How to paint a staircase – 10 tips for updating your stairs

Paint a staircase with this easy DIY how-to that you can do in just a weekend

Painting stairs
(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Need to know how to paint a staircase? Painting stairs is such an easy DIY job that can totally change the look of your hallway or landing. 

If you have been blessed with a wooden staircase and looking for a cheap way to decorate them, a lick of paint would be our first point of call. 

We have seen so many great painted staircase ideas that we just had to pay homage to the trend by sharing some of our favourites and telling you how it is done. 

So read on, and before you know it you will be poised – paintbrush in hand – ready to tackle this weekend project.

How to paint a staircase in easy steps

1. Prep and repair your staircase

black painted wooden staircase in a white hallway with black picture frames and plants

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

While paint is perfect for making over an old staircase, you need to make sure it is in good nick before you start. Repair any loose or broken parts, and fill any dents. 

You can paint both bare wood and painted wood, but if the stairs are very old and have many layers of paint on, you might want to strip them back first. This can be done using paint stripper, a heat gun or sanding – but take care as old paint may be lead based. 

Read our guide to maintaining your staircase for more advice on renovation.

Once repaired, sand the surface then make sure the stairs are clean and free from dust. 

Top tip: On bare wood you may want to use a resin and knot blocking primer.

2. Choose suitable paint for your staircase 

painted staircase makeover in grey and white tones

(Image credit: Pete Helme/Rust-Oleum)

While you can use any wood paint, those designed for floors are best as they are designed to be more durable. It needs to be walked all over of course. If you do choose to use wood paint, a satin finish may be more forgiving.

However, remember that floor paints are designed to be less slippy. Gloss and satin might be fine for risers, but could prove dangerous if used on the tread itself.

For the best wood paint head over to our guide and we have a round up of the best washable paints too. 

3. Follow our staircase painting tips

Striped runner up stairs

(Image credit: Roger Oates)
  • For a smooth finish use a small roller but cut in with a paintbrush (see our pick of the best).
  • Start early and preferably when everyone is out for the day. You need to factor in drying time which will be at least a few hours to be touch-dry and longer before you should be walking on it. If your only loo is upstairs, you might need to plan an alternative.
  • It may sound obvious, but start at the top and work down so you don't get stuck upstairs (unless you are painting upwards from a basement of course).

4. Pick a bold colour for your staircases 

yellow staircase in a white hallway

(Image credit: Bruce Hemming)

The simplest way to add impact to your hallway is with a bold contrasting colour on your staircase. This is great if you have gone for a neutral scheme for your walls.  Be brave. Bright yellow? Why not? Neon pink? Hot, hot, hot. Teal? Now you're talking.

Lindsey Davis
Lindsey Davis

Lindsey is Editor in Chief for Homes Ecommerce at Future meaning she spends her waking hours helping you find the best products – everything from soft furnishings to refrigerators – for your home. She started her journalism career in children's publishing before joining the Homebuilding & Renovating team in 2013. When she isn't reviewing products for our buying guides, or searching for the best bargains, she can be found rearranging her furniture in a vain attempt to make space, or cooking something new. She aspires to build her own home, but for now is busy tackling the ever-growing list of projects in her Victorian cottage.