The Epic Staircase Restoration Project – Part 1 – Stripping & Sanding

All of this week, we will be sharing the details of our staircase restoration project with you. It’s taken months of work to finally finish restoring our staircase and we couldn’t be happier with the result. But let’s start at the beginning.

Last week we already shared some of our staircase restoration progress with you (you can read about it here). This is what the staircase looked like when we moved in.

Staircase Restoration

From a distance it all didn’t look too bad, but close up the woodwork was extremely worn and the paint was chipped all over. Everything had been painted so many times, that all the detail in the wood molding was completely lost. We were really lucky and discovered that the original balusters were still in place and had just been boarded up, but these were also covered in layers of paint.

Edwardian Staircase Restoration

We started by stripping and sanding the balusters like we had previously done on the upstairs landing (you can read more about it here). We had just planned restoring the handrail and balusters down the side of the staircase, however it turned out to be almost impossible to strip away the paint down to the base of the balusters and skirting with the carpet still in place; so we decided to take up the carpet, too. This meant that we had to restore the treads and risers, too. Yep, we just can’t help making more work for ourselves. After removing the carpet, this is what the staircase looked like.

Staircase Restoration

There were hundreds of nails holding down the carpet grippers and even more staples attaching the underlay to the steps. We started by removing the carpet grippers with the help of a crow bar.

Staircase Restoration

Then, after removing the remaining nails and staples we started stripping away the layers of paint with a heat gun.

Staircase Restoration

This took hours and hours. I daren’t think what our next electricity bill will look like! The paint kept going really gooey and got stuck in the detailed grooves and ridges of the woodwork.

This is what out hallway has looked like for the past weeks.

Staircase Restoration

Not a pretty sight is it? After removing the layers of paint, we turned to sanding. As bad as you think the hallway looks, you should see what the rest of the house looked like after a few hours of sanding! I’m not sure I have ever seen so much dust!

Staircase Restoration

Yep, that is the dust on our dark mahogany brown handrail. We were able to sand the steps with our little electric detail sander, but because of the detail in the balusters and stringers, almost every thing else had to be sanded by hand. For the initial sanding, we used coarse 80 grit sandpaper.

Staircase Restoration

This removed any last bits of paint and dirt, but left the wood quite rough, so we sanded the whole area again with 120 grit sandpaper in order to achieve a smooth and paintable finish. So, after hours and hours of stripping and sanding (except for the first step), this is what the hallway and staircase looks like.

Staircase Restoration

Tomorrow we’ll reveal Part 2 of our Staircase Restoration Project – Staining, Painting and Varnishing. Come back to see how we got on!


  1. Rachel says

    We’ve got an awful lot of stripping and sanding to do in our 1960s house. Can I ask what palm sander you used and if you recommend it? The thought of sanding everything using just sandpaper and elbow grease is too depressing!

    • says

      I really don’t envy you, Rachel! Our palm Sander was ok, but not great. I’ve heard that orbital sanders are meant to be more powerful, but we’ve not had experience with one of them yet. Either way, our main tip would be to start sanding with coarse paper (maybe around 40 grit) and only moving onto finer paper when most of the paint is gone. As always keep safe and make sure you don’t have any lead paint or similar to remove.
      Good luck!!


  1. […] staircase restoration project – stripping and sanding (you can catch up on the first phase here). The first stage of the restoration was definitely the most involved. After weeks of sanding, I […]

  2. […] hundreds (yep, I’m not exaggerating, hundreds!) of hours sanding the staircase, I just really couldn’t face any more for a while. Luckily the chalk paint was easy to work […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *