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I painted our stairway bannister without sanding it at all. On a tiny budget. Like, under $90 to be exact. I love a good budget makeover, don’t you? If you want to learn how I gave our stairway a mini makeover, and what products I used, keep reading for all the details!

Our Stairway Bannister Needed a Refresh

Our oak stairway bannister was lightly stained to match our hardwood floors. They weren’t horrible, but they definitely were a bit dated looking and needed a little TLC. Since I’ve got some love to give, I knew I could tenderly revive my stairway bannister with all the love it needed. Here are the before pictures:

A stairway bannister with pictures on the wall, and a chair.
A stairway bannister, carpeted stairs, and pictures on the wall.

Our entire house was painted in what I like to call “Sad Gray”. I’ve definitely seen worse paint colors, but there is nothing cheery about this gray. I’ve slowly been making my way through our house painting over this color. When I say slowly, I mean it. We’ve been in this house 7 years, and I’m still no where near being done.

Remember when canvas prints were popular? I love my beautiful girls faces, but I now feel that the unframed canvas looks cheap. I wanted to change them out for something more elevated and polished.

We had a tiny budget for our stair bannister refresh. Unfortunately, we can’t rip out the carpet right now because underneath there’s only plywood, (ew). Since this is a newish house, the builder made a lot of little cuts here and there to save money. Carpeted stairs over cheap plywood was one of them. Oh how I wished it was like the good old days when homes were built with quality products, like wooden staircases!

The reality was, I had to make do with the carpeted stairway. Maybe one day we can rip it out and lay down beautiful painted wood, but for now, we are living with them.

Paint To Refresh Our Stairway Bannister

In order to refresh our stairway bannister on the cheap, I used good old paint. I had some leftover Sherwin Williams Shiitake paint from our primary bathroom remodel. It is the color we used on our vanity, and it is a gorgeous mushroom color, a perfect blend of gray and cream. I also painted the entire entryway and the wall along the stair bannister, Benjamin Moore Soft Chamois in a satin finish. It’s the same color I used in our living room. I discovered Soft Chamois through Julie Blanner’s blog. You can check her blog post here for all the details. If you’ve never heard of her before, crawl out from under that rock you’re living my friend and check her out. She is a wealth of knowledge on home decor and her house is gorgeous!

A lady standing on a ladder painting a stairway wall.

Looking at this photo now, I do realize I am fairly high up on this ladder while painting in a dress. Was this a good decision? Probably not. Luckily I’m still here.

What Is a Stairway Bannister?

The bannister is what we think of as the handrail for the staircase. It sits on top of the spindles (or balusters). Since it gets touched more than any other part of the balustrade, it tends to need a little more maintenance and cleaning. If you are an interior design nerd like me, and would like an in-depth breakdown of all the stairway parts, then the website for H.A. Stiles has a wonderful, in-depth explanation that you can check out here.

A stairway bannister with pictures on the wall, and a chair.

How I Painted My Bannister Without Sanding

Have you ever come up with easier ways to do things because you felt too lazy to do them? I sure have. My stair bannister was one of them. I didn’t want to sand them. It’s messy, noisy, and takes too much time. I found a product called Krud Kutter Gloss Off Pre-Paint Surface Preparation on Amazon. You can purchase it here. It takes the gloss off your wood and acts as a sanding chemical. The great thing about it is it’s very safe, non-toxic, and water based. I simply wiped it all over my oak bannisters, let it sit a few minutes, then wiped it off with a damp towel. Just be careful if you drop some onto your hardwood floors to wipe it up immediately. It will strip the gloss off your finish.

A bottle of gloss-off wood cleaner on a table.

What Type of Paint Should You Use For A Bannister?

Since I used the leftover paint from our bathroom vanity, I knew it would withstand the constant handling it would receive on our stair bannister. I used Sherwin Williams Premium Paint in semi-gloss, medium base. So far it has held up beautifully in our primary bathroom, despite the number of times I’ve accidentally slammed the doors.

How To Paint Bannisters Without Sanding

I am horrible at taking pictures during my process. I’m working on it, I promise! It was really easy to do, and I will link all the products I used at the end of this post. I’ll take you step by step through the process I took.

1. Prep With Painters Tape:

Tape off around the spindles and all other areas surrounding your staircase to protect the areas you don’t want painted.

2. Prep Your Bannisters With Krud Kutter Gloss Off:

Wipe the bannisters down with Krud Kutter, let it set for approximately 10 minutes, then wipe it down with a damp towel. Repeat if necessary.

3. Paint The Walls First:

I painted my walls before the bannisters in case I dripped paint onto the bannisters. This way, it wouldn’t ruin my freshly painted bannisters.

4. Paint The Bannisters:

I used my trusty Wooster Brush Ultra/Pro 2 inch brush. The angled bristles allowed me to manage around tricky places like where the bannister meets the wall.

And that’s it! After your paint has dried you should be ready to decorate and admire all your hard work!

Our Stair Bannister After!

I’ll be the first to admit, this isn’t the most shocking before and after. I would still love to redo this entire stairway.

However, when I compared my before and after photos, I can really see an improvement. My stairway bannister definitely looks refreshed, light, and airy. I also replaced the canvas photos with three gold framed photos. I’m really pleased with how it all turned out, and I think it looks so much better than before. Now I really love looking at my stairway, and I think our entryway is much more welcoming!

A cream painted stairway with three pictures on the wall and a plant.
A cream staircase with pictures on the wall, with a small view of the living room in the background.
A cream staircase and stairway walls with three framed pictures, and a closet door with a hanging flower basket.
A cream painted stairway with framed pictures on the wall and a plant.
A cream staircase handrail on a wall with three gold framed pictures.
A cream stairway bannister, carpeted stairs, and an entryway rug in front of a door.

The Total Cost

I had to purchase the Soft Chamois paint, Krud Kutter, and one more gold picture frame. All the other supplies I already had on hand around the house. The three products cost me a grand total of $84! The gallon of paint was the most expensive, and yes I do buy the best quality paint. However, it will save you time and energy because it allows you to get the job done in either one or two coats, no priming necessary.

I still dream that one day we can re-do the staircase with wood treads. However, I know there’s many of you out there who are in the same boat as we are, and need to keep things thrifty for the time. I hope this post has given you some inspiration for your own stairway and entryway. It’s good to know that although we can’t do everything we want immediately, there are affordable ways that make big, beautiful changes!

A cream staircase and stairway walls with three framed pictures, and a closet door with a hanging flower basket.

Thanks so much for stopping by! If you have an area of your home you want to change drastically, but can’t at the moment, please share in the comments section below. I’ve also listed all the products I used at the bottom of this post.

To see more of my home and other affordable projects I’ve done, click on the links below:

The Products I Used:

  • Krud Kutter Gloss Off Pre-Paint Surface Preparation.
  • Sherwin Williams Shiitake, Premium Paint, semi-gloss
  • Benjamin Moore Soft Chamois, satin finish
  • Golden State Art 11 x 14 (to frame 8 x 10 photo) picture frames
  • Wooster Brush Ultra/Pro Extra Firm 2″
  • ScotchBlue Sharp Lines Multi-Surface Painters Tape

Happy Decorating!


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11 months ago

It’s gorgeous! I love the slight contrast!