Easy DIY Hardwood Stairs (Refinish Your Carpeted Stairs)
If you have every wanted to tutorial for easy DIY hardwood stairs, this is it, you guys! I’m showing you the best way to refinish your carpeted stairs. Don’t tell me you’ve never wanted to rip that old carpet and turn it into wood treads with gorgeous hardwood floors. Stick around because I’m showing you everything I did to refinish our old carpeted stairs.
Sometimes the best projects are the ones that start on a whim. It was a quiet afternoon when I was staring at our carpeted stairs and decided it was time to part ways with the boring, builder grade carpet. I kid you not, I gabbed the nearest utility knife and cut off a piece from the top step. I was fully expecting beautiful hardwood flooring underneath but that only happens to lucky people. I discovered common wood boards and no proper stair risers. But I didn’t let that stop me. I was determined to upgrade our stairs from carpet easy DIY hardwood stairs. If you’re new here, you should check out some more beginner friendly DIY projects like how to a reeded accent wall or this wall paneling I did in our dining room! This project, although not technically difficult, is labor intensive.
How to make your own easy DIY hardwood stairs
Don’t get intimidated by the long list of tools! It looks like a lot but trust me, when you pull out that first tack strip you will be itching to do the next step. Before you grab your power tools and step into the step-by-step tutorial, let’s talk about some stair terminology so we’re all on the same page.
Before You Begin: Stair Parts Terminology
- stair nose – this is the part that’s labeled bullnose on the front of the stairs and it can be rounded or straight.
- stair tread – the main part you step on
- stair riser – the part that’s perpendicular to the tread
- balluster – the vertical poles holding the handrail up
- stringer – the part that connects to the wall on the sides of the stairs
- sharp utility knife
- needle nose pliers
- vice grip pliers
- staple remover tool
- sandpaper 80 grit and 120 grit
- sanding block 220 grit
- wood filler
- putty knife
- Rust Oleum Floor paint kit Step 1 (I got black)
- Rust Oleum Floor Paint kit Step 2 (sealant)
- 2″ angled brush
- foam roller and tray
- Mouse/Orbital Sander
- 1/4″ Eucaboard for risers if needed
- Circular Saw or Table Saw
How to remodel your stairs:
Step 1: The first thing is cutting and removing carpet from the first step on top of the stairs, it’s easier than starting at the bottom of the stairs. I recommend wearing work gloves for maximum grip. You really have to use some muscle to yank that carpet off! I used vice grip pliers to pull as well. If you find hardwood planks underneath, that’s good news! If not, no worries, we will refinish the common wood like I did. For hardwood planks, the process would still be the same.
Step 2: Once you’ve removed the carpet from the entire staircase, including the carpet pad, you’re going to see tack strips on either side of the steps. Those have to be removed using a sharp chisel or prybar and hammer. Most of the staples should come off with the tack strips.
Step 3: This is probably the most time consuming part of the whole process, if you get through this you’re so close to the finish line! Remove alllll staples and crown nails using your staple remover tool. Here’s a top tip, the needle nose pliers helped with the crown staples underneath the stair nosing. Alternate between the tools as needed until you get to the bottom stair.
Step 4: YAY you’re done removing staples!! Now we sand down the wood to get it ready for paint. Our steps were decent quality hardwood stair treads so we decided to keep them. Grab your sander and start with 80 grit and then 120 grit for a smooth surface to paint on. To minimize sanding dust I made a tent out of plastic drop cloths. You can also attach a shopvac to your sander if you have one.
Skip Step 5 if you have risers already
Step 5: I decided to make our own risers out of 1/4″ hardboard because the ones we had were basic framing boards which didn’t come all the way down to meet the treads. You can also buy premade white risers and avoid this extra step. I made my own to save on cost. Measure the risers and cut them out using your table saw or circular saw. I installed the new risers using a nail gun and some liquid nails.
Step 5: Now it’s time to fill all the staple and nail holes. Use your putty knife to fill the holes with wood filler and wait to dry. Once dry use your 220 grit sandpaper or sanding block to smooth out the wood filler. I used expanding foam to fill in the extra space between the treads and the stair stringers. See the gap below? It was all gone with some expanding foam and then I sanded it down smooth.
Step 6: Give your stairs a good wipe down and mopping so you can prime! I did one coat of primer and it was good to go. You can use a foam brush for the edges or a small angled paintbrush.
Step 7: Follow the instructions on the Floor Paint kit Step 1 to refinish carpeted stairs to matte black. Mix that paint can real good! Use the 2″ angled brush to cut in the edges and the foam roller to fill in. I needed 2 coats to fully cover the stairs but if you do a thick first coat that should provide enough coverage as well.
Step 8: For the final step wait 6 hours for the paint to dry then roll on the sealant (step 2 of the paint kit) I did 2 coats of polyurethane (included in the kit) to provide maximum protection
And you’re done, you saved a crap ton of labor costs and upgraded the feel of your home! Enjoy your brand new stairs and follow for part two where I show you how to install the carpet runner.
Can I stain my stairs after wood filler and sanding?
No, wood filler doesn’t take on stain evenly and will leave a blotchy look. This method is best for painted stairs. If you want to stain your stairs I highly recommend getting new treads (this applies to carpeted stairs).
How long will this project take to complete?
I’m going to be honest, it took me 3 weeks to refinish my stairs because I only worked a few hours a day and not every day of the week. It can definitely be done quicker if you’re working consistently! A week is a better estimate.
Can I use any interior paint?
Yes, you can use any interior water-based paint but definitely use a good sealant otherwise it will chip off. According to my research a floor paint will be better than regular interior paint.