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Staircase Renovation FAQs


When starting on a domestic staircase renovation project, one of the biggest decisions that you will have to make is whether you should restore existing features or take them out and replace them.

With period or unusual properties, the temptation is to try and preserve the original features.  However, sometimes this isn’t practical, cost effective or even safe. 


A & T Carpentry share their expert knowledge to answer your most frequently asked questions.

What determines whether it is worth the time and effort to restore a worn out staircase rather than replace it?

We would be looking for original mouldings, the shape of spindles and newel posts  and any sign of damage either through wear or rotting. If all is solid wood and no signs of rot then it would be worth restoring.

How long would it take to strip a balustrade painted with thick gloss back to wood?

It takes time and patience to strip away old paint and varnish, especially from intricate spindles and newels. Powerful paint removers are available but these are restricted for  professional use only.  DIYer’s have to make do with more standard formulas. Some paints can be removed easily, but others may need several treatments treatments. Professional fitters and finishers will use the stronger mixes of course but getting into very tight corners and recesses can take time. This can be expensive.

What are the benefits of removing the spindles and getting them dipped to remove paint instead?

Chemical paint stripping is a much faster process than hand stripping but it has its problems.  The process can affect timber integrity and can also cause splitting. Quality spindles, especially oak, should never be stripped by dipping. There is also a colour difference. Unless all components are stripped in the same way, there will be a noticeable difference between the spindles and, say, a hand rail or newel. This will be apparent if a clear or translucent finish is to be applied.

Dipping the spindles is quicker but you would need to take care not to damage them in their removal.

What tools and products do you use for a professional staircase restoration job?

You will need paint removers and abrasives to prepare the job. If you intend to use wood stains you will need to purchase these too and they must be compatible with the top coat finish. Hard wax oils produce a clear finish and are easy to use on most woods for a natural shine. Where a silky, waxed feel is required, apply two to three coats of microporous hard wax oil, cutting back between coats with 400 grit paper. This can then be finished with wax polish applied using a pad of 0000 wire wool and buffed to give a very smooth surface.

Invest in a chop saw! You will need to make a lot of cuts and many of those will be angled ones. You will also need basic tools like a hammer, chisels, glue, sand paper, an electric drill, a level and not forgetting a sliding bevel to transfer the angles to your chop saw.

What problems are you likely to face when undertaking a DIY staircase restoration?

Avoid rushing the project, as failure to carry out correct preparation will result in an unsatisfactory end result. Some woods do not take stains well, resulting in an attempt to achieve the impossible. Correct choice of finish is essential. Over application of a product is  common. Generally, thin coats are recommended. All liquid products should be well stirred. Finishes must also be cut back with very fine abrasive paper between coats.

Some parts of a staircase are integral to the construction such as the bottom of the newels where the tread and riser meet it. We strongly suggest not cutting into these if you are a DIYer. Take precise copies of the angles, making sure all is plumb and level, stick to up-to-date regulations, which you can find online.

Need advice on restoring your worn staircase?

As always, A & T Carpentry will be happy to offer you free friendly advice on the best solutions for your particular staircase.



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.