DIY Black and White Staircase

Furniture and Cabinetry Redouxs, Tutorials

How to Paint Black and White Stairs Easily

DIY Black and White Staircase ………….Is Completed!!  (except for the railings on the 2nd floor of my house that no one but my family can see and I am so over this project that I need a break before I can go back to painting all those 1 inch round railings…..that is next…)

This post originally aired in 2014, it contains affiliate links:)  I am proud to share the links because I use the products myself every day.

How to paint a Black and White staircase without the Pain!!

The before was  carpet that looked lovely when we bought our home.  Fast forward 10 years,  dog, 3 children and at least 1,000,000 trips up and down the stairs. We knew we couldn’t keep cleaning the carpet and expecting it to still look presentable.

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Next came internet searches for painted sub flooring (we thought we had  run of the mill sub flooring under our carpet).  In a burst of ambitious DIY fever, we ripped it all up one day and even enlisted our kids in pulling it out.  We could hardly wait to see the glorious flooring beneath the carpet (or at least potentially glorious).

pullin up carpet on stairs redouxinteriors
OSB board

What we found was was a very chunky, but  durable form of ply wood.  We had OSB Board.  Not something that looks too great when painted. 

Redouxinteriors with dust mask

No problem, this is what sanding and primer are for, right?  My life became a dust cloud of sanded particle board.  I was forever wearing a mask.  I applied layers and layers of primer. Then I added filler primer.  I even carefully spackled and pasted to make the surface extra smooth.  Did I mention the bullnose on the sub floor was a big raggedy mess.  In my genius DIY mode, I decided to saw them off. YES, I PULLED OUT MY JIGSAW AND SAWED APART MY STAIRCASE.  The adventures in DIY surprises was just beginning. 

Now the floors were primed, mostly smooth.   However, they were about 2 inches short of a standard size adult foot.   This made walking up and down them feel awkward (and probably not very safe).  I convinced myself we could live with it.   We just had to get used to walking down the stairs and perfect our core strength for better balance.

Stairs all primed - Copy
DIY stairs gone wrong redouxinteriors.jpb

Now for the paint.  I wanted something “different” and rustic.  The original plan was Black and White, but I decided (must have been all that dust) that rustic would be a better look.  It was a HOT MESS.  The paint went down fine, but I got the glaze recipe mixed up.  Too much pigment here, not enough there.  I was starting to come apart at the seams.

DIY stairs gone wrong redouxinteriors.jpb

Whoops, some of the stairs didn’t match other ones.  Not to mention, when we pulled up the carpet, there was a giant gap between the stairs and the wall.  Denial was the river I was floating around on at this point.  In my head, I was going to make it work.  If only everything in my head translated to reality. 

When reality did settle in.  I woke up and faced facts.  THIS WAS NOT GOING TO WORK.

Stairs refinished unpainted redouxinteriors.jpg

I hired a local painter who also does beautiful trim work.  I purchased builder grade oak treads from Home Depot. This meant a little more work on my part to get them to a finished state.  But builder grade was far cheaper on the front end.  By the way, I would not recommend builder grade for staining, they are great for painting however. 

I highly recommend Oak for stair treads. It is hard as a rock and will hold up to all kinds of abuse.  And in this house, those stairs treads would be taking some abuse.  We used MDF for the risers and the beautiful trim.

Black and White stairs distressed in progress redouxinteriors

Now the priming began again. This time I enlisted my friend Emma.  My mental state was such that it may have stayed au natural until my children were grown and gone.  The priming got done, no problem.  Then, like a field that is over-farmed, and you need to let it lie fallow before you can plant again,  I decided enough work had been completed on the stairs for 2013 and they needed lay fallow. 

Black and White Stairs redouxinteriors

Usher in 2014.  What?  May 2014 already?  Where had the time gone?  Wasn’t it just yesterday (October) that we primed the stairs?   The calendar was telling me my children would be out of school soon and if the stairs were not completed, I could just forget finishing them until the Fall of 2014, making it one year from the priming job.  The DIY Black and White Stairs were going down in history as the longest running unfinished DIY painting project.

I gathered all my emotional reserves, gave myself a Vince Lombardi worthy pep talk and used every spare evening, Saturday, and moment I had. My emotional reserves were running thin. I was so tired, my game was in overtime, the clock was running against me at this point…..and I had to go back to sanding.  Yes, that is my old scary worker hand.   It is imperative you sand between priming coats. Especially with this heavy of a grain.  The primer really raised the grain.  A quick sand of 220 between priming coats gave me a very smooth surface, ready to take paint.

Black and White stairs sanding in progress redouxinteriors

I painted the treads and the bannister using a Chalk Based Paint.   **Update, if I were to do this project again, I would choose Debi’s DIY 100% Natural Clay Based Paints.  The colors are richly pigmented, the paints are so easy to use, and I would have had the Black and White Stairs project done way sooner.

black and white stairs bottom redouxinteriors.jog

I painted three thin coats, lightly sanding them with a 320 grit sandpaper between each coat.  I decided to lightly distress the banister and the treads as I did not want the overall look to be too formal, lest people who enter my home think someone serious lives here.

I painted every other tread.  I had an elaborate and complex system that changed daily of which tread could be stepped on and which could not.   Luckily, we are a bunch of tall folks.  Taking two steps at a time, leaping over two large landings was not too much of a stretch for us.  I considered just telling everyone to slide down the banister and avoid the stairs altogether.  Here is a quick video of our daily ups and downs, with the stairs I mean.

To darken the areas where I distressed, I went over the paint with a Coffee Bean Highly tinted Artist Paint.  I used the colorant this way so the distressing and wear and tear would not be as noticeable.

After the paint had dried for 24 hours, I sealed it with a natural sealer.   I would recommend using Debi’s DIY Big Top Finish, the easiest, most durable top coat I have ever used, hands down.

Big Top is not rated for flooring, but I wouldn’t say I like the idea of having a super toxic smell in my house.   Just like any clear coat, thin coats are essential.  3 Coats of an excellent top coat are plenty.   Again, lightly sand between coats with a 400 grit sand paper.   We are on week 2 of the stairs being finished, and so far, not a ding or a scratch.  

For risers, trim, and railings, I chose Sherwin Williams Trim to paint in White – Semi-Gloss.  This is a very durable paint.  All of my trim and baseboards are painted in this paint, and I wanted a cohesive look.

Pro Classic trim paint

Why didn’t I realize a Black and White Staircase is so much more striking than trying my hand at a new finish of faux rustic I had never even practiced before.  Why, why????

I learned a few tips along the way that you may want to consider if you are planning to paint your stairs.

#1 If you have a large staircase, plus landings, plan on this taking a long time.  It won’t be as painful if you have a shorter staircase.  For the hours I put in on the painted staircase, I could have painted every neighbor’s kitchen on my court.

Also, keep a picture of your dream in your head or nearby.  It will keep you focused and prevent you from going insane.

Black and White stairs in progress redouxinteriors

#2 If you have furry pets, consider banishing them to outside or loaning them to a friend for the project’s duration.  Neither option was available to me.  Dog hair became the bane of my existence.  I would wipe off dog hair, only to have it come floating down from the air two seconds later.  I could attribute 20 hours alone to removing dog hair.  My dog is my 4th child, so I forgave her for deliberately trying to sabotage my efforts.

As soon as the last coat of Top Coat dried, she took up her post again.  Sigh. 

#3 Get over being a perfectionist.  You will drive nuts if you try to ensure every detail is perfect.  Painting a Stair Case is just not possible to make it perfect unless you are a professional painter; you tent the area around it and spray it out.  Your Painted Stairs won’t be perfect, but no one will notice when the job is finished.

I am thrilled with how my imperfect home works together.  Bench made entirely of junk sits beneath my slightly imperfect DIY Black and White Stairs.

#4 When starting to go batty from painting the 100th railing, just be grateful you have the staircase and home to beautify in the first place.

#5 When all is completed, take a bajillion photos.  Text your family and friends to let them know you just finished your Opus Dei.   Stay up late doing nothing but staring at the staircase from different angles.  Turning other lights on and off to see how your Black and White Painted Staircase looks.

Then look around the rest of your house and start dreaming about what project you will tackle next. 

If you decide to DIY and Paint your stairs, especially if you decide on a DIY Black and White staircase, I am here for you.  It may have been a long, painful journey, but it was worth every piece of dog hair I picked out my paint in the end.

signature

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DIY Black and White Staircase

57 Comments

  1. Bliss

    Yes, they do look beautiful. And you have convinced me I will never ever paint my rails or stairs. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. CeCe Caldwell

    Your staircase is beautiful! Your patience inspires me! The picture of child #4 is fantastic; I do hope you have framed it. Wonderful job!

    Reply
  3. Mary

    Amazing! You deserve a party for completing this project!!!

    Mary

    Reply
  4. Heidi @ Honeybearlane

    I love this post. I love that you told the whole story–about how you tried it one way and it didn’t work so you did something else, and how long it took. That’s how almost all home projects end up–when is it ever perfect and problem-free? But it’s also the best way to learn. I’m proud of you for sticking it out and finishing it! I looks amazing! I may do this at some point in my house (although your post didn’t exactly make me excited haha). But the finished result is worth it. Great job!

    Reply
  5. Carol Lindberg

    So happy to read your staircase is finished. The pictures are superb! I congratulate you in sticking with the job to completion. Look me up on facebook as Carol Lindberg and then over on the left side click on Retirement and the latest news will come up about us. Life is good. Keep up the good work.
    Carol

    Reply
  6. Meg Swenson

    That looks amazing! I use the same sherwin williams trim paint and love love love it! You deserve a metal for your patience with this project! I’m still working on my staircase and I want to cry lol. Great Job!

    Reply
  7. Gigi Harlan

    Your stairway is gorgeous! I know a lot of hard work was involved and I admire how you kept going even in the face of many problems. The next thing you tackle will seem like a breeze compared to these stairs, lol. Enjoy the rest before you jump into something long and exhausting. Great job!

    Gigi @ Old World Patina

    Reply
  8. Christine

    Gorgeous!!!!! love the contrast

    Reply
  9. Shawn

    I have decided on a black and white staircase. I am now afraid, but have co-ordinated the floor on the top and bottom landings to match. I am now heavily invested in the idea. I am frightened. I have two furry cats that enjoy helping me in a project.

    And don’t feel badly about the staircase. My mainfloor bathroom is currently the worlds longest project, having stretched to about 4 years….

    Reply
  10. Josi

    I’m so happy I have a one story, this would inspire me to start ripping out carpet it’s so beautiful! I shared on my page too as I want everyone to be inspired and not intimidated.

    Reply
  11. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions

    Your stairs look great, Karen! Before we moved, I was wanting to do this to our stairs color and everything. We had pulled up our carpeting several years before and found a pine subflooring. It was liveable and my husband stained them to go with the oak banister. Then I found blogs and painted stairs! Now I don’t have stairs, but if I am ever in a house with stairs again, I think I’d like to have painted stairs.

    Reply
  12. cassie

    STUNNING!!!!!! you rocked it out!!! and i always love the glimpses of your home- it’s fabulous!

    Reply
  13. Kristie

    Amazing! A lot of work, but oh SO worth it. I love a good contrast so mixing the black and white was such a great idea. Good work!

    Reply
  14. Jeanne

    I am really glad you posted this today as I look at my stairs UNFINISHED!! I started this project about months ago and never finished, my goal is to do black and white but I still have not purchased the wrought iron spindles I was planning to replace my wood with, but I really like the idea of the black painted wood ones!! I laugh out loud because I did a blog post when I started this project showing my kids working on the stairs also!!! ha ha…. I have since installed hardwood on all the upper level of the house but not quite gotten to the finished stair project!!! So thanks… I gotta get to work on that!! Here is a quick link to the little post we did on painting our subfloors to get us through until the hardwood was installed… if you would like:
    http://www.idreamofjeannedesign.com/2013/05/how-to-paint-your-subfloors.html
    Have a great day!

    Reply
  15. Sue V.

    I think that is the most ambitious project I’ve seen chronicled online. The staircase turned out beautifully! You should be so proud!

    Reply
  16. Angela

    They look amazing! I just had to laugh at the dog hair comments- I started to paint my hallway and stairs at the same time a few months ago…and it is still not finished as I just left it alone. This makes me feel better that eventually I will get it done!

    Reply
  17. Christy@Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer

    For all the trouble, at least they turned out fabulous!! I can imagine how long it would take if you have to stay off the staircase. I still don’t think it would be done at my house! Have a great week! XO

    Reply
  18. Rose Heath

    VERY nice! Wonderful job and a ton of hard work!! Thanks for showing us!

    Reply
  19. Katie @ Upcycled Treasures

    Karen, WOW talk about a labor of love! Your stairs look absolutely amazing and were definitely worth it, even if it took longer than expected, haha. I can definitely relate to that…. and to dog hair in my paint 🙂 Thanks for sharing at The Makers!

    Reply
  20. Amanda {Burlap & Babies}

    Wow! The stairs are gorgeous and so worth all the time you spent!! Love the contrast. Great job!! Would love if you linked up to our Motivational Monday party on Burlap and Babies.

    {http://www.burlapandbabies.com/2014/06/motivational-monday-jun16.html}

    Reply
  21. KARIN

    Oh KAREN!…karen Karen Karen…..they are GORGEOUS….but I will admit to a cold sweat forming on my brow and seemingly having flashbacks of that sinking ship feeling we all get when things are not going as we planned…I am so glad (even if it took a while) that you got the desired look…I myself was picturing myself from some bugs bunny cartoon with a TnT box ready to blow up the stair case…LOL I am so beyond happy for how beautiful it turned out for you….Now go take a break..:)
    Hugs my friend..
    Amazing Amazing JOB!
    Karin

    Reply
  22. CD Loken

    Oh my goodness, Karen! I love your staircase-and I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read your post! You sound just like me, after recently painting our kitchen cabinets. I think I’ll wait a bit before tackling our staircase!!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  23. Corey @ Tinysidekick

    I don’t even know what to say! The transformation here blows my mind. It looks so amazing. Great job even if you did hit a few bumps in the road. Thanks for linking up with us at The Makers!

    Reply
  24. Tami @ Curb Alert!

    Karen, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow! Your staircase is gorgeous and from the small sneak peeks in the pictures so is the rest of your home. Great job! You deserve a big ole glass of wine after this one!
    ~Tami

    Reply
  25. Kathryn Griffin @TheDedicatedHouse

    You amaze me! Thank you for sharing. You will be one of the features tomorrow at the Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House. Hope to see your prettiness again tomorrow at the bash! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

    Reply
  26. Debbie

    They look beautiful . I wanted to take the carpet off our stairs but hubby said no and now glad he did
    If it took me that long to do the project …..and it would plus longer
    There would be a velvet rope at the bottom to keep everyone off and then they
    Would have to have booties to walk on it. You are amazing for your patience.

    Reply
  27. Kathy

    Great post – big, big job! It looks fantastic – fabulous tips. I’m working on painting my dining room – the walls are plaster – there’s no even line any where – I agree with you – let go of perfection – but, I’m trying to get as close as possible 😉
    I’m Pinning!
    Kathy

    Reply
  28. DeDe@DesignedDecor

    They look beautiful! Wow, what a nightmare you went through! I have this project on my list and I am so afraid to rip up the carpet and see what lurks under neath!

    Reply
  29. sarah @ {Home-ology} modern vintage

    Your staircase is stunning. Truly gorgeous. And thank you from the bottom of my heart for convincing me that ripping out the carpet and painting our stairwell isn’t something I want to tackle on my own. I was seriously considering it up until now.

    Reply
  30. Leigh Anne

    They look fantastic! Glad you made it through. I want black and white stairs SO BAD, to lead right up to my black and white hallway but I am SO not ready to take the project on. Whew! I’m tired just reading what you went through. So worth it though, right?

    Reply
  31. anonymous

    I’m SO ready to get rid of our stair carpeting too! It was sorta ‘mashed down’ when we moved in and now a little more than 2+ years later, it really doesn’t look nice….and we have 3 dogs 😉

    I see painted steps on the horizon as well as painted floors (all will have the carpeting removed…yay!) I think my steps will be gray treads and white risers though to coordinate with the wall and trim colors.

    And thankfully I only have 6 steps to do.

    LOVE your steps! Wonderful job!

    Reply
  32. Teeter Hang Ups EP-560 review

    Hi there i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace, when i
    read this article i thought i could also create comment
    due to this sensible piece of writing.

    Reply
  33. Beth

    Karen this looks FANTASTIC!!!! You did a fantastic job!

    Blessings,
    Beth

    Reply
    • GTC

      Thanks so much Beth! Lots of work, but well worth the effort!

      Reply
  34. june olsen

    What a transformation! Your new stairs look great! Love the black and white!

    Reply
    • GTC

      Thank you so much June! I love them everyday. Well worth the work.

      Reply
  35. Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage

    Worth all the effort – hopefully your “forced into manual labor” kids think so too! And it’s dog approved which is always a plus!

    Reply
    • GTC

      It’s dog proof to a point. Something no one with black treads tells you. Dog Hair shows up very well. Maybe I should have rescued a black haired dog instead…

      Reply
  36. Dorris

    So happy I found your site! I’ve only come across one other person who ripped up carpet and found OSB or something other than real wood!! Good for you for sticking with it!

    Reply
    • GTC

      Thanks so much Dorris!! It is a lot of work, but worth it! I had to search high and low for any examples too, there aren’t many out there!

      Reply
  37. Lucy Gladstone

    Hi there!!
    Your DIY staircase is simply AMAZING! My husband embarked on a similar project and have hit a stall. My hubby wants to know if you primed both risers and treads? We are having to reconsider as we don’t have it in us to sand and stain. Considering painting now before a runner is installed. Thank you!

    Reply
    • GTC

      Hi Lucy! Sorry for the long awaited reply. Yes, I primed both the treads and the risers. I used Zinsser Shellac. It is like an oil based primer, but water based clean up. I primed 2 coats. CeCe Caldwell’s paints doesn’t usually require any kind of primer for adhesion, but because we were walking on these treads regularly, I wanted a little extra insurance. Just a note, CeCe Caldwell’s is not rated for flooring, but I have had fantastic success.

      Reply
  38. Meredith

    So grateful I found your realistic make-over! I peaked under my carpet and found similar problems, i.e., gaps between wall and tread, stair end caps and tread aren’t level, and though there are solid pine treads, they are in bad shape from overspray, too thick, and no bullnose edge. Your post is allowing me to plan and tackle my project with “eyes wide open” so I don’t get in over my head. Thankfully I am still motivated. Just need to save a bit more money. Appreciate you hard work and sharing! Well done!

    Reply
  39. Teri B.

    Karen, I am curious as to why you needed a primer first. I am intending to rip out the carpeting on my stairs going to the lower level and I know there is no hardwood underneath. My project will be similar to yours. I haven’t found a primer that doesn’t make me sick, so I am wondering if you think I could skip that step and just paint with CCC?

    Also, how is the Endurance holding up?

    Reply
    • GTC

      Hi Teri, I put the primer down to add an extra layer of adhesion since I knew this area would receive the most daily abuse. I don’t know of a Primer that doesn’t smell! With CeCe Paints, you really don’t need a primer, it sticks well to any surface. The Endurance is holding up well, but it is not rated for flooring. If I had to do the project again, I would have used a marine type sealer that was super heavy duty. I chose the Endurance because I wanted a natural product, and knew there would be wear and tear. I like the subtle wearing that has occurred. My stairs don’t look overly beat up, they look “lovingly worn”. If I wanted to keep them pristine, then I would go with a sealer designed for flooring and wear a respirator while working with it. Hope that helps!

      Reply
      • Teri B.

        Thank you for your helpful comments. If I used anything stronger than Endurance, I would have to move out until it finished outgassing. Since it is a narrow stairwell where smells linger, I will have to opt for “lovingly worn”. At least I know what to expect, so thanks again.

        Reply
  40. Donna

    Are the stairs slippery?

    Reply
    • GTC

      Hi Donna, the stairs are not at all slippery. Maybe they were the first week? But having a family of 5 and a dog walk up and down them all day, they are just right.

      Reply
  41. Christin Hards

    Love the post about the stairs. A friend of yours gave me you card some time ago. Mrs. Bledsoe. I painted my dining room table with chalk paint and the wax finish is not really working out as expected. Too soft? Overtime I write on a piece of paper on the dining room table I can see the imprint of my writing. Its one coat and has cured for several months now. Sigh. Thinking of poly now. Trying to find out whether certain waxes result in a harder finish than what I used. Haven’t had success yet in finding this out.

    Anyway, your stairs gave me hope that maybe eventually I will find the solution needed.

    Reply
  42. Navy

    Stairs look amazing. Great work !!! Do you happen to have a picture of the stairs from the top view ? I am also looking into a similar remodel. Wondering how the top view with all black looks? Any idea how much it might cost if i were to hire a contractor to rip out the carpet and do the black and white stairs? Thank you for the post!!

    Reply
    • GTC

      Hi there, thank you so much for the sweet comment! I don’t have a picture from the top view and since we did the work ourselves, I don’t know what it would cost to have the carpet ripped out. It actually wasn’t that hard, just dirty!

      Reply
  43. house

    Looks amazing ! Great work!!

    Reply

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