Guide To Sanding Wooden Staircase

Wooden stairs are a common feature in the home and with a bit of care can be a real eye-catching feature. In this guide, we take you through the steps of sanding a staircase.

Tools needed for sanding a wooden staircase:

  • Orbital Sander is best and depending on the shape and size of the stairs you may need a smaller detail sander to get to any tricky spots.
  • Dust sheets or tarp for covering furniture.
  • Vacuum cleaner.
  • Coarse and fine grit sanding sheets.
  • Safety goggles and a dust mask.
  • Wood Primer & Paint if doing a painted finish.
  • or Varnish if you prefer.

Step 1 – Preparing the work area

If there is other furniture around it’s best to remove it from the area but if this is not possible then securing a good tarp over it should keep it safe from the mess.

Check the staircase for any loose or damaged boards and replace or repair as necessary.

In some cases, part of the nails that are used on the treads may seem protruded, you can hammer carefully until you can’t feel it protruded anymore. We don’t want our sander hitting one of those!

Next use a vacuum cleaner to clean up any dust and debris from the staircase before sanding, this will help in achieving an even finish.

Step 2 – Start sanding with coarse

We recommend you start sanding with coarse-grit to remove any deep scratches or marks from the previous finish. You can use your hand for this if it is not too big but an Orbital sander will work better and faster.

Step 3 – Switch to finer grit

When you reach bare wood then switch to a finer grit for the final finish. If you want a top-coat then apply this before sanding as it will help in achieving an even paint job without any irregularities on your capping or boards, and ensure there is no dust left from removing old varnish.

Step 4 – Sanding spindles

Hand-sanding spindles is not a fun job, but machines aren’t suited to the intricate curves and designs of most spindles.

Quick tip: cut sheets of sandpaper into long strips and pull these back and forth around the curved part of each spindle. This will give you a good finish on the spindle and avoid wearing it down too far.

In some cases, it might be cheaper and easier to replace the spindles rather than sanding and removing many layers of paint and primer

wooden spindles
photo by courtesy of Wickes stair parts

Painting The Stairs

Make sure the surface is clean brushing away any debris and wiping away any final bits with a damp cloth.

You will need a primer, paint, masking tape,

  1. Tape the edges around the area to be painted. Ensure you get right into the corners & edges.
  2. Starting from the top riser apply the Primer, Dulux Primer & Undercoat is a good product to use here, ensuring you cover all bare wood areas. Allow this to dry for 4-6 hours.
  3. Lightly sand the primed surface and brush away any dust particles.
  4. Thoroughly stir your chosen paint.
  5. Again, starting from the top, apply the first coat. Wait for the paint to dry for more than 6 hours, but check drying times for your specific paint.
  6. Apply a second coat and finish with brushstrokes going in the same direction for a uniformed finish.
  7. Wait for the second coat to finish drying before removing the masking tape.

Tips for painting bare wood

  • Always use a primer first to prevent paint from soaking into the wood, which is naturally porous.
  • Allow for the correct drying time after the primer and each coat, we use 6 hours as a guide but check with your specific product.
  • Typically, bare wood is painted in water-based, gloss or semigloss, latex/acrylic interior paint.

Using a Varnish for Stairs

  1. The first coat can be thinned to seal the wood before the subsequent coats but it’s not mandatory nowadays with many of the modern water-based varnishes. Alternatively apply a stain first to change the colour, although many varnishes come with colour now as well, so plenty of options.
  2. After drying for 24 hours, sand it again with fine sandpaper and wipe it down with damp cloths to remove the dust.
  3. Apply a second coat of varnish and leave to dry. For a durable finish apply more coats, 3 to 4 coats in total should be enough.
  4. Before applying the final coat wait 48 hours for optimal results.
  5. Remember to always work along the grain when applying and sanding the varnish.

Ronseal Diamond Hard Floor Varnish is a good choice of varnish for protection against foot traffic, scuffs and scrapes.

This is also available in: UK

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