Mid-Century Modern Stairs Makeover

We are in the thick of renovating the exterior of our 1964 modernist home, but still tying up some loose ends inside.  One of those being the stairwell and its multi-step (ha!) makeover.   Hope you enjoy seeing the transformation!


The Before, in all of its beige poly shag carpet glory. The oak slat-work is cool, but a bit too orange and in rough shape.


Carpet was pulled up, revealing the wood (pine? maybe fir?) risers, with their original stain.  Left behind are remnants of two carpetings – the beige and a very late-70’s green.  Here’s the biggest bummer: Two layers of carpet x 23 stairs = a gazillion embedded staples.


I started to work my way down removing the nasty carpet staples. About a half hour per stair, not including the back side. A screwdriver helped lift them to a point I could grab them with a pliers.


Ended up needing some help. The back of the stairs were brutal and many were out of my reach. Really! They were!


Next, the slats and railings were primed and painted white with a sprayer. Made the job much easier for the painters, but it sure made a mess! The steps were covered with paper, but some paint ended getting through. Luckily the plan was to sand them!


It took two guys a half-day to sand all of the risers (not bad!). One used the sander you see here to do the majority of each step…


And the other used a scrapping tool to take the finish down to the raw wood on the edges and corners.


Cleaning up.

With the stairs sanded, I was taking responsibility for the project from that point on. It may be worth pointing out that the backs of the risers were in such bad shape from the staples, we had a 1/4 inch thick piece of pine cut and nailed on prior to sanding. Also, you may notice the undersides were not sanded. They were in ok shape and because it would have been super challenging to sand them, we decided to leave them alone.


Here’s with two coats of oil-based stain. I attempted to find a color as close as possible to the original stain still on the undersides.  I used a foam brush to apply and wiped it in with a rag.


Doggone painter’s tape! Guess leaving it on for weeks wasn’t the best idea. There was a 6 week delay between the tape job and sanding, plus a couple more until I got the right stain applied. Unfortunate.  Learn from my mistake.

The stairs got two coats of a water-based poly, and then I taped them off to re-paint the skirt boards, where the paint had come off when removing that tape.  Painter’s tape can be friend or foe, and after the new paint seeped under the new tape onto my newly finished steps (still following?), I am banishing it from the house!  Luckily, the paint was still wet and I could wipe most of it away.   Whew!

The After:


Love the look!  Believe me, the stairs aren’t perfect, but they were worth it!


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