Keep on Finishing™

Our Sites
Our Sites
ShareThis Page

First-Class Flight. Woodworking Ideas for your home.

Wood Project Inspiration
Wood Project Inspiration

Clever renovations show how stylish stairways can be.

In most homes, the main stairway greets all who come in the front door, creating a grand entrance; in others, it rises along a living room wall, less visible but no less a key feature of a house's style. Many stairways, especially those in older homes, were built to be a house's showpiece, and when time and traffic wear on them, they deserve careful restoration. Stairways that aren't so stylish can benefit from a makeover, with plain parts being replaced by ones that are more distinctive. Sometimes, home expansion calls for a new set of stairs, raising the opportunity to add a fresh design element. The projects that follow cover all three instances-restoration, enhancement and new construction-and show how nice it can be to "get there" in style.

Colonial Revival

Almost as soon as they bought their stately center-hall Colonial, the new owners started in on some careful restoration. They were especially keen to return the entry hall to its original glory, particularly the elegant staircase that took three turns as it wound up two flights. Some of the parts were painted, while others had been left natural, but they all needed careful scraping and sanding to remove old finish and smooth decades of wear and tear. When the repainting was done, the oak treads and the foyer floor were finished with Minwax® Super Fast-Drying Polyurethane Floors in a semi-gloss sheen, turning this nearly new stairway into a truly delightful climb.

The New Hue

Even though classic Victorians frequently boast an eclectic, "painted lady" collection of colours on the outside, their interiors are often ruled by a less spirited palette of off-whites and beiges. The owners of this turn-of-the-century house wanted to change all that, starting with their main stairway. When they first began restoring it, they found both good news and bad. The good news was that the treads and risers, which had been wrapped in carpeting for decades, were in remarkably good shape. The bad news, however, was that the newel post, the railing and all the balusters were in far worse shape. The post was cracked, and paint on the railing and balusters had seeped deep into the wood's pores. Bottom line. They all had to be replaced. But that turned out to be good news because now the owners could install a style that truly fit with the house's fancy trim and moldings.

After the oak stairs were sanded clean, they were stained with Minwax® Wood Finish&trade: Ipswich Pine and then given two coasts of Minwax® Water Based Polyurethane Floors in a semi-gloss sheen. For ease and neatness, the new parts were stained and finished before they were installed. The newel post and railing were stained and finished with the same Ipswich Pine and the polyurethane, but the balusters and side trim got a shot of creativity with three decorator colours of Minwax® Water Based Wood Stain: Pearl Gray, Buckskin and Cherry Blossom (before staining they were treated with Minwax® Water Based Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner). After two coasts of Minwax® Polycrylic® Protective Finish Semi-Gloss, the beautifully colourful balustrade was installed, and the old stairway took on a whole new look.


When you apply multiple stains, use a brush loaded with only a small amount to ensure against accidental bleed-over of colour. You can also use masking tape to separate an area for staining.