Staining Pine Stair Treads

We had gorgeous weather this weekend, temperatures reaching into the 70’s ….. YEAH!  But yesterday brought us snow and cold temperatures.  Boo! 

I wish Mother Nature would stop being so moody!  She is either throwing one last temper tantrum or she is suffering from PMS??! Should I hold it against her? 

Nah…..the sun is shining bright today and is definitely lifting my spirits.  It is either that or the fact that I am now off until Monday!! 😉
staining pine stair treads
If truth be told, I would kind of  like to throw a little tantrum of my own.  These stairs are kicking my butt!  Taking way too long ….. and much bigger than I anticipated.  It doesn’t help matters that I had to put it on the backburner until the new shower tile was installed.  If you missed that unexpected, unplanned project you can catch up over here.  I don’t think any of you would blame me if I did a little kicking and screaming right about now, but as the sun is shining thru the den windows, and Rudy is sleeping peacefully next to me…..all is good in the world!  Let’s just hope the sun is here to stay!!

How to stain pine stairs
I am going to tell you a little secret.  Except for 2 small touchups, the stairs are done! 😉

I wish I could show you everything now, but I still have a lot of sifting and sorting through photographs, editing them and then actually putting my thoughts down.  Truth be told, I have to remember what I actually did start to finish.  So much has happened the past 3 weeks, and I don’t think that I did it the proper way (by whose standards I cannot tell you) and I think I cheated a little……but the end result is making me very happy!  If I could carry a tune, I would actually be singing to you right now!  Don’t worry….I won’t put you through that horror!

DIY Interior Stairs
Let me quickly remind you where we left off.  (If you want to start at the beginning, you can get caught up here)  Carpet is up, the pine stairs have been sanded, sanded and sanded some more.   Sadly, I did not get the arms of my dreams by doing most of it by hand!!!  Sigh! 

I don’t know if I told you this, but I did use wood filler on all the holes and dings.  I just used whatever I could find at Lowes.  I think it is Elmer’s Wood Filler.  Can’t say that I was too happy with it.  Don’t know if all fillers are like this, but I found it difficult to work with and it dried way too quickly for me.  Of course I sanded the stairs again when the wood filler was completely set up.

How to stain pine stairs
After wiping down the stairs, making sure that all dust and wood had been cleared off, I went over every other step with Minwax Pre-Stain Conditioner.  I read somewhere that the conditioner would allow the stain to dry more ‘uniformly’.  I can’t say if it is true or not, but it was easy to work with and will probably use it again.  I used a simple foam brush to apply it.  You brush it on…..wait 5-15 minutes and then you wipe off any excess.  My stairs soaked it all up…nothing to wipe away.

Tip:  I did every other step during this entire process.  We needed to be able to use the stairs and I thought we could handle the every other stair just fine.  I used a towel (as the post it notes I tried did not work) to mark the ones that we could step on.

After waiting the 15 minutes I started staining the steps.  I used Minwax Polyshades in Tudor, only for the fact that I loved the idea that it was an all in one product.  It also gave me a choice of satin or high gloss.  As the boys in my life were hesitant about getting rid of the carpet, I went with the satin finish.  First coat caught me totally off guard.  Once I wiped the tread down with a rag there was virtually no color on the step.  Yes, I stirred the crap out of that container……so you can’t tell me that all of the color was still at the bottom of the can. 😉

How to stain stair steps
I did what any other person would do…….I didn’t wipe off the stain!  I brushed it on, and then let it dry completely.  No wiping off the excess after 10 minutes for me.  I would have been doing 20+ coats at that rate.  No time for that nonsense!  In the above picture you can see the first coat.  Not bad, but I wanted it deep and rich in color.  I also was starting to get nervous about the edges where I scraped them to get all the paint over spray off.  BTW- I sanded the stairs again lightly with a 220 grit (I think) after the first coat of stain, but not any of the other coats.

How to stain pine stairs
Remember, I was staining every other step, so this process took f o r e v e r!!  I think I did the first 2 coats over a weekend and had every window and door open in the house.  Can’t say that was smart as temperatures were running around 45.  Definitely did not win the ‘most efficient house’ award.  The third and fourth coat I did in the evenings right before going to bed.  This way they would be dry when we got up to go to school/work and we wouldn’t be gagging over the fumes!  The picture above shows 3 coats of stain. Almost perfect, but I wanted to test the waters with a fourth coat.

How to stain pine stairs
Four coats of stain and the project came to a halt.  You can see the dust and dirt from the tilers boots on the first step.  No way did I want to put up the kickplates (risers) until they were completely done with the bathroom.  I will tell you….the stairs held up beautifully!  Yes, they got a little dust and dirt on them, but a quick wipe down and they were back to being purdy!

How to stain pine stairs
Even though I couldn’t finish the stairs, you probably noticed that I started staining the banisters and rails.  This is where all of my headaches began……. Don’t even want to think about the steps and process (and lots of cheating) I did to complete them!  More on this later!!!

Let me give you a quick recap on how to stain pine treads:

  1. Fill any holes with wood filler or putty.
  2. Sand the boards smooth, vacuum and wipe down each nook and cranny with a damp rag.  Vacuum again for good measure!
  3. Using a foam or bristle brush, wipe on Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner.  Wipe off excess in 5-15 minutes.
  4. Using a bristle brush (I went to the Dollar Tree and bought a couple of brushes that I would not feel guilty about throwing away) brush the stain onto every other stair.  You can choose whether to follow the instructions on the back of the can, or do what I did and just leave 100% of the stain on the stair tread.  Let dry completely before applying a second coat.  Mine were ready after about 6 hours.
  5. Lightly sand the stairs between each coat.   I only did this after the first coat.  Sometimes, you need to just go with the flow and do what feels right in your situation.  Right??
  6. Vacuum the stairs and repeat the staining until you achieve the look you want!!

How to stain pine stairs
I hope to have the rest of the project edited and written soon.  I have also had some people clambering to see the new shower.  I will get that together soon also……… sometimes I wish I could double or triple myself just like Michael Keaton did in the movie Multiplicity.  I think most Mom’s think that, right?

What is your experience with using stain?  Love it or hate it?













44 thoughts on “Staining Pine Stair Treads

  1. How did you round off (bullnose I think is the term) the ends of the stair treads? Or are they already like this? Or did you just leave them, however I’ve noticed on my stairs this leads to big time chipping.

    • Hi Roy, I used by electric sander to round off the edges. Didn’t take much time and worked like a charm.

  2. Your floors are a different shade than stairs and railing. Did you sand and stain the floors as well? If so, do you have any pics of how you went about it? Thanks!

    • No, we ended up replacing the second floor carpet with hardwood, and just finished installing (replacing in some areas) new hardwood on the first floor. Took 3 years, but all the wood matches now.

  3. We have pretty much been remodeling our house from top to bottom and I ripped the carpet off of the stairs about a year ago. Finally getting to the point where I’m almost ready to tackle them and your post, honesty and some of the funnies you included give me hope! Thanks for the share!

    • You will love the stairs when they are done Carmen! They are still one of my favorite projects that I have done in the house. Good luck! 😉

  4. I have wanted to do this to my stairs since I moved in. I am just a little scared to remove the carpet to see what wood is under it! After reading this I am ready to start! I was going to stain the backs (risers?) But really like the painted look. I have seen where the risers had been stained but a scroll pattern had been added. Maybe with a wood burner. A lot more work of course. Wish me luck

    • Lift up an end of the carpet Lynda, and see what you will be dealing with as far as wood. I think the stained or painted risers (backs) is a personal choice. It would be a lot easier, though, to paint over the stain (versus staining wood after it had been painted) if you end up not liking it. You don’t need luck, you will do an awesome job….just hold onto your patience!! Send me pictures of your progress!

  5. Glad to hear the Polyshades is holding up. I am at the point where I need to get serious and decide what stain to use or whether I want to paint the treads. I had mixed Polyshades because it isn’t recommended for floors. Glad to have it back on the table because hello…Water-based and everything in one product. 😉

    Great post!

    • I wouldn’t use it on floors that get constant foot traffic, but I don’t think that stairs are in that same category. I will be ripping up the carpet on our basement stairs, and will be using the Polyshades again. Let me know how your project goes…..when you get it started! 😉

    • The stairs look just as good today as they did when they were completed almost 3 years ago!!! Best DIY I have done to date.

    • Follow the directions on the back of the can. Each case might be different due to weather conditions, how heavy you applied the stain, etc.

  6. You generally just put 1-2 coat of stain. You wipe off the excess with a clean rag cloth. You don’t sand after putting the stain.
    After putting the stain you put 2-3 coats of Poly-Urethane.

    1. Apply 1 coat of Pre-Stain Wood conditioner. Prevents blotching of the stain & uneven distribution.
    2. Apply 1-2 coats of stain. 2 coats if you want it darker. Generally one is enough. Wipe the excess away.Don’t sand after the stain as the stain will just come off.
    3. Apply 2-3 coats of Polyurethane. Sand very lightly or Buff between each coat of Poly.

  7. Pingback: Staining Wooden Stairs Beautiful - Stair Design Ideas, Remodels & Photos

  8. Hi! I’ve already ripped out my carpet and am ready to either stain or paint my stairs – I was still trying to decide when I stumbled upon your blog. Your stairs are beautiful and you’ve given me the confidence boost I need to go with stain. Thanks!

    I also really love your wall color. Would you mind telling me what paint it is? TIA

  9. Hi there

    Did you strip the railing and trim before staining? And did the wood filler take the stain?
    Thank you

    • I gave the railing a very light sanding before staining it, and for the trim I just gave it one coat of primer before painting it white. Wood filler is tricky with stain, and I would recommend adding a little stain to the wood filler first (it will get messy with your fingers…where gloves). Just mix it in with your fingers like play dough and then spread it into the holes and gaps.

  10. Once I took the carpet off my stairs look a mess. More so after removing all the staples as they were embedded into the stairs and I really had to dig some of them out. Can wood filler really fix all this?

      • Kim, I think the plywood might still work, depending on how thin it is; as you are going to be sanding them to get them nice and smooth. If it was me, I would at least give it a shot before investing in new treads. Would love to see pictures!!

    • It depends on how much character you want your stair treads to have. Sand them A LOT and see what they look like; then fill in with a wood filler (I would either get one that will match the stain, OR mix in some of the stain with the wood filler before filling in the holes and dings), and then sand them again.

  11. Hi, we’re in the middle of a reno stair project and I wondered how the Polyshades are holding out? BTW, the polyshade is designed to be left on, not wiped off, that’s why it disappeared! I just wondered if it’s holding up. We are using maple stair treads and it turns out maple doesn’t like stain, so we thought a good few coats of polyshade might work but are afraid they won’t stand up to hard use. TIA! And I love your reno blog. 🙂

    • Mitzi, our stairs take a beating a daily basis with boys and a dog going up and down them constantly. They look as fresh as they did when they were first completed….

  12. Thanks so much for posting your process, really excellent and fun to read. I’m going through similar process, have removed carpet from 14 stairs. The pine stairs have a squared off nose. I can’t tell if yours were originally bullnosed (rounded). Just curious, did you have to sand them into a rounded shape? That’s the quandary I’m at right now…if my stair treads are good enough since they are squared off in the front. Don’t really want to replace them. Thanks!!

    • Mine were not bullnosed, but did have a slight rounded edge that I helped along with additional sanding. They are still not a true bullnose though. I would try working with them before you invest in new treads, as all you will waste is your time and a little money for the sandpaper and stain. Good luck! I have a feeling you are going to love them as is, and remember to listen to your gut!!

  13. Fantastic blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?
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