Updating Stairs and Railings in a Split Level Home

Our new house is a split level so unfortunately we have a lot of stairs. We actually like the way the house flows and the different levels create different zones throughout the house without making it feel cut up. The worst part about having all of these stairs is that they all looked like this:

We looked at a few split level homes and they all had this problem, old dated stairs and oak railings and spindles. Some split levels actually have railings dividing the kitchen from the family room or the living room from the foyer. In trying to budget for renovations at each home we considered buying we had to keep this in mind as new railings and spindles can be quite expensive.

The simplest and least expensive way to update this style of staircase is to paint the risers and stringers white, leaving the treads in a wood finish.  Painting the spindles and sometimes the handrail also makes a huge difference and will instantly make the staircase look newer.

david phillips : drp KAT-21 traditional staircase

This painting project isn’t difficult but it requires a lot of patience! The wood finish will need to be sanded and washed with TSP, then you can brush on a coat of primer (be sure to purchase one that will adhere to wood, drywall primer wont’ stick!). Once the primer is dry put on 2 coats of a high quality latex semi-gloss paint.

We used Benjamin Moore’s Aura Satin in Simply White for our risers and stringers. It’s the same paint we have used on the trim and doors throughout the house so it looks cohesive and flows well which is important with our open concept layout. If you are painting the stair treads you will need to use a specialty floor paint, regular latex paints aren’t tough enough to last on a surface that gets foot traffic.

Since we had to have our hardwood floors sanded and refinished so we opted to go darker on the stain to update the floors so they looked more contemporary. We also decided to go for a more modern look with a glass and steel railing. Our contractor built the railing for us and had a custom piece of tempered glass made to fit the lower section. I painted the steel part of the railing in Para Paint’s Weathervane P2139-03 in an oil eggshell finsih.

Here is the finished result, it was definitely worth all of the hard work!


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