01527 535 193 info@at-carpentry.co.uk

Latest News and Articles From the A & T Carpentry Blog

DIY Staircase Refurbishment.


Staircases are often the last consideration when it comes to home improvements even though they are often one of the largest features of the house.  Your staircase is also the first thing they see on entering your front door.


Although it is not unaffordable, refurbishing stairs is a messy job and requires a skilled DIYer. However, with careful planning the basic improvements are within your grasp and you can elevate your stairs to the next level.


A& T Carpentry offer you their thoughts on DIY staircase refurbishment.

1.   Look at the staircase structure!

When it comes to refurbishing staircases, the first thing to look at is the structure for safety.  Check the treads to make sure they aren’t too worn and ‘cupping’. Also make sure that the nosing is secure, the hand rails are solid and all components are free from any kind of movement.

Changing the basic physical design and shape of a staircase is unlikely to be  an option because it will mean major structural changes that are expensive, time consuming and require speacialist skills to ensure a safe staircase.  Don’t go for cheap repairs, if you can, get in underneath the stairs to see how they’re secured. You do not want structural components hanging on by a couple of nails or small wood screws.

broken stair refurbishment

2   Refinishing and Staining Your Stairs

The first thing to do is assess the wood. Stairs made from quality hardwood, such as oak or maple, are usually worth spending time refinishing. You will need to peel back a section of carpet or stair runner to check the wood. If it’s low quality pine or spruce then painting, capping or re-carpeting are the best options.

It might be that you just need to replace the most worn or damaged treads. To match old treads sometimes you have to make them yourself with an electric planer. Or find a local carpenter that can make them up for you.

To refinish the wood, remove the carpet and underlay and pull out all of the staples or nails. Fill in any gaps with wood filler and sand it back.

cheap wooden stairs
stain hardwood stairs

You won’t be able to put water-based stains on oil-based stains, so make sure you get the right product. Stains can be expensive and once the tin is open most stores wont accept returns!

painted stairs refurbishment

3. Capping or Re-Treading

An alternative to re-carpeting is re-treading, or capping with new treads. Sometimes called false treads, they can sit on top of the existing ones. It is then a case of replacing or repainting the risers. Re-treading involves removing the existing treads. Replacing them and capping is a trick job for the inexperienced DIYer. Capping will also change the rise of the step slightly. The lowest step rise will be higher and the top step will have a lower rise. Even just a difference of a centimeter or two could cause a trip.

Veneer tread options in the region of £15 -£25 are an option but the ideal is solid wood from £30 per tread and up depending on the type of wood. You will also need to make your own winders, or have them made.

To have a set of 14 stairs capped with red oak treads and risers, including three winders, plus a corresponding new banister with new newels and spindles will cost around £3000 – £4000 or more depending on where you are, who does the work and how much work is required. However, compared to the time, effort and skill needed to complete such work as a DIYer it may be a good option.


With worn stairs or low quialty wooden stairs, apart from re-carpeting or capping, another option is to paint them

As with staining, preparation is everything. Pull out all the staples, fill in all the holes — some builders use car body filler as an epoxy to fill big holes and blemishes, then sand, sand and sand again. A vac attachment for your sander will help reduce dust, as will sealing the work area with plastic sheeting. Remember to wear a dust mask and eye protection.

Look at specialist paints by Dulux or Tradepaints for their special tread paint that’s water based and designed to take heavy foot fall. If there’s already an oil-based stain or paint on the stairs, you’ll need a bonding and transition coat of primer for the water based paint to adhere to.

Painting the treads a dark colour and the trim and risers in white is a popular look. It will take several light, smooth coats, half a stair at a time or on every other step, if you need to go up and down while they dry.

Bright blue painted staircase refurbishment

Railings, Carpets and Spindles

If you’re re-carpeting because the wood isn’t worth refinishing try adding new railings.

You could replace wood spindles with wrought-iron or vice versa, or even glass. Aesthetics aside, it’s also question of skill. Taking a railing apart can be difficult. You can’t cut them out if you want to use them again so you’ve really got to be careful. If you don’t do it right, it will look awful. It’s really best to get a carpenter who has the experience and skill.”

Also, he says, even just painting or re-staining the railing can present issues.

Stair runners are for both aesthetics and a firm footing, especially for children and the infirm. The finish on most treads is smooth so they can be slippery. Avoid laying tiles on stairs, they are too slippery and dangerous.

Runners can be bought by the metre and installed yourself. Or you can have carpet cut and the edges bound to create your own runner, which can also match existing carpets.


A & T Carpentry would love to hear about your project.  Why not tell them about your new staircase installation or renovation plans.  They are always on hand to offer free friendly advice and a competitive quotation.