DIY Black and White Staircase

DIY Black and White Staircase …….

Black and White stairs french stained entry table reoduxinteriors

……Is Completed!!

(except for the railings on the 2nd floor of my house that no one but my family can see and I am so over this project that I need a break before I can go back to painting all those 1 inch round railings…..that is next…)

Back to what you came here to read about. The DIY Black and White Staircase.Black and white stairs and french stained entry table peek redouxinteriors

The before was  carpet that looked lovely when we bought our home.  Fast forward 10 years,  dog, 3 children and at least 1,000,000 trips up and down the stairs. We knew we couldn’t keep cleaning the carpet and expecting it to still look presentable.

Next came internet searches for painted sub flooring (we thought we had  run of the mill sub flooring under our carpet).  In a burst of ambitious DIY fever, we ripped it all up one day and even enlisted our kids in pulling it out.  We could hardly wait to see the glorious flooring beneath the carpet (or at least potentially glorious).

pullin up carpet on stairs redouxinteriors

What we found was was a very chunky, but  durable form of ply wood.  We had OSB Board.  Not something that looks too great when painted. OSB board

No problem, this is what sanding and primer are for, right?  My life became a dust cloud of sanded particle board.  I was forever wearing a mask.  I applied layers and layers of primer. Then I added filler primer.  I even carefully spackled and pasted to make the surface extra smooth.  Did I mention the bullnose on the sub floor was a big raggedy mess.  In my genius DIY mode, I decided to saw them off. YES, I PULLED OUT MY JIGSAW AND SAWED APART MY STAIRCASE.  The adventures in DIY surprises was just beginning. Redouxinteriors with dust mask

Now the floors were primed, mostly smooth.   However, they were about 2 inches short of a standard size adult foot.   This made walking up and down them feel awkward (and probably not very safe).  I convinced myself we could live with it.   We just had to get used to walking down the stairs and perfect our core strength for better balance.

Stairs all primed - Copy

Now for the paint.  I wanted something “different” and rustic.  The original plan was Black and White, but I decided (must have been all that dust) that rustic would be a better look.  It was a HOT MESS.  The paint went down fine, but I got the glaze recipe mixed up.  Too much pigment here, not enough there.  I was starting to come apart at the seams.DIY stairs gone wrong redouxinteriors.jpb

Whoops, some of the stairs didn’t match other ones.  Not to mention, when we pulled up the carpet, there was a giant gap between the stairs and the wall.  Denial was the river I was floating around on at this point.  In my head, I was going to make it work.  If only everything in my head translated to reality. DIY stairs gone wrong redouxinteriors.jpb

When reality did settle in.  I woke up and faced facts.  THIS WAS NOT GOING TO WORK.

I hired a local painter who also does beautiful trim work.  I purchased builder grade oak treads from Home Depot. This meant a little more work on my part to get them to a finished state.  But builder grade was far cheaper on the front end.  By the way, I would not recommend builder grade for staining, they are great for painting however. Stairs refinished unpainted redouxinteriors.jpg

I highly recommend Oak for stair treads. It is hard as a rock and will hold up to all kinds of abuse.  And in this house, those stairs treads would be taking some abuse.  We used MDF for the risers and the beautiful trim.

Now the priming began again. This time I enlisted my friend Emma.  My mental state was such that it may have stayed au natural until my children were grown and gone.  The priming got done, no problem.  Then, like a field that is over-farmed, and you need to let it lie fallow before you can plant again,  I decided enough work had been completed on the stairs for 2013 and they needed lay fallow. Black and White stairs distressed in progress redouxinteriors

Usher in 2014.  What?  May 2014 already?  Where had the time gone?  Wasn’t it just yesterday (October) that we primed the stairs?   The calendar was telling me my children would be out of school soon and if the stairs were not completed, I could just forget finishing them until the Fall of 2014, making it one year from the priming job.  The DIY Black and White Stairs were going down in history as the longest running unfinished DIY painting project.Black and White Stairs redouxinteriors

I gathered all my emotional reserves, gave myself a Vince Lombardi worthy pep talk and used every spare evening, Saturday, and moment I had. My emotional reserves were running thin. I was so tired, my game was in overtime, the clock was running against me at this point…..and I had to go back to sanding.  Yes, that is my old scary worker hand.   It is imperative you sand between priming coats. Especially with this heavy of a grain.  The primer really raised the grain.  A quick sand of 220 between priming coats gave me a very smooth surface, ready to take paint.

Black and White stairs sanding in progress redouxinteriors

I painted the treads and the bannister in CeCe Caldwell’s 100% natural Chalk and Clay Based paints in Beckley Coal. It is a beautiful, true black.  I knew I wanted to use a natural but durable product as my face would be in the paint for many hours.  I painted three thin coats, lightly sanding with a 320 grit sandpaper between each coat.  I decided to lightly distress the bannister and the treads as I did not want the overall look to be too formal, lest people who enter my home think someone serious lives and white stairs bottom redouxinteriors.jog

I painted every other tread.  I had an elaborate and complex system that changed daily of which tread could be stepped on and which could not.   Luckily, we are a bunch of tall folks.  Taking two steps at a time, leaping over two large landings was not too much of a stretch for us.  I considered just telling everyone to slide down the bannister and avoid the stairs all together.  Here is a quick video of our daily up and downs, with the stairs I mean.

To darken the areas where I distressed, I went over the paint with a Modern Masters colorant called “Coffee Bean”.  I used the colorant in this way so the distressing and wear and tear would not be as noticeable.Black and White Stairs with bench redouxinteriors

After the paint had dried for a good 24 hours, I sealed it with CeCe Caldwell’s Endurance. cece-caldwell-endurance-finish-shop-only-poly-dear-olympia

 Photo courtesy of Dear Olympia

This is a very durable product, formulated for cabinets, etc.  It is not marketed as suitable for flooring.  This was a use at my own risk.  I decided against using a highly toxic floor sealer, again not wanting the exposure to the chemicals for days on end. If you want to see more on how to use Endurance, you can check my video HERE.

CeCe Caldwell’s recommends 2 – 6 coats of Endurance, depending on your project.  Just like any clear coat, thin coats are key.  I ended up using 5 coats.   Again, lightly sanding between coats with a 400 grit sand paper.   We are on week 2 of the stairs being finished, and so far, not a ding or a scratch.

Black and White stairs with white trim redouxinteriors

For risers, trim and railings, I chose Sherwin Williams Trim paint in White – Semi Gloss.  This is a very durable paint.  All of my trim and baseboards are painted in this paint and I wanted a cohesive look.

Pro Classic trim paintWhy didn’t I realize a Black and White Staircase is so much more striking than trying my hand at a new finish of faux rustic I had never even practiced before.  Why, why????

I learned a few tips along the way you may want to consider if you are planning on painting your stairs.

#1 If you have a large stair case, plus landings, plan on this taking a long time.  If you have a shorter stair case, then it won’t be as painful.  For the hours I put in on this, I could have painted every neighbor’s kitchen on my court, and then worked my way up the street.  Keep a picture of your dream in your head or nearby.  It will keep you focused and prevent you from going insane.

Black and White stairs in progress redouxinteriors

#2 If you have furry pets, consider banishing them to the outside, or loaning them to a friend for the duration of the project.  Neither option was available to me.  Dog hair became the bane of my existence.  I would wipe off dog hair, only to have it come floating down from the air two seconds later.  I could attribute 20 hours alone to removing dog hair.  My dog is my 4th child, so I forgave her for deliberately trying to sabotage my efforts.

As soon as the last coat of Endurance dried, she took up her post again.  Sigh. Black and white stairs with dog lounging redouxinteriors

#3 Get over being a perfectionist.  You will drive yourself nuts if you try to make sure every detail is perfect.  It won’t be, when the job is finished, no one will notice.Black and White Stairs dog looking through railing

I am thrilled with how my imperfect home works together.  Bench made entirely of junk sits beneath my slightly imperfect DIY Black and White Stairs.

#4 When you are starting to go batty from painting the 100th railing, just be grateful that you have the staircase and home to beautify in the first place.

#5 When all is completed, take a bajillion photos.  Text your family and friends to let them know you just finished your Opus Dei.   Stay up late doing nothing but staring at the stair case from different angles.  Turning different lights on and off to see how they look, etc.Black and White stairs french stained entry table reoduxinteriors

Then look around the rest of your house and start dreaming about what project you will tackle next. hand made farm table rustic french decor redouxinteriors

If you decide to DIY your stairs, especially if you decided on a DIY Black and White staircase, I am here for you.  It may have been a long, painful journey, but it was worth every piece of dog hair I picked out my paint in the end.


Sharing my DIY Black and White Stairs with these classy parties:


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  1. says

    I love this post. I love that you told the whole story–about how you tried it one way and it didn’t work so you did something else, and how long it took. That’s how almost all home projects end up–when is it ever perfect and problem-free? But it’s also the best way to learn. I’m proud of you for sticking it out and finishing it! I looks amazing! I may do this at some point in my house (although your post didn’t exactly make me excited haha). But the finished result is worth it. Great job!

  2. says

    So happy to read your staircase is finished. The pictures are superb! I congratulate you in sticking with the job to completion. Look me up on facebook as Carol Lindberg and then over on the left side click on Retirement and the latest news will come up about us. Life is good. Keep up the good work.

  3. Meg Swenson says

    That looks amazing! I use the same sherwin williams trim paint and love love love it! You deserve a metal for your patience with this project! I’m still working on my staircase and I want to cry lol. Great Job!

  4. says

    Your stairway is gorgeous! I know a lot of hard work was involved and I admire how you kept going even in the face of many problems. The next thing you tackle will seem like a breeze compared to these stairs, lol. Enjoy the rest before you jump into something long and exhausting. Great job!

    Gigi @ Old World Patina

  5. says

    I have decided on a black and white staircase. I am now afraid, but have co-ordinated the floor on the top and bottom landings to match. I am now heavily invested in the idea. I am frightened. I have two furry cats that enjoy helping me in a project.

    And don’t feel badly about the staircase. My mainfloor bathroom is currently the worlds longest project, having stretched to about 4 years….

  6. Josi says

    I’m so happy I have a one story, this would inspire me to start ripping out carpet it’s so beautiful! I shared on my page too as I want everyone to be inspired and not intimidated.

  7. says

    Your stairs look great, Karen! Before we moved, I was wanting to do this to our stairs color and everything. We had pulled up our carpeting several years before and found a pine subflooring. It was liveable and my husband stained them to go with the oak banister. Then I found blogs and painted stairs! Now I don’t have stairs, but if I am ever in a house with stairs again, I think I’d like to have painted stairs.

  8. says

    I am really glad you posted this today as I look at my stairs UNFINISHED!! I started this project about months ago and never finished, my goal is to do black and white but I still have not purchased the wrought iron spindles I was planning to replace my wood with, but I really like the idea of the black painted wood ones!! I laugh out loud because I did a blog post when I started this project showing my kids working on the stairs also!!! ha ha…. I have since installed hardwood on all the upper level of the house but not quite gotten to the finished stair project!!! So thanks… I gotta get to work on that!! Here is a quick link to the little post we did on painting our subfloors to get us through until the hardwood was installed… if you would like:
    Have a great day!

  9. Sue V. says

    I think that is the most ambitious project I’ve seen chronicled online. The staircase turned out beautifully! You should be so proud!

  10. says

    They look amazing! I just had to laugh at the dog hair comments- I started to paint my hallway and stairs at the same time a few months ago…and it is still not finished as I just left it alone. This makes me feel better that eventually I will get it done!

  11. says

    Karen, WOW talk about a labor of love! Your stairs look absolutely amazing and were definitely worth it, even if it took longer than expected, haha. I can definitely relate to that…. and to dog hair in my paint :) Thanks for sharing at The Makers!

  12. says

    Wow! The stairs are gorgeous and so worth all the time you spent!! Love the contrast. Great job!! Would love if you linked up to our Motivational Monday party on Burlap and Babies.


  13. says

    Oh KAREN!…karen Karen Karen…..they are GORGEOUS….but I will admit to a cold sweat forming on my brow and seemingly having flashbacks of that sinking ship feeling we all get when things are not going as we planned…I am so glad (even if it took a while) that you got the desired look…I myself was picturing myself from some bugs bunny cartoon with a TnT box ready to blow up the stair case…LOL I am so beyond happy for how beautiful it turned out for you….Now go take a break..:)
    Hugs my friend..
    Amazing Amazing JOB!

  14. says

    Oh my goodness, Karen! I love your staircase-and I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read your post! You sound just like me, after recently painting our kitchen cabinets. I think I’ll wait a bit before tackling our staircase!!! :) Thanks for sharing!

  15. says

    I don’t even know what to say! The transformation here blows my mind. It looks so amazing. Great job even if you did hit a few bumps in the road. Thanks for linking up with us at The Makers!

  16. says

    Karen, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow! Your staircase is gorgeous and from the small sneak peeks in the pictures so is the rest of your home. Great job! You deserve a big ole glass of wine after this one!

  17. Debbie says

    They look beautiful . I wanted to take the carpet off our stairs but hubby said no and now glad he did
    If it took me that long to do the project …..and it would plus longer
    There would be a velvet rope at the bottom to keep everyone off and then they
    Would have to have booties to walk on it. You are amazing for your patience.

  18. says

    Great post – big, big job! It looks fantastic – fabulous tips. I’m working on painting my dining room – the walls are plaster – there’s no even line any where – I agree with you – let go of perfection – but, I’m trying to get as close as possible 😉
    I’m Pinning!

  19. says

    Your staircase is stunning. Truly gorgeous. And thank you from the bottom of my heart for convincing me that ripping out the carpet and painting our stairwell isn’t something I want to tackle on my own. I was seriously considering it up until now.

  20. says

    They look fantastic! Glad you made it through. I want black and white stairs SO BAD, to lead right up to my black and white hallway but I am SO not ready to take the project on. Whew! I’m tired just reading what you went through. So worth it though, right?

  21. anonymous says

    I’m SO ready to get rid of our stair carpeting too! It was sorta ‘mashed down’ when we moved in and now a little more than 2+ years later, it really doesn’t look nice….and we have 3 dogs 😉

    I see painted steps on the horizon as well as painted floors (all will have the carpeting removed…yay!) I think my steps will be gray treads and white risers though to coordinate with the wall and trim colors.

    And thankfully I only have 6 steps to do.

    LOVE your steps! Wonderful job!

    • GTC says

      It’s dog proof to a point. Something no one with black treads tells you. Dog Hair shows up very well. Maybe I should have rescued a black haired dog instead…

  22. says

    So happy I found your site! I’ve only come across one other person who ripped up carpet and found OSB or something other than real wood!! Good for you for sticking with it!

    • GTC says

      Thanks so much Dorris!! It is a lot of work, but worth it! I had to search high and low for any examples too, there aren’t many out there!

  23. Lucy Gladstone says

    Hi there!!
    Your DIY staircase is simply AMAZING! My husband embarked on a similar project and have hit a stall. My hubby wants to know if you primed both risers and treads? We are having to reconsider as we don’t have it in us to sand and stain. Considering painting now before a runner is installed. Thank you!


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