Easy DIY Stair Remodel (Step-by-Step Tutorial)

DIY, February 28, 2022

Let’s just say I wasn’t a big fan of our old stairs. The beige carpet was totally cramping my aesthetic and I knew a DIY stair remodel could completely change the feel of our first floor!

But I also wasn’t sure if it would be a good idea to rip up the carpet. Am I at the skill level to tackle this project? How do I know if our wood stairs will be in good condition? What if I needed new stair risers or new treads?

You don’t always know what you’ll find when you rip up the old carpet, so it is important to consider that before going into this project. I knew there was a possibility we might have to buy new stair treads. That aside, this is a very easy diy project that makes a huge difference!

By the way, this is part I of our DIY stair remodel. Click here for the tutorial on how to install a stair runner!

diy stair remodel

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means, if you purchase something from a link I provided, I will receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you! Thank you for your support!



Staircase Remodel Before and After

diy stair treads and risers
diy stair remodel ideas

Step One: Removing the Old Carpet

The first step in our diy stair remodel was ripping up the old carpet and I have to say… that was the best part!

Find a corner and just start pulling! It was so satisfying to do and we were pleasantly surprised with what we found underneath. Our existing stairs were beautiful pine treads… we got lucky!

diy stairs remove carpet

Safety tip: Be sure to wear gloves and safety glasses– there are staples and nails poking out everywhere! It also helps to have a large trash bag nearby to clean as you go.

diy staircase remodel
Here’s just *some* of the trash we accumulated!

Once you remove the carpet and carpet pad, you’ll see tack strips around the edges. Those are nailed into the floor, so you’ll just need a pry bar to get them up.

The staples can be removed with pliers! I kept a little bucket next to me to collect them as I pulled them up.

diy stair renovation
This part was also satisfying for me.
diy remodel stairway

Step Two: Prepping the Stairs

The next step is to prepare the stairs for primer and paint.

In order to fully understand my tutorial, let me just share this little diagram on simple stair anatomy so you know what I’m referring to:

diy stair treads and risers

I did run into an unexpected issue…

One thing I noticed right away was how large the gaps were between the treads and the stair stringers.

Some of the gaps were as big as ½” so I knew caulk wasn’t going to be a great way to fix these. I had to brainstorm.

diy stair treads and risers
For whatever reason, most of the bigger gaps were on the right side of the stairs.

I knew it wouldn’t hurt to add some backer rod first. If you’ve never used this, it’s great! It’s essentially a foam strip that you shove into the gap to account for some of the space before you start filling the gap…which means you won’t need nearly as much caulk!

diy remodel stairway
Backer rod is great option to help fill in gaps. Just use a painter’s tool to push it in.

To fill the gaps, I decided to try out a product called bondo. It smelled awful and it was tricky to work with because it dries very fast, but it did the job! It dries hard like concrete!

I made the mistake of overfilling the gaps, leaving me with excess bondo that I had to chisel away and then sand.

I’ve since learned that I accidentally used bondo all-purpose and bondo wood filler is what would have been best for this job! Lesson learned!

how to diy stairs
Yikes! This photo shows how much I overfilled the bondo. Luckily it chiseled off easily!

Thankfully, there weren’t extreme gaps on all the stairs treads. Most of the gaps on the left side of the stairs were much smaller and could easily be filled with wood putty.

easy diy stair remodel
Anything gray is bondo, anything tan is wood filler.

What if your wood treads are cracked in areas?

Be sure to check for any cracks or structural problems in the treads.

I only noticed one! It was a large crack at the edge of the tread and I just used some wood glue, pressed it back in place, and held it for a minute or two. This worked perfectly!

staircase remodel before and after
Wood glue saves the day!!

What if you end up needing new stair treads or risers?

If this happens, you can actually purchase new stair treads from Home Depot and you can just cut them to size!

If you need new risers, I’ve seen others use hardboard or plywood to place overtop the existing riser. Just do a little research!

What did you do for the landings?

We have a landing at the top and bottom of the stairs.

I decided to go a little unconventional here and use beadboard to cover it up. (Beadboard wouldn’t be used for for standard flooring.) I love the character this adds to the stairs.

flooring ideas for stairs and landing
This is the bottom landing, but I did the same thing for the top!

All I did here was cut the beadboard to size using a jigsaw, I used my brad nailer to secure it to the landing, and I caulked the edges and seams as needed.

staircase renovation ideas diy style
I nailed the beadboard along the edges, at the seam, and some scattered throughout the middle.

However, it is important to note that the beadboard raised the landing a little.

As a result, I needed new stair nosing. This was very simple to install- I just cut it to size with my miter saw, and attached it with brad nails!

how to redo stairs for cheap
See how nice and snug this fit? The color didn’t matter since I’ll be painting it all black anyway!
diy stairs makeover cheap
This is Gouda hanging at the top of the stairs. You can see where I added the stair nosing here too!

Sanding was the part I was dreading most.

The idea of sanding the stairs was totally stressing me out. I’m not a fan of sanding inside and getting dust everywhere.

This is the COOLEST hack for dust-free sanding.

If you have a shop vac and a mouse or orbital sander, all you need is a flexible PVC adapter! This allows you to tighten the adapter and connect the two. The size of the adapter will depend on your shop vac and sander!

This is truly life changing and has come in handy for many other indoor projects. I sanded these stairs down and there was practically ZERO dust!

diy staircase makeover

Taping the stairs

Since I decided I’m painting all the stair parts, the taping wasn’t too tricky! I just ran it up along the stair stringers.

If you’re planning to use a wood stain for the treads, or you don’t want to paint the stair stringers, you’ll have to tape accordingly!

Step Three: Priming the Stairs

diy stairs makeover
This is where it starts to get fun!

Now we’re ready to prime the stairs! You can see I taped above the skirt board since I decided to paint that part black as well.

This is the shellac-based primer I used. It’s incredibly durable and does a great job of priming anything in a high-traffic area.

Helpful tip: You can ask the paint department at Home Depot to tint your primer if you’re using a dark paint color. That’s what I did which is why it looks like gray paint!

how to remodel stairs from carpet to wood
We used a tinted primer for the stair banister

Did you paint the newel post?

I decided to paint the newel post because I thought it would look great black! Again- personal preference! I did two coats of primer.

In between coats I sanded with 320 grit sandpaper, vacuumed, and wiped the stairs down with a damp rag.

After the second coat, I caulked the seams on the risers using paintable caulk! Once the caulk dried, I sanded, vacuumed, and wiped the stairs so I could prep for paint.

cheap stair makeover
I love seeing the lines from the beadboard with the lines of the fluted wall in my office.

Step Four: Painting the Stairs

What type of paint and paint color did you use?

For paint, I used this porch and patio paint on all of the stair parts- including the newel post and baluster. It’s held up really nicely this past year so I feel confident in recommending it!

The paint color I used is Limousine Leather by Behr paint. It’s my go to black paint because it has such a rich, sleek look!

I applied the paint with a small 3/8″ nap roller for most of the stairs. A small angled brush was needed on some of the balusters.

black staircase
I avoided painting the middle of the stairs since I knew the runner would cover it anyway. Plus, it allowed us a space to walk while the paint was drying.

How many coats did you do?

Two coats of paint provided great coverage.

In between coats I sanded with 320 grit sandpaper, vacuumed, and wiped down the stairs.

I know the sanding in between is extra work, but it results in a smooth, professional, finished look. It’s totally worth the extra steps in my opinion!

Step Five: Sealing the Stairs

I do recommend using a poly finish to seal the stairs.

Initially I didn’t, but I noticed after a month or two there were some chips in the paint on the beadboard landing specifically. This gave me the push I needed to seal them!

Before sealing, make sure to test out a small hidden area first. The poly can change the look of the paint!

I applied two coats of this water-based Polycrylic using a foam brush and it worked perfectly. They paint has help up really well since then!

best diy stair remodel
Gouda and Zitto approve of the new stairs!

We adore our new stairs! It’s made such a huge impact on our home. I hope this step-by-step tutorial was helpful and maybe even gave you the confidence to start your own DIY stair remodel!!

Don’t forget to check out my How to Install a Stair Runner blog post if you’re interested in that step!

Additionally, if you haven’t already, you can watch all of my videos on this stair remodel in my IG highlight called “Stairs”.

easy diy stair remodel

Thank you so much for being here and please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any other questions!

  1. Kelley Davis says:

    This looks awesome. I am close to starting this project and I have a similar layout to you. How far did you carry the black on the trim?just that one wall with the board and batten?

  2. Elisha Kelly says:

    Hi Kelley! Thank you so much! I initially I just did the stairs and stopped at both landings, but later on I ended up painting all my trim in my downstairs as we well as my upstairs hallway! You can see more views on my Instagram or if you search “satin” on my blog you can see photos in my post on painting trim! Hope that helps 🙂

  3. Dara Hinton says:

    I love, love, love! Going to try to copy this in our addition. Could you tell me where you purchased your runner and what brand/style/name it is? Also did you add padding? You did a wonderful job!

  4. Elisha Kelly says:

    Hi Dara! Yay, that makes me so happy! And thank you so much! I just added the runner under materials and also have all the details on that process in this post here: https://ouraestheticabode.com/diy-stair-runner/

  5. Amanda says:

    Where did you stop the black trim at the top and bottom? I love the idea of black charcoal steps with a runner but can not figure out where to end the trim!

  6. Elisha Kelly says:

    Hi Amanda! Ugh, I just looked through my camera roll and I can’t find a picture 🙁 But basically, at the landing on the top of the stairs, I painted the baseboards black up until they turned left and right into our hallway if that makes sense! A year or so later I ended up painting all the trim and doors in our hallway black too, but even if it didn’t I still felt like it looked just fine this way!

  7. Erin Anderson says:

    When you sanded in between the coats of paint with 320 grit sandpaper were you using the sander or did you do that part by hand? This article is so well written, and the pictures are perfect. Thank you so much.

  8. Elisha Kelly says:

    Hi Erin! Thank you so much for the kind words- that means a lot! And yes, that part was just by hand so real quick and easy 🙂 Good luck!

  9. Petra says:

    Hi, what a great project, I’m planning to redo my stairs so lots of helpful info. Would like to know what did you use for ur stair nosing (the snug fit) … somehow can’t figure it out … Thanks

  10. Elisha Kelly says:

    Hi Petra! Thank you so much i’m glad it was helpful 🙂 I linked the stair nosing product I used under the Materials list towards the top of the post, but I just looked and apparently Lowes no longer sells that product! Such a bummer!! Try googling “stair nosing” cover and hopefully you’ll see some options that would work! Good luck!!!

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