How to Paint Stairs {the Easy Way}

Considering painted stairs? Find out how to use paint to transform a staircase for a fresh, new look with this simple black and white staircase idea.

I shared our attic stair makeover a few weeks ago, and (in usual scattered Rachel fashion), I’m just getting around to the painted stairs “how to” that I promised.

I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath…

DIY Staircase update with paint- Maison de Pax

Ok, maybe not. But a girl can pretend, can’t she?! In all honesty, this might be one of the most dramatic makeovers we’ve done. Not because the before is so different from the after (because if that’s the comparison, then our attic definitely takes the cake… or maybe our master bath… or heck, the whole house).

Nope, it’s dramatic for me because it. is. just. paint.

Freshly painted attic stairs- Maison de Pax

I didn’t even have to remove any carpet. I just gave these old wooden stairs a fresh coat of paint. I’ve always said a coat of paint can go a long way, and BOY does this prove me right! And I kind of like being right… but I digress.

The case at hand: how to paint stairs {and prove Rachel right 😉 }.

I confess that I was dreading this (and I usually like to paint!), which is probably why it took me almost a year after we finished the rest of the attic to complete it. Oops. But honestly, it wasn’t that bad! The stairway is just off the upstairs hallway in our home, and I just wish I had done it sooner.

Totally transformed staircase by paint- Maison de Pax

The key? A HomeRight Finish Max Pro*. The nice folks at HomeRight sent me one to try, and they singlehandedly saved me HOURS of painting. Remember what these stairs looked like before?

Rustic old attic stairs- Maison de Pax

I sanded the corners of the new treads (which we put in to replace broken ones) so they would match the worn edges of the old ones and caulked the seams. I knew stain wasn’t an option because they had been painted previously.

So I primed the raw wood (places that had worn over the years and the two new treads). While doing that, I slapped on a little primer over the old paint on the stair risers because I knew I was planning to paint them white instead of brown. And when I say slapped, I mean it only took about 10 minutes total. Lightening up a dark paint color is always easier with a little primer.

Primed attic stairs- Maison de Pax

Then came the fun part. I taped off the walls and started spraying white paint. We used semigloss trim paint (to match the rest of the trim in the space), and we opted for water-based so it wouldn’t yellow.

Spray painting attic stairs- Maison de Pax

I was really worried about overspray ruining all the hard work we’d done in the attic, but the spray was very containable – just a few inches. And the coverage was amazing. Just one coat did almost all of it. I went back a couple hours later and touched up just a few spots. After letting it dry completely, I went in with a brush (starting at the top, of course!) and painted the black.

Simple black and white painted stairs- Maison de Pax

Fully covering the white with black paint by hand was way more work than spraying the entire unit. It took two coats of black to fully cover. We used satin porch and floor paint (specifically formulated for high-traffic areas) for a durable finish. I think the stark black treads are very eye-catching and such a focal point. We left the handrail stained to provide some continuity with the wood floors in the home.

Step by step instructions on how to paint stairs - amazing transformation! #diy #tutorial

Here’s a quick summary of the steps

  1. Prep

    Sand or scrape any flaking paint. Caulk any seams. Protect the surrounding areas with paper and masking tape.

  2. Prime

    Prime all exposed wood and any painted surface you plan to make lighter.

  3. Spray

    Use a paint sprayer to spray the single color covering the most surface area (likely the trim and riser color). Be sure to use trim paint (satin or semigloss).

  4. Paint

    Use rollers or brushes to paint the contrasting color(s). Use porch and floor paint for the treads to avoid scuffs, scratches, and chips.

And that’s it! I think painted stairs are SO versatile. Though ours is just to the attic and I kept the classic black and white, I could see these gracing entryways, sporting a pop of color, or even paired with elegant stair runners. You could even create stripes to give the look of a runner. The possibilities are practically endless.

And now the entrance to our little attic space is so much more inviting! Wouldn’t you agree?

Step by step instructions on how to paint stairs - Maison de Pax

Disclosure: I was compensated for my review of HomeRight’s Finish Max Pro, but as always, opinions and obsession with time-saving devices are 100% my own!

*affiliate link


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  1. Great projects of transformation Rachel!….and love the transformation of your home~ ~ ~ just beautiful !!

  2. I LOVE paint! We, too, painted our stairs because it was the only solution we could come up with to tie it into our new downstairs flooring that was NOT pine. We had to make some repairs to the previous owners carpentry skills. I painted the risers the same as our wall color and the treads I did in brown then glazed to mimic a dark wood, then poly-ed a couple of coats for wear. Your stairs look fabulous!

  3. Nice job. It’s amazing what a refreshed staircase can do for a space. I don’t have an attice staircase, but this makes me wish I did! 🙂

  4. Pingback: 15+ Black and White Home Decor Projects - Mommy Envy
    1. Thank you, Judy! The risers were an off-the-shelf extra white semigloss (to match the trim), and the trees were a satin porch and floor paint by Sherwin Williams. Hope this helps!

  5. I am currently redoing an attic space including a master bath! It’s been over a year and I still had not decided WHAT to do about the stairs. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your idea of the crisp black and white! We also did wood ceilings but washed them with milk paint. My question, what type of paint did you use for the treads? I was thinking milk paint as well for them with a clear coat sealer because the paint is unmatched in durability and is completely flat. Your opinion?

    1. Thanks, Pam! So glad you like it. I think the milk paint sounds wonderful, but I was wanting something that was one step, so I went with Sherwin Williams porch and floor paint. It was my first time using it, but I was really pleased with the result. If you’re up for a two step process, though, then milk paint and sealer isn’t a bad idea. The only thing to remember is that sealers sometimes are hard to touch up later. If it gets worn out, it may have to be removed before you can touch up (thought that certainly depends on the sealer you use). I liked that the porch and floor paint was latex and could therefore be touched up any time. I hope this helps!

  6. I saw you used SW Porch and Floor paint. How is the paint holding up? I saw online that it didn’t get very good reviews. 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t have much of an answer for you because we moved out of that home last summer. We lived there for a year or so after painting them, and didn’t see any issues. I was very pleased with them actually. 🙂 I should add, though, that those were not our main stairs. That staircase really did not get a lot of use, so we didn’t push the paint very hard.

  7. Nice job! These look exactly like my basement steps currently. What type of paint sprayer did you use?

  8. I am hoping to take this project on within the next couple of weeks or less. I am just worried about the product to use to seal or poly them. Also, if anyone knows what paint I should use for the hand rail, that would be awesome. These look great! super inspiration for my upcoming project….very nervous!

    1. I used high quality trim and floor paint (and didn’t seal the paint beyond those which aren’t intended to be sealed), and they held up well for the couple of years that we used them before we moved out of that home. For the handrail, again, a high quality trim paint should be sufficient (you’ll want at least satin if not semigloss for wipe-ability), unless you are planning to stain wood, in which case a few coats of polyurethane should do the trick. I hope this helps!

  9. I was expecting to read about tips to on how to paint stairs that have to be used while being painted. Do you paint every other step, waiting for each to dry before painting the other steps? Or is it possible to paint half of each step so that the other side can be used in going up and down, then when properly dried painting the other side of the step? What is the proper drying time before using?

    1. Those are great questions, but I’m afraid that wasn’t an issue for us as these were third floor stairs. Drying time will depend on the type of paint you use (be sure to read the instructions carefully), but spraying them definitely sped up the application time significantly, which allowed the paint to begin drying sooner. If they are stairs that you need to use during drying, then painting every other step is a great option!

    2. What I did was paint 1/2 of each tread while standing on the there half and then other side.
      There is a bit of reaching involved! But that worked fine for me, and I’m pretty short.. I didn’t want to have to step over alternate steps and risk tripping or something else clumsy.

  10. Silly question…we have teak stairs…hubby doesnt want paint at all so everything is stained and ‘woody looking so to speak…would it look sill to just paint risers and leave EVERY thing else stained??

    1. Our were not at all, but that’s probably due to two things. First, it probably helped that our wood was pretty old and not particularly fancy (these were attic stairs, after all); super slick nice wood might be more slippery. But, and this is the second reason, a good porch and floor paint shouldn’t be slippery at all. We used Sherwin Williams porch and floor paint and had great success. I hope this helps!

  11. Fabulous transformation. I love everything you did. I did not think your home could look any gorgeous than what it did when the bricks was red, boy, was I wrong!

  12. I am planning to redo our stairs entry way same as yours and glad I found your post. Can you please tell me what colors paint did you use for both steps and white ?
    Thanks a lot

    1. I’m so sorry, Irene, but I don’t remember the paint colors! I’m about 99% sure we used semigloss paint straight off the shelf for the white, and the black was a porch and floor paint by Sherwin Williams. It might have been Tricorn Black, but I’m afraid I don’t remember the color name for sure.

    2. Sherwin Williams off the shelf white is called “extra white”. We have used it throughout our home and I really love it. I want to do this to a staircase in our house and I have used Sherwin Williams Iron Ore on our front door so I think I will be using that on the tread.

      1. Curious if you ended up painting your stairs in iron ore? I am contemplating doing that exact combo. How did yours turn out? What finish did you go with? How are your painted stairs holding up? Thx

        1. Hi Megan! I’ll confess this is our old home so I don’t remember the paint color, but I do think Iron Ore would be a lovely choice.

  13. You did not mention one major issue with painted stairs. They are slippery! i tried Carpet treads, rubber mats the same color… Nothing worked until I sprayed a strip of non skid spray paint about 2″ wide along the front edge of the treads. It works perfectly to keep your foot from sliding. I used A non skid spray paint. It’s been a little over a year and I think it will need another coat before long. It wears off very very gradually snd is pretty much invisible on my black stairs.

  14. What kind of paint did you use? I want to paint my staircase and was thinking I need an extra sturdy paint to prevent wear?

    1. We used Sherwin Williams porch and floor paint for the black and regular trim paint for the white. Hope this helps!

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