DIY Duel: Staircase Restoration – It’s done!!!!!

After months and months of staircase restoration work and countless updates, the day has finally arrived!

Can’t believe it – well neither can we – but our staircase restoration project is finally completed. Bet you never thought we’d say that!

I still can’t stop jumping up and down and running into the hallway to stare at our finished staircase, so please excuse us if there are even more spelling mistakes than usual (typing and jumping at the same time is surprisingly difficult).

I’m sure you’d like to know all of the nitty-gritty details, so hold on – and make sure you don’t slip on any wet paint! This may take a while…

Let’s start right back at the beginning.

This is what our staircase looked like when we moved in.

Staircase Restoration

Not a pretty sight, is it? The spindles were boarded up and everything had been painted so many times, that most of the detail in the wood carvings had been lost – not to mention our whole hallway being brown and green.

Staircase Restoration

One day not long after moving in, the brown started to get me so down, that in a complete fit I painted everything white to brighten the place up. It only took a few hours and makes such an amazing difference, but when Jan came home from work the day I finished painting he didn’t notice a difference! Can you believe it?! Eventually everything will still need skimming, but for now it will have to do.

Staircase Restoration

Okay, so the walls may looks slightly better, but the rest is still awful. The carpet really wasn’t to our taste and I even fell down the stairs twice just because it was so warn and slippery.

There were chips all over the painted wood and everything was really dirty and had started to turn yellow.

Staircase Restoration

After removing the boards and lots if hours of stripping and sanding, things actually looked worse than before! I’m not sure what kind of paint had been used for the spindles, but it kept going really sticky when trying to strip it with the heat gun. It went everywhere and was a complete pain to remove.

Staircase Restoration

If we’d though that the stripping had taken a long time, we really weren’t prepared for the amount of time it would take for the sanding.

You can catch up on the details of lots more sanding, stripping and a lot of painting in our previous posts which we’ll be linking to at the end of this post.

But now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

Drum roll, please… here it is – our finished staircase!

Staircase Restoration

Although the steps are stained a very dark brown mahogany colour, the hallway is much brighter.

Staircase Restoration

Everything is so much cleaner and neater.

Staircase Restoration

We’re really happy with how the panelling turned out, too.

Staircase Restoration

We love the contrast between the dark steps and white risers.

Staircase Restoration

The handrail is stained the same as the steps, but we’ve waxed it instead of varnishing it.

Staircase Restoration

The hallway floors, especially the upstairs one, both still need sorting. At the moment we’re planning on sanding the original floorboards.

Staircase Restoration

Considering the state our staircase was in when we started the restoration, we’re amazed that it has turned out so well.

As it’s taken us a ridiculous amount of time to complete this job, here are a few stats just to show how involved this project actually was.

250 hours of stripping and sanding

13 Splinters

9 Burns

3 Eye rinses (yes, we did wear protective goggles)

Countless scratches and cuts

3.5 l of paint

24 hours painting, staining and varnishing

1 roll of masking tape

Lots of swearing

1 fall down the stairs (not quite sure how that happened…)

As always here are our side by side before and after shots.

Staircase Restoration

Isn’t it amazing what a difference bit of hard work and paint can make?

Staircase Restoration

The spindles are so much better now!

Staircase Restoration

Everything took such a long time to strip, sand and paint, but looking back at what it used to be like it was so worth it!

Staircase Restoration

The whole hallway feels completely different!

BeforeAfter 1

We’re so happy it’s finally completed! We’re still planning to have a runner installed, but haven’t been able to decide which carpet to go for. You can read about our carpet options here.

If you’d like to catch up on all the previous steps of our staircase restoration in more detail you can check them out here:

Stripping & Sanding

Staining, Painting & Varnishing

Painting Our Panelling

Part 1 – More Sanding

Part 2 – Replacing Missing Spindles

Part 3 – Sanding, again!

Part 4 – Skimming The Wall

Part 5 – Painting

Part 6 – Attaching Our Panelling

More importantly you can read about how all of the other lovely Duelling DIY ladies are getting on here:

Sarah @ Ugly Duckling House

Micha @ Little Old House

Kit @ DIY Diva

Ann @ Our Handmade Home

Nicki @ Perfect Prospect

Sandra @ The House of Bing

Have you ever started a project that seemed to take for ever to complete? Have you ever restored a staircase? What do you think of our restoration? Was all of the work worth it? Let us know which carpet we should go for!


  1. says

    Wow! The before and afters are truly stunning! This looks great and was well worth your hard work in my opinion (I can say that since I was not the one who actually had to do it…).

    • says

      Awww, thank you! So happy it’s finally completed. Yep, it was worth all of the work, although I’m not sure I would have said that about half way through when I was covered in dust and paint!

    • says

      Thank you Magali! I have to admit that I’m feeling particularly proud of myself at the moment. Very tempted to open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate! 😉

  2. says

    Holy cow! I love the finished stairs and the entry with that amazing stained glass. You should be very proud of that. I just saw the finished project on Ugly Duckling House and now I am going to go back through and read all your posts about this. Very cool.

  3. says

    Epic! And I can’t wait to run up and down it myself. :) And see what it looks like with the Rainbow runner! Enjoy the results of all your hard work!!

    • says

      So happy! Can’t wait for the runner as it will really finish things off. The steps are a bit slippery at the moment, too.
      Love it!

  4. Jess says

    Wow! How fantastic! I am sad that we have horrible stone stairs and can´t do something like that! It was really worth the work! I am proud that you are my sister!

    • says

      Awww… thanks! You’re stairs look so much better than before. We’ll have to house crash your home so that everyone can see the amazing transformation you’ve achieved!

  5. says

    Over from the Ugly Duckling’s. I don’t think I have ever seen quite that baluster detail, you must have been very happy to discover that. wow! and from someone who isn’t unfamiliar with stripping balusters … with a paint key. Now … How I love thee? Let me count the ways. I too love the dark and light (new flooring at least on the landing?) love the chandie and the wow… the stained glass and not to forget how I love me some good looking shadow boxes. well done… all the way around. you have one good looking foyer there. cheeers.

  6. Pam says


    I can’t say it enough…WOW, MY GOODNESS WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It is amazing!!!!!!!!!! Your hallway and stairs are so beautiful and elegant!!!
    The whole entrance way is gorgeous. Was it worth it????? YES!!!!

    You forgot to mention how many bottles of wine were consumed during the renovations.
    I’m doing the happy dance for you while you’re jumping up and down!!!!

    Love it, love it, LOVE IT!!!!!

    I guess you know how I feel:)

  7. says

    ok, seriously, this is rad. just saw your blurb on apt therapy and had to come over to see more details and i’m in awe. job incredibly well done!

  8. Linda says

    Hard work, but absolutely lovely result. Love the panelling.
    The house we’ve bought needs the hall carpet replaced and a bit of tidy up on the wood. It’s a brown thick carpet but its a tad slippy … Oh yep a broken coccyx for me after a slip. We’ll be going for a pale runner carpet but it will be a while before we get to that job. Kitchen first.

    • says

      Thanks Linda! It’s a never ending list of jobs on old houses, isn’t it? We’d love a stair runner, too, but it’s slipped far down the priority list. Heating and plumbing are next on the list…

      PS. I lost house of how many times I slipped on the horrible carpet and fell down the stairs. Luckily I never broke anything and certainly didn’t do anything as painful as breaking my coccyx! Outch!

  9. Amy platt says

    I cannot believe I’ve only just come across your blog! I can’t even tell you how I found it but I’m so glad I did. You guys are amazing! I’m so inspired I’ve bought a sander and heat gun. Can you tell me where you bought your lead testing kits from please? I’m concerned as our home was built in 1886 and appears to have just had paint layer after paint layer applied to the ornate coving and skirting boards, taking away the detail hidden underneath *sigh*

    Thanks, Amy

    • says

      So glad you found your way over to us, Amy! We ordered our lead testing kit online (at Amazon). Most of the detailing of our original woodwork and cornise was lost under layers of paint, too. It’s loads of work to remove it all, but sooo worth it!
      Good luck with your restoration, hope you pop back again soon!

  10. Bea says

    What a fantastic job! It looks amazing! I love your stairs, what product did you use to darken treads and handrail? Would love to do my stairs I just don’t think they could ever look as good as yours. Keep up the good work.

    • says

      Thank you, Bea! We used a Fiddes Non-Grain Raising Stain in Mahogany to stain both the treads and handrail (I think we applied two coats). The handrail was then waxed & polished and the treads are varnished with Granwax Aquathane Floor Varnish in Satin – which is the same varnish that we used on all floors in the house.
      Our stairs were a complete mess before starting to restore them. I think everyone thought we were mad and that they weren’t salvageable. It a lot of work, but I’m sure your stairs could turn out just as you want them!
      Good luck! Cx

  11. Kirsty says

    Hi Christine!

    I am in the process of sanding down the stairs with 80 grit!
    Did you sand them again after with 120 grit?
    Also did you then paint the risers with the eggshell finish paint first then stain the treads? did you put any primer on the stairs beforehand?
    Afterwards sand the risers again with 240 grit?

    I’m not sure of the order of what to do so just wanted some advice:)

    Also I have just checked Fiddes website and I cant see any ‘Dark brown Mahogany’ was it just called ‘Brown Mahogany’

    Sorry for all the questions!

    many thanks!
    Kirst x

    • says

      Wow, that’s a lot of questions!
      Depending on the state of your stairs I’d be tempted to start sanding with something less than 80 grit and them move on to finer paper. After sanding away all of the paint and old stain with the coarse 80 grit paper we sanded everything again with 120 grit to give a smoother finish.
      I stained the steps before painting the risers, not sure it makes much difference though. Either way you have to be careful not to get paint on the treads. We didn’t prime the risers as the paint we used was self-priming. Between coats of paint, you will find that the paint doesn’t dry completely smooth and that there are a few airbubbles. That’s perfectly normal and that’s why you should sand any painted surface between coats of paint with minimum 240 grit paper to remove any of those imperfections.
      The stain colour we used was called Rich Mahogany.
      Hope that’s some help – always happy to answer any questions!

      • Kirsty Brierley says

        You are so amazing!!
        Thank you ever so much Christine!!
        I’ve just finished all the stairs with 80 grit:)
        I need a really good hand lotion after all this sanding lol!!

        Kirst xx

        • says

          Aww, thanks Kirsty!
          My hands were so rough after sanding our staircase that I was sure I could have sanded them just using my fingers 😉

    • says

      Thanks, Holly! Our stairs were in such an awful state and still turned out great. I guess it just shows what a you can achieve with a bit of hard work.

  12. Debra zombek says

    WOW Beautiful ! I can totally appreciate all the hard work you put into it ! Take it from someone who also has an old house that had loads of layers of paint on beautiful old wood that was screaming to get out and show off its glory ! I started my staircase ( should have taken before pics) and halfway through I am having a tough time finishing it !!! My other woodwork took years to complete cause I was also working full time , but the stairs are particularly hard cause you need to keep them clear for household members to use

    • says

      Thank you so much Debra! Comments like yours make our hard work even more worth it! Yes, it is a ridiculous amount of work, but the result is so much better for it and I personally would do it all again (allthough I’m not in a hurry to ever strip any woodwork again!)

  13. Fionn says

    Hi. Thanks a lot for sharing all your insights. Did you fill the gaps between your floorboards with anything?? A lot of dust undermine that needs sealing off… any ideas???


    Fionn x

    • says

      You’re welcome Fionn! We filled the gaps between the skirting boards and floor (which you can read about here) and insulated under all floors (which you can read about here). Because we insulated under the floors, we didn’t bother filling the gaps between the boards themselves.

  14. Helen says

    I’m currently restoring our 1930s staircase and am on the stage of ripping up the carpet and removing the stair treads. Looking forward, I want to stain my tread and paint my risers. We have 3 youngish children and I’m worried about them slipping on varnished stairs. Do you ever slip at all? Love your blog by the way!

    • says

      Thank you so much Helen! Yes and no… but we personally didn’t have any problems, but I would be wary if I had children running around. We have since added a runner up the stairs (we’d always planned on adding one) and it’s something that I would probably recommend. You can read our post about the runner up the staircase here.


  1. […] Although we finally managed to finish our staircase restoration last week (yep, we still keep running into the hallway to just stand there and stare at it) there are still a lot of things in the hallway that need sorting. You can read more about our staircase restoration here. […]

  2. […] for 2013 (you can see the full list here) and we’ve even managed to tick two boxes – restoring our staircase and installing a new water mains […]

  3. […] from stripping, sanding and painting we’re back at it again! Having spent around 250 hours stripping and sanding our staircase, restoring our bathroom and living room door as well as a load of skirting boards throughout the […]

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