Staircase Upgrade: Lots of Work, But Affordable!

When we first walked into this house, the staircase was scary. I mean, literally - our son walked upstairs and was scared to walk back down, because there was no hand rail. Also, it looked terrible. It will never be wide, or have fancy railings or windows... but I knew it could be a nice little staircase! Our goals were making it bright, clean, and simple.  We wanted the space to look fresh and new, but also to preserve some character. The wood treads are worn in the middle, and have some interesting dents and marks that show their history - it was important to retain that while making the space feel overall updated.

The staircase begins at the landing between our kitchen and downstairs half bath, and leads to the upstairs bedrooms and full bath. The room right at the top of the stairs seen in the photos is the upstairs bath, which you may remember we have some big plans for!

BTW, no worries - my kids can walk down the stairs now. The previous owners had to add a railing in order for our loan to get approved by the bank. Is it the railing I would have chosen? Probably not, but it isn't too bad!

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

See those old brown doors at the top of the stairs? We're working RIGHT NOW to make them beautiful! I can't wait to share all about it! I'm over on Instagram with real-time updates.

Check out what it looked like right before we moved in:

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

Yikes, right? We were dealing with damaged risers that were an old blue color, but had carpet tacks sticking out from them - so the previous owners must have had a runner at some point? Also, dirty treads with old, dry wood, wood paneling, walls that were only painted with primer, and brown-swirled ceiling tiles. While I would love to tear out the wood paneling and ceiling tiles, right now that just isn't in the budget or time frame - it would be SO much work and expense. So, we're making the best of it and working with them!

For the stair risers, we used paint leftover from our downstairs bath renovation - Dark Linen by Benjamin Moore. Before painting, I removed all of those pesky carpet tacks, did a lot of spackling and painted a coat of primer. We bought 1 gallon of Dark Linen color matched in Valspar Signature when we painted the downstairs bath, and I worried it wouldn't be enough. I was wrong! Since then, I've repainted two walls of the downstairs bath after we got blown-in insulation, painted the insides of the kitchen cut-out, and these stair-risers... and still have some leftover. It's like the miracle gallon of paint.

For the walls, we went with White Dove by Benjamin Moore, the trim is Simply White by Benjamin Moore, and the ceiling tiles are Sweet Slumber by Valspar. I love a blue ceiling, what can I say.

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

Those stair treads though! I was not looking forward to completely sanding them down and refinishing them, and knew I would miss that aged quality. I thought about trying a gel stain, but the treads were already pretty dark. I considered just using a floor polish, but I have vivid memories of sliding down my grandmother's stairs many a time due to a slippery, just-waxed floor. Then getting yelled at for walking on the just-waxed floor.

Then I found this Hardwood Floor Reviver by Minwax when walking around a local hardware store! It is amazing. Truly, sincerely awesome. This post isn't sponsored - I am just super impressed with this stuff. I gave the floors a good scrub, then used one of those paint mitts (like this one), and rubbed on a coat of Floor Reviver. I followed the directions for how long to wait afterwards, and eventually added two more coats. It is shiny, clean, and surprisingly not any more slippery than it was before. The wood no longer looks dull and dead - it looks so nice, and for $20 it saved me a whole lot of time spent refinishing these suckers!

We used this type of caulk, this type of spackle, and this type of paint.

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An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

What a difference caulk makes, right? The hardest part of this project was dealing with all the trim. It took a LOT of caulk, let me tell you. I started with wiping every single surface down with a TSP cleaner, then giving the trim a light sanding. Then, I used trim nails to repair the wood paneling and trim in places it was loose. I worked my way over the walls and stair risers with spackle to fix up the worst dents and old nail holes. We primed pretty much every surface, and I the spent1000000000000 days caulking. Lastly, we added two coats of paint to the walls, ceiling tiles, trim, and risers. And then I had a glass of wine and took a nap.

Things got dicey when painting the highest part of the ceiling; I managed part of it by taping the paint brush to a painting pole - it was pretty effective! Caulking a few spots was tough, though.... I tried every single thing I could think of with a ladder, and just couldn't reach them. Finally I used old boards and cinder blocks to build out the steps by stacking on lower steps so I could walk out further from the higher ones - don't try this at home. I'm honestly glad I have no pictures of it, and a little surprised I survived.

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

The whole space turned out so bright, pretty, and clean! Even the wood paneling feels more natural, right? (please say it does please)

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

See what I mean about those ceiling tiles? Woof. That's what I was dealing with before the magical powers of caulk and paint saved the day. I had already started priming the ceiling, in these photos.

Just for fun, here is a quick before & after side-by-side comparison (using Fotor, which is so awesome in case you haven't tried it yet!)...

An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com

Every time I walk up the stairs, I'm so happy - the whole house feels more pulled together now. After we are done updating the upstairs bathroom and our bedroom, I think the staircase will be a great introduction to those spaces.

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

We aren't done though! We still need to finish updating the doors, add baseboards at the top landing, and replace the light fixture.

Have you used leftover paint in other spaces in your home? Or found that one magic color that just seems to work everywhere?