Before and After: A Stained Staircase Loses the Carpet and Gets a Modern Refresh for $60

published Nov 16, 2023
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Before: gray carpeted stairs with a brown wooden railing
Credit: Erin Vitale

When it comes to the checklist of projects to tackle in your house, the stairs might not be the most glamorous or exciting option, but they might be one of the most effective— and that makes them worthy of bumping to the top of the list. After all, they’re often one of the first things a visitor sees upon entering a house.

Take it from Erin Vitale (@oliveandmax), whose central staircase was an eyesore before. “The carpet had old stains that were unable to be removed, and it was defeating to have something constantly look dirty in the center of your home,” she says. Erin’s been gradually re-doing her 1970s A-frame house, and this carpeted staircase was a necessary, ahem, step in her whole-home redo — a two-and-a-half-week project that made a major difference.

Credit: Erin Vitale

The first thing to go was the old stained carpeting. “I ripped up the carpet, and there was red oak and pine flooring hiding underneath!” Erin recalls. Because there wasn’t any red oak surrounding the stairs, she wanted to refinish the staircase to look like the white oak LVP she was getting for the adjacent areas.

Credit: Erin Vitale

Erin started with sanding down the wood stairs to get a smooth finish. Then, she used bleach and Bar Keepers Friend to minimize existing stains and take the red tone out of the wood. She followed that up with more sanding.

“The next hurdle was to get the stairs to match the new luxury vinyl plank flooring that would be laying immediately next to the staircase,” Erin explains. “I took a piece of my LVP to Sherwin-Williams, where they color-matched it.”

Credit: Erin Vitale

Erin diluted that color-matched paint with water, effectively creating her own custom-color stain for just around $60. She applied one layer of the stain and then five coats of matte polyurethane seal over top for durability.

Credit: Erin Vitale

“It looks beautiful nine months later and saved me thousands!” Erin says. “To put our same LVP flooring on the stairs would’ve cost me around $2,000. I was able to do this project for the cost of a gallon of paint and sandpaper. I owned the sander and already had Bar Keepers Friend and bleach at home.”

One thing to note, per Erin: “You do need to neutralize any wood you lighten with bleach for safety purposes,” she says. To do that, she followed the bleach with a half-and-half solution of white vinegar and water. Erin’s other safety tip is to work in a well-ventilated area with appropriate PPE when working with chemicals and harsh fumes like these.

Credit: Erin Vitale

In the end, Erin is totally pleased with her final look and with the hard work she put in. “I love that the staircase fits with the whole house style now,” she says. “It’s modern but has an organic feeling, too. The best part? It’s original! The staircase just needed some TLC to bring her back to all her glory.”

This article originally published on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A Stained Staircase Loses the Carpet and Gets a Modern Refresh for About $60