If I told you, you could makeover your staircase in less than 8 days and for $230, would you try it? Today I’m partnering with DAP® Canada to show you how to paint stairs and save thousands of dollars!

This article is a long time coming.

Like 10 months looooooong before coming.

Not because of the work – I was able to completely refinish my stairs in 8 days (including dry time) – but because I was intimidated.

Yes, big projects still intimidate me; “Can I do this?” “Will it be horrible?” “Can I afford to hire someone if I screw up?”

In this case I was pretty sure the answers were “Yes”, “Can’t get any worse than it is” and “Definitely not”.  It was the “Definitely not” that held me back; the quote to have them professionally refinished was just over $4,000 CDN. 

I had the carpeting removed last November and we’ve spent the last 10 months with this:

cherry staircase, oak staircase, oak stairs

getting ready to sand oak staircase

I am a shameful, shameful, lacklustre DIYer.

Knowing what products I was going to need to finally tackle this project, I reached out to DAP® Canada and asked if they’d consider partnering.  So yes, while this is a sponsored post, it was 100% me that initiated the contact because I needed DAP® products to see this through.

The steps for refinishing stairs with a stain finish will be different – you will need to sand to bare wood, stain the treads and the risers, then finish with a durable clear coat.

My stairs were so scratched, dented, and damaged from wear and tear and carpet staples, that staining really wasn’t an option for me.

How to paint stairs – Day 1

Step 1

Remove as many staples as humanly possible.  This sucked – no pretty way to say it.  I tried needle nose pliers, screwdrivers, a small pry bar and eventually landed on this little tool that worked a breeze!  If there are still raised nails or staples that can’t be removed, now’s the time to countersink them below the surface of the wood.

Step 2

Rough sand.  Yes, it’s tedious and very, very messy, but you have to remove years of furniture polish, or oil soap (if you’ve washed your stairs) as well as dirt, grime and as much of the varnish coat as you can.  My staircase has a landing between levels, so there was a bit of extra sanding needed.

rough sanded the landing

How to paint stairs – Day 2

Step 3

Now it’s time to bring out the DAP® WoodPro All Purpose Wood Filler.

DAP WoodPro wood filler

There was a LOT of damage that this little container of DAP® WoodPro needed to fix:

Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs

I applied a generous layer of wood filler to the treads, lightly sanded once dry, then applied a second layer to any marks that were deeper, or that I’d missed on the first go.

Lightly sand again with 150 grit sandpaper then clean the stairs to remove all dust and debris.

Step 4

Cut your risers.  I used 1/8″ MDF (medium density fibreboard) and cut each board separately as there can sometimes be variations in heights of the risers.  MDF is usually sanded to 150 grit, so you don’t need to sand them, but you do need to prime.

first coat of white paint on the risers

Step 5

No makeover project, least of all a tutorial on how to paint stairs, would be correct without at least one coat of primer.  If I were smart, I would have had my primer tinted – HIGHLY RECOMMEND – but I’m not, so there you have it. 🤷🏻‍♀️  I primed the treads, landing and handrails. Primer will raise the grain of your wood slightly, so you’ll want to lightly hand-sand them with 320 grit sandpaper to get a buttery smooth base to paint on.

priming the staircase

How to paint stairs – Day 3

Step 6

It’s time to get your paint-on!  My go-to paint for surfaces that will see a lot of wear and tear is Benjamin Moore’s Advance formula in pearl; it hardens as it cures and will give you a surface durability second only to an oil paint, but without the smell or mess.

I used Onyx Black for the treads and handrails and painted every other step so that I could still use the stairs to go to bed.  First coat of paint on every other tread, and first coat of Cloud White on the MDF risers

paint every other step so your staircase is still usable

priming the landing

How to paint stairs – Day 4

Step 7

First coat of paint on the remaining treads. Advance paint has a 16 hour re-coat time, but you can carefully walk on it after about 6.  I managed to get a 2nd coat of black on the remaining treads today as well.  Second coat of white on the MDF risers.

How to paint stairs – Day 5

Step 7

Second coat of paint on every other tread.  Third coat of paint on every other-other tread.  Third coat of paint on the risers.  The painter’s tape marks which steps are dry and can be stepped on.

Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs

How to paint stairs – Day 6

Step 8

Now it gets exciting!  The staircase is still looking rough; sure the treads are cleaned up and looking good, but the cherry-stained risers are still an eyesore.  Day 6 is the day you attach the risers!

Bring out your DAP® Max Strength Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive and your caulking gun.  Apply a generous layer of the adhesive to the back of each riser then tap into place with a rubber mallet.

DAP® Max Strength Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive is a premium hybrid adhesive that delivers 5X faster bond strength than competitive polyurethane-based heavy duty adhesives for heavier applications where bond strength and speed are critical.


DAP construction adhesive and caulking gun

If you’ve cut your MDF risers correctly, they should fit snugly below the bullnose on the underside of your step.  You can use finishing nails to hold in place if you want to, but the adhesive is more than strong enough to hold the risers for years to come – just be sure to make solid contact.

DAP construction adhesive

Look at the difference!!

Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs


Sure, I could have painted the risers, but this is SO MUCH EASIER and gives a much cleaner finish.

How to paint stairs – Day 7

Step 9

You could actually fit today’s job into Day 6, but if you’re like me, the muscles were a little achey and more painting just wasn’t high on my list.  Day 7 (or Day 6½) is all about sanding and priming the handrails, and painting the trim/stretchers and balusters.

Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs

How to paint stairs – Day 8

Step 10

This is the third DAP® product you will need for your staircase makeover – DAP® Alex Flex Premium moulding & trim acrylic latex siliconized sealant.  (aka trim and crown caulking)

DAP Canada, DAP construction adhesive, DAP WoodPro, DAP Alex Flex caulk

Your steps will have small gaps where they meet up with the stringers and where the risers meet the treads.  Dust and dirt will accumulate there and make it tedious to clean.  For a clean, professional finish, you’ll want to caulk the gaps.

I am TERRIBLE with caulking; I always over-squeeze and end up with caulk oozing everywhere. A trick I’ve learned is to tape either side of the area you are about to caulk – about 1/8″ from either side of the seam – then squeeze your caulking between the pieces of tape.  Use your finger to press the caulk into the seam, then remove the tape (which will be covered with ooze) for a perfect finish!

caulking your staircase

caulking your stairs


It’s a small thing, but without it all of your work will be left looking unfinished and less-than-professional.  It also crisps up any paint lines that weren’t perfectly straight 😉

Step 11

Without getting any dust or dirt into your wet caulk, it’s time for touch-ups.  A final coat of paint on the handrails, corrections to any areas that you might have missed, and a second coat on the balusters if they need it.

Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs

Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs


Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs


painted landing
(freshly washed, so that is the swirls you see)

Eight days to a brand new staircase!

Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs



Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs


I can’t believe I let it go for so long when the project ended up being pretty easy.  Sure, the sanding will make your old back ache, and climbing up and down the stairs a million times will bring your gluteus muscles back from their state of atrophy, but SO WORTH IT!

I mentioned that the quote I received from a professional flooring company was just over $4,000 CDN right? 

That’s a savings of $3,770!!

If you divide that by 8 days of work (even though most were not 8 hour days), then I just “paid myself” almost $60/hour!!

Outside of illness or injury, how could you NOT DIY your staircase?!

Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs

Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs

Staircase makeover, how to paint stairs

Thank you DAP® Canada – I (literally) couldn’t have done it without you!

Have a great one!