staircase renovation zebra print
Home and interiors

Home renovation DIY: how to strip and repaint a staircase

Are you looking to transform your staircase but you don’t know where to start? You need to read this expert guide on how to strip and repaint a staircase.

Welcome to The Curiosity Academy, Stylist’s new learning hub where you can access workshops, how-to guides, new research and learn the most up-to-date skills from the UK’s most in-the-know people.

Renovating your own home is a project people dream of taking on. So many 20 and 30-somethings spend years thinking about their ideal kitchen, the living room they want to spend evenings in for the rest of their life or a bathroom perfectly tailored to their needs. And now, people are thinking about the incredible staircases they could own and transform (the hashtag #staircaseporn on Instagram has over 12,000 posts).

Renovating your staircase can transform the way you look at your home. It’s not only one of the features you use most often in your house but it’s also probably one of the first things you and your guests see when you walk in the front door.

Lots of houses have old or boring carpets fitted on the staircases, or maybe the staircase is made from wood that needs some TLC. Either way, taking some time to bring your staircase back to life is a job worth doing.

You may also like

Home renovation journey: “How I made my cottagecore renovation dreams come true”

If you’re looking to spruce up your staircase but don’t know where to start, fear not, because we’ve recruited the help of Faye Scott-Maberley, also known as @handy.gurl on Instagram, to share her guide on how to strip and repaint a staircase.

How to strip carpet on a staircase

Stripping your staircase of carpet is actually as simple as it sounds, according to Faye.

“It’s really easy – you’re just ripping the carpet up from the corner and tearing it out of the floor,” Faye says. If you’re struggling to rip the carpet up from the corner, you can use a stanley knife to help separate it. But from there, it will just be a process of pulling the carpet up with your hands, which though straightforward, can feel tedious, so make sure you’ve got a podcast or great playlist to accompany you.

“If you’re living in a really old house, the bottom of the carpet might have black tar on it because that was how it was stuck down in the past,” Faye adds. “If it does, you can simply use a sander to remove this from your floors.”

How to sand your staircase floors

The next crucial – and potentially the most time-consuming – step is to sand your staircases. Sanding your floors will stop them from feeling so rough, making it a lot easier to add paint or varnish afterwards.

“For a lazy option, you can sand the floors down with a hand sander,” Faye says, adding that this is the best option if you’re painting your stairs.

The more traditional option is to hire a sander to take your staircase back to its original state. “This is easier with floorboards because there aren’t many nooks and crannies but it’s a bit more difficult on staircases,” Faye adds. She recommends that you use an edging sander or an orbital hand sander, starting with 40 grit sandpaper and working your way up – which means the sandpaper gets finer – to 80 grit sandpaper.

“Always hoover in between each sand,” Faye suggests. “It gets really messy if you don’t.”

How to varnish your staircase

If you’re looking to varnish your staircase for a natural wood effect, Faye suggests using a floor lacquer in a light colour or a clear matte varnish. “Apply this all over and then apply a hardener varnish like Bona on top and leave that for around 12 hours,” she says, adding that you should start this process at the top of your stairs so you don’t get trapped on the first floor of your house.

“After 12 hours, give the floors a buff with your sander, using 120 grit sanding paper to make it silky and then hoover,” Faye continues. 

To create a contrasting effect, you could paint your skirting boards and your bannisters. Or, for a more natural look, you can leave them in their original state.

How to paint your staircase

If you want to paint your actual stairs, you should use a small foam roller and a small paintbrush to reach nooks and crannies, making sure you add masking tape to skirting boards. “I like to use Farrow and Ball paint but you can use any water-based paint,” Faye says.

You should paint a minimum of two thin coats in your colour of choice, adding more if you want to make the colour darker or bolder.

  • Faye Scott-Maberley, founder of Handy Gurl

    Woman in pink overalls in pink decorated room
    Faye owns her own DIY business.

    Faye is a queer painter and decorator based in East London. She founded her DIY company, Handy Gurl, during lockdown and she now employs other women who work all over London to help people renovate their homes.

Images: Carla Elliman, Faye Scott Maberley