staircase makeover advice needed

25 Sep 2013
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United Kingdom
I'm about to start a staircase makeover project but just need some advice on which finish is best or possible.

Originally the stairs were open plan but a previous owner enclosed them to make an understairs cupboard (which I plan to retain for storage and heating economy reasons). There are lots of gaps between the treads and blocked in risers and between the stringer and stud wall which I plan to fill in. The woodwork was originally stained (with a very dark stain popular in the 70s/80s). However, the staircase receives very little natural light so I plan to go totally white with brushed nickel stair handrail and landing spindles and newel end cap.

Part of the stairs have previously been painted over in white gloss which has yellowed (presumably from the lack of light and age). I've got some Zinsser BIN sealer/primer for the heavily and darkly stained stairs and although I shall be putting a stair carpet runner down I shall need to paint the edges of the risers and tread and stringers. I have it firmly fixed in my head that varnish would be harder wearing than paint (even specially formulated floor paint) but I'm not entirely sure.

So this brings me to my question - is it possible, or even necessary, to obtain an interior opaque varnish in white or will I have to use paint. The newel post and landing handrail will remain white. Ideally I would like to put white varnish over the existing white paint. What would the experts among you suggest. Sorry to be so long winded about this. Can you get white stain or dye which will cover the dark stain on the treads as well as covering the white paint on the newel/handrail. All advice welcomed as I just want the staircase to be light and airy which it is anything but at the moment.
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erm.. personally I would strip and sand the whole thing if its that old.

I have always painted my stairs in brilliant white all over.

As far as hardwearing goes. I don't really go for that, I just paint it in god quality gloss.. it helps with the light reflection and lasts about 1-3 years.

Decorating every 1-3 years would be considered normal I suppose.
You could buy white wood stains, but personally I think the smooth finish of gloss is just as good, if not better?
A good quality white gloss would be fine.
If you think about it, skirting, doors, architrave is all glossed for the sole purpose of giving a long lasting hard wearing surface.

Sand down to give a good key first. Use a couple of coats and use a fine sand paper in between them.
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