Should You Paint Or Stain Stairs And Railings In Your Home?

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Stairs deal with a lot of friction from the weight of things that pass over them. The traffic comes from pets and kids running up and down the stairs, to the people who climb them daily. You have to admit that they deserve care every once in a while. A painted staircase makes it easier to protect against tear and wear because the paint will expose any scratches before they get worse and become too costly to fix. If you are renovating your house, you cannot afford to leave out the stairs because painting or staining them will give your home a brand-new look.

Painted or stained stairs do the honors of welcoming your guests by grabbing their attention and accentuating the warm interiors. If you are considering listing your house for sale in the near future, painting or staining your stairs will increase the value of your home. It is one of the things potential buyers notice when buying a house.

Staining vs. Painting Stairs

Staining and painting the staircase are both capable of producing exceptional results. While many people are familiar with the similarities, understanding the key differences between painted and stained stairs will make it easier to decide which is best suited for your next renovation project. Let’s do a critical analysis of staining and painting.

Effect of Painting vs. Staining Stairs

Staining is cheaper compared to painting, but it comes in fewer colors and options. Staining is typically done in wood but can also be done on concrete projects. The stain color is preferred for wood projects because it penetrates the surface where it is being applied easily, bringing out the natural and beautiful look of the wood.

To Paint or Stain Your Stair Railings?

In most cases, the stain is easier to apply than paint because it only requires one coat to get the job done. However, the number of coats you apply depends on the absorbance rate of the wood surface you are staining.

The more absorbent the wood surface you are staining, the more coats of stain you will need. Since stain gets absorbed into the surface, it does not require priming like paint. This makes it hard for the stain to peel off. On the other hand, paint remains on top of the surface, and if not done correctly, it peels off.

Staining Stairs

The best stain for DIY projects is gel stain, which is easy to apply. After applying wood stain onto the handrails, they should be sealed with wood varnish.

Pros of staining stairs

  • Available in various colors. Stains come in multiple options, such as solid, semi-transparent, and clear colors. These colors make it easy to choose how much of the natural wood you want to show.
  • Does not peel off. Instead of peeling off, the stain fades, which makes repairing the stairs as easy as adding a new clear coat on top.
  • Gets absorbed into the wood grain. Stain penetrates the wood grain, blocking moisture that would have caused the wood to rot. Staining is thus easy to apply and efficient in protecting the wood.
  • Enhances the beauty of wood. Applying the right stain on your staircase will help to bring out the natural look and feel of the stairs rather than hide them under a coat. The fact that stains do not peel off but rather just fade makes it easy to identify any faults in stained wood and repair them at an affordable cost.
  • No Need for a Primer. The stain is thick and thus does not need priming before application, which makes it easier to apply. You generally need one coat to completely stain your stairs.
  • Affordable. As you’ve seen, staining usually only needs one coat and doesn’t require priming, which keeps the cost down.
  • Long Lasting. Staining stairs and railings have a long-lasting effect.

Cons of Staining Stairs

  • Requires Continuous Maintenance. As some stains tend to last up to five years, failure to re-stain the surfaces of the stairs for too long can be a challenge the next time you stain them. And the more complicated and labor-intensive the job is, the more money you will spend trying to get them back into shape. In general, maintenance repairs will be required every couple of years.
  • Certain Types of wood don’t Hold Stains. Tropical hardwoods are an example of wood that cannot hold onto the stain well. The solution is to sand your hardwood floors before staining them lightly. Specific sanding techniques require a skill. For certain types of wood, applying a clear wood conditioner every couple of years can help guard the wood against sun damage. Failure to maintain the surface of the stained stairs will ruin it and call for a complete repair, which will be costly.
  • Stain is Unpredictable. To achieve your most desired outcome, you will need to do a lot of testing, which may require the hand of an experienced painter to pull off. If you want to stain your stair railings, it would be best to hire a professional painting contractor because mistakes can be expensive.
  • Not Ideal for Painted Stairs. Staining already painted surfaces requires a lot of labor because you must scrape off every bit of paint before staining. This process can be tedious and costly due to the added prep work involved.

Painting Stairs

Painting is preferred for walls, kitchen cabinets, doors, and window frames, among others. Before you paint stair railings, you need to prime the surface so the paint can stick. Paint comes in a variety of colors and costs more than stain. Painting takes a little longer compared to staining and requires more coats to get the job done.

Pros of Painting Stair Railings

  1. Easy and Affordable. Unlike staining, which sometimes requires previous experience, painting is more manageable and can be an easy DIY project.
  2. Variety of Color Choices. Paint comes in several color options. You can choose the paint color that resonates with you and brings out a different look on every surface. This allows you to select a color that matches your wall paint to bring harmony to the house.
  3. Works on Stained Wood. You can easily apply wood paint on stained stair railings without problems. Use oil-based paint primer before painting railings and stairs that were previously stained.
  4. Easy as a DIY Project. Most of the time, it is easy to complete a paint job on your own.

Cons of Painting Stair Railings

  1. Makes Surfaces Slippery. Painting the stairs makes them more slippery, putting the whole family at risk of slipping. However, professional painting contractors use slip-resistant paints to minimize accidents. The right paint for stairs and railings creates friction, making them less slippery and safe for use.
  2. Time and Energy Consuming. Painting railings and stairs is a long process. You need to apply at least two coats of paint to achieve a professional finish. The first coat is primer paint, and the second coat is latex paint or oil-based paint. You can add a top coat of the same paint type and color for a perfect look. Priming surfaces for painting is labor-intensive and can take up to 2 days. If you are not sure how to go about it or are strapped for time, save yourself the trouble and hire a professional painting contractor for a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
  3. Frequent Maintenance. Painted stairs require constant maintenance depending on the color of the paint you choose. While white paint exposes tiny dirt on the stairs, darker colors such as black tend to hide imperfections. Due to the continuous friction stairs are exposed to, the stair paint is likely to peel off, meaning it won’t last long. You will need to do occasional repairs to maintain the beautiful look of the color paint on your stair railings.
  4. Can Leave Brush Strokes. Painting stair railings with the wrong brush can leave behind brush strokes that interfere with the aesthetic beauty of your house.

What paint should I use on my stair railing?

Stairs and railings receive a lot of traffic and support a lot of weight daily. The paint you apply on these surfaces should be easy to clean and wipe. Consider satin and semi-gloss as they are easy to keep clean.

The lighter the color you choose for your stair railing paint, the more it reflects light and makes the whole staircase look brighter. On the other hand, darker colors absorb light and make the area appear dark. If you want to make your hallway appear larger than it is, you need to go for lighter colors. According to experts, start your painting with the handrails and spindles, then move to the stairs. Consider matching the color of the handrails with that of the stair treads.

When painting heavy traffic areas such as stairs and railings, applying more than one coat is advisable. Also, remember to use wood paint instead of wall paint. Leading paint manufacturers make special wood paint that sticks better and lasts longer on wood than ordinary wall paint.

Benjamin Moore Advance paints tend to work well in high-traffic areas as they cure fast and do not need a top coat. Latex paint cures faster than oil paint and is the best option if you want to complete the project more quickly. Find those with a glossy finish for an appealing look, and use a paintbrush that doesn’t leave brush marks behind. If you’re painting as a DIY project, start with a small paintbrush before switching to a roller. Start painting from the top, moving slowly on your way down.

Final Thoughts

As you have observed, staining and painting can give your stair railings a great aesthetic appearance. Depending on the look you are trying to achieve in your house, you can choose to go with painting or staining.

If you are looking for a classic old-school design, staining is better than painting because it reveals the natural beauty of the wood. However, painting is ideal if you want the same color as your wall color or to match your stairs with your home’s color palette to create a unique atmosphere in the house. You can even give the stairs a different paint color trim to achieve a fancy look.

Let The Ohio Painting Company Handle Your Residential and Commercial Stair Railing Projects

Painting and staining your stairs on your own can be tedious, especially when you have to do everything from selecting the paint color to the site preparation, application process, and final site cleaning. If painting or staining is a pastime, consider trying it out in the bedroom, where nobody will notice imperfections.

However, the stair railings are visible to everyone who visits your home, and any slight mistake can interfere with the entire look of your house. Leaving the job to people who enjoy it can save you time and help you focus on what you do best. The Ohio Painting Company will help you with this.

With over a decade of experience in professional painting and staining, The Ohio Painting Company promises to give you a 100% satisfaction guarantee. We have a team of experts with a reputation for exceeding customer expectations. We help you plan the project, buy quality products that will produce the best results, and tailor the service according to your preference and availability. All of our painters have had thorough background checks and are insured, so you can be sure that your things will be safe while they paint or stain.

Since customer satisfaction is one of our core values, we have a team of quality assurance personnel who follow up with inspections to ensure that we fulfill your needs. Our clients love our quality service, responsiveness, punctuality, professionalism, and efficient crew. Let us take the load off your shoulders and give your house the look you have always wanted. Call us at (937) 409-4443 for a free quote.


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