove all traces of dust. This is a really important step to do before any painting job and I always recommend changing the water often to ensure you’re not cleaning with dirty water.
Consider a Primer with Gloss or Lead Paint
If your stairs are covered in old paint, it may well be lead paint – in which case, it’s really important NOT to sand. In this case, I would always recommend using a primer to seal the paintwork first.
Glossy paint can also be a particular nightmare to paint over because if not sanded back, new paint does not adhere to it. Although I’ve given the whole of our staircase a light sand, I haven’t sanded back our banister or spindles as these are much trickier and time-consuming to sand (and I have not got the time nor patience for it!). As these areas are also painted in gloss, I’m using the primer Zinsser BIN* on these areas. This is a shellac-based primer well known for covering glossy surfaces – I have used this on quite a few occasions and would not hesitate to recommend.
How To Paint a Stair Runner
Paint the Stairs with a Base Colour
Now the stairs have been thoroughly prepped, I could move on to painting. I’m using V33 Renovation Floor and Stairs* paint for this job which is designed to withstand foot traffic with its high resistance to shocks and abrasion. You don’t need a primer or undercoat for this paint, although you should give the surface a light sand beforehand. The paint comes with an additive which you mix into the paint prior to use and then I simply used a brush to apply the paint to all areas of the stairs, including the sideboards, spindles and banister too.
As I’ll be adding a painted runner, I didn’t need the paint the whole area of the actual steps, just the edges. Even though this part of the stairs was already white – you can see just how much brighter and fresher this new coat of white paint makes!
Measure and Pencil Your Runner Onto the Stairs
Okay, here comes the tricky part! If you have a nice straight staircase this will be fairly easy. If like us you have a curved (L-shape or U-shape) winding staircase, prepare for a bit of head-scratching!
The easiest way I found to mark up the runner, for the most part, was to measure from each side of the step and draw a line. My edges will be 16cm wide on each side, which meant my painted runner would be 54.5cm wide.
After three steps of marking this up, I realised the center post of our staircase would skew the measurements on the right-hand side as it protrudes from the sideboard. The measurement for this side would be inconsistent the further down the stairs I would go and as it wraps around to meet the bottom sideboard. To deal with this, I cut a piece of scrap wood at 54.5cm (the width of my painted runner) and measured 16cm on only the left side, then used my scrap wood to mark the runner. This meant I didn’t need to work out the new measurement on the right-hand side for each new step.
The final complication I faced, was on the corner step where neither method above really worked. I could have squared off the corner step (similar to this image), which was very tempting and probably would have been easier, but I felt trying to angle around the corner (similar to this) was possibly more in-keeping with period design – although, don’t quote me on that!
I felt the simplest way to mark up the corner step was to skip it, mark up all the other steps and then go back and essentially just join the lines up to fill in the gap. This may not be the best way to do it, but it certainly worked.
Apply Masking Tape
Once my pencil line was complete, I then added masking tape along the line. This will make painting my runner much quicker, but will also give me a crisper line too. Make sure you press the masking tape right into any corners (such as under the curves on our stairs) as you don’t want any gaps where your paint can bleed through. I used the end of my ruler to do this.
Paint the Stair Runner
And finally, we’re at the last step – painting the stair runner! I used V33 Renovation Floor and Stairs paint* in the colour ‘Feather Satin’ for this which is a very light grey. The first coat actually looks quite white but don’t panic, the colour did dry darker and looked even better with the second coat.
I applied the paint with a brush and painted in strokes going away from the masking tape, this will stop the bristles from getting underneath the tape or lifting it (this can particularly happen with low-cost masking tapes).
This paint is fast-drying and can be recoated in 3 hours which I loved because it meant the stairs were only out-of-bounds for a few hours and it also meant I was able to recoat the same day. I found I needed three coats for full coverage on the bare wood part of the stairs – here’s how it looked after the second coat (on the left) and the final third coat (on the right):
Remove Masking Tape and Touch Up If Necessary
The final part of this DIY painted stair runner was to remove the masking tape, pray it didn’t peel any paint whilst doing so, and also touch up any paint if necessary. Thankfully, no paint peeled but I did have the odd touch-up from paint bleeding through the tape, most likely from not being applied firmly enough.
I’m really liking the end result of this DIY. I chose quite light colours for the stairs because although this space is bright and airy, our staircase into the hallway below is NOT. Eventually, I’d like to create the same matching painted runner on that staircase, and I knew dark colours would not work in that space.
That said, I think I could have gone slightly darker on the painted runner as the contrast between the white and grey is quite subtle. But it works and it certainly makes this space look MUCH fresher!
You might have spotted the bottom half of the stairs has had its spindles covered over. We hope to remove this cover at some point in the future and fingers crossed the original spindles are underneath in good condition. This was a bigger job than I had time for at this moment, but don’t worry – it’s on the (very long) to-do list.
I think having painted stairs will also be much easier to keep clean as the old carpet runner we had previously was VERY dusty from years of renovations. The V33 Renovation Floor and Stairs paint* is stain, dirt, and impact resistant, but it’s also ultra washable too, so I think it will certainly be more suited to our current needs.
I’d love to know what you think of our new attic stairs and I hope this post was useful if you’re thinking of creating a DIY painted stair runner yourself.
*AD: This post was sponsored by V33. All words and opinions are my own.
*This post contains affiliate links where an asterisk (*) is used.
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