Refinishing Your Wood Stair Treads: A Do it Yourself Guide

A common problem that many do it your self home owners face is when the rip out carpeting over old hard wood stairs with the idea to expose the hard wood and find out that the wood is stained under where the carpet was. This can be corrected with a little sweat equity on the home owners part – but the simple solution is just to refinish the wood stair treads. The basic process involves sanding and then putting back a finish back on the steps. If you take your time and are careful, you can get a beautiful finish and a lovely addition to your home.

Begin by making sure that all the treads are in good shape and not broken or cracked. You will want to repair anything that is broken or not in good order. Next you will want to knock down any nails which are sticking up, and pull off any tacks or carpet tack strips. This step is very important because if you leave these things in the stair tread before you begin sanding then they will rip your sandpaper to shreds. In addition they are a safety hazard to bare feet.

Next you will want to begin to sand the steps using a variety of hand sanding and an orbal hand sander. Try to use the highest grit sandpaper you can get away with working up to about 100-150 grit at the end. You will want to ensure that your sand paper is always fresh and doesn’t become clogged with old finish build up and wood dust. Do your best to try to sand with the grain of the wood. Sanding against the grain can cause scratches. You will also want to always keep the sander moving – keeping it still in one place can damage the wood as well. As you work the sander keep moving to a higher grit sand paper as you work.

Once all your sanding is done your steps are ready to be prepped for stain and/or a finish. The stain adds color, and the finish is what will protect the steps.
Wipe the treads with a tack cloth. You can get these in the paint section of your local home supply store. The idea here is to remove any dust or dirt before you begin to finish the steps as any dirty will mar the finish.

When clean stain the steps according to the manufactures directions for what ever stain you select. Just be mindful that with stain you have to be careful that it is applied evenly.

Once the stain is dry and you are satisfied with the color of the stairs you will then need to open a can of polyurethane finish and stir it with a paint mixer. Be careful when you mix it because you don’t want to trap air bubbles in it – as this will show up in the final finish.

Apply the polyurethane with a brush on the steps using full even strokes. Your goal here is to apply a very thin coat. Let it dry.

Come back and apply a thicker second coat – and allow that to dry also. Give the polyurethane a few days to cure and set up.
Enjoy your newly refinished stairs!

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