My $25 Banister is BORN!

Monday, January 25, 2010

After a grueling 25+ hours of hard labor (I am talkin' sweating, huffing and puffing, tedious stuff) my $25 oak banister was transformed into a stunning beauty. If I knew how much labor was going to go into this, and how painful and hard it would be, I doubt I woulda tackled this project. But just like every birth, after all is said and done, I would do it all over again..... :)

Supplies (I had most of the paint and supplies in my garage, so all I purchased was the stain and small paint brushes):
  • Old white T-shirt & gloves (for the staining)
  • Wood stain: Ebony and Dark Walnut (oil based)
  • Painter's Touch, Kiona Brown, paint.
  • Primer
  • White paint
  • Wipe-on Poly
  • Detailed artist paint brushes
  • Tape
  • Foam Roller and paint brush
  • Sand paper: 320 Grit & 100 Grit (electric sander recommended, but optional)

After sanding and right before staining
First came sanding the handrail. I sanded the first (downstairs) handrail manually. That took me almost 2 hrs alone. I finally asked my husband to help and within 5 minutes of him helping me he ran to home depot to get us some "pain reliever"- my electric sander! HIGHLY recommended!
  • Start with 100 grit to get the oak down to the bare bones. Sand until your hands go numb. This took me HOURS. You will know you are at the bare bones when the wood feels in its natural state.
  • End with 320 grit, nice and soft, to smooth it out to perfection. This was just a finishing touch so it didn't take as long.
  • Take a damp rag and clean all that fine sand off before you stain.
Staining. I have never stained anything before. I was very intimidated. But I reassure you, it is easier than painting.
  • TIP: The girl at Home Depot told me to get oil based stain because the wood takes it better and the finish comes out nicer, so that is what I went with. I was pleased.
  • Get an old T-shirt, dip it in the stain (hopefully wearing gloves), and wipe it on with the direction of the grain. Simple as that. Wait 4 hrs, do the next coat.
  • I started with 1 coat of Ebony, then did the 2nd coat with Dark Walnut to warm it up.
  • The Oak just wasn't lookin the way I wanted it to after the 2 coats of stain. I took my Kiona Brown paint and applied it the same way I applied the stain, with a t-shirt in the direction of the grain.
The paint top coat took the rail from dull, dark and blotchy to a nice sleek espresso color. Before I did this I have to admit I was almost crying because it wasn't looking the way I had imagined. The thought of having to re sand and retry was just more than I could bear, thank you Kiona Brown paint!!!

Painting. After the staining was complete (but before my poly went on) I started the massive job of painting the rest of the banister. I am talking at least 15 hours of labor including the prep, a coat of primer, and 2 coats of paint. Painful, grueling, terrible, never ending!
I didn't want to tape the newly stained handrail, so I had to do all the detail painting with a small, artistic, paint brush. With my attention to detail it worked really well for me (it just took years to finish).

Wipe-On Poly. Wipe this on the same way you did the stain.
TIP: I wiped this on a little part of my white banister to see if it would yellow and it DID! bad! Only use this for your stained wood. I will be looking for something else that doesn't yellow for my beautiful white banister!

Just with any birth, now I can rest, recover, and enjoy my finished product.

View from my front entry

From the top of the stairs

I am linking this to:
Its So Very Cheri
Metamorphosis Monday
The Girl Creative

Leave a Comment

  1. Looks great! I have been trying to get the motivation to do the same, only with ebony stain or black paint. Fortunately the spindles are already white -- I just don't think I am going to live long enough to do as thorough a job as you did!


  2. looks wonderful! way to keep on trekking! It was worth the effort!

  3. How exciting! It looks beautiful. Do you think it would be, oh, 2 hours faster if we stick to just stain? My mom's stair rails need some SERIOUS TLC.

  4. OMG! you need a vacation! looks FAB!

  5. Lots of hard work, but man does it look gorgeous! Thanks for all the details...I'd like to do something similar with our bannister, so I'm bookmarking this post :)

    Glad you could Mi4M!

  6. It looks so good! Your hard work paid off! I love the finish of the brown with the Kiona painter's touch paint. Good job! I'm looking forward to what you do next!

  7. Gorgeous redo! It makes your stairway "pop!" LUV it!

  8. The transformation is sooooo looks 100% better...way to go girl!


  9. Great job!! Now on to the next job! lol.

  10. GORGEOUS! I've got this on my list of "to-do's"... thanks for all the useful info... I feel prepared now!

  11. Mikael,
    Wow, this is really pretty! You are so brave...I don't think I'd have the patience you've shown! But again, it really makes a I could tackle my handrail, at least! Thanks for sharing, this is quite inspirational!

  12. looks really pretty, but man, looks like tons of work! great job!

  13. Makes a world of difference. It is beautiful.

  14. Gorgeous! You did a wonderful job, especially considering you had three toddlers vying for your attention!

  15. It looks great! FABULOUS! I am thinking before you painted..the stain may have looked that way because it was put on too thick. I swear my husband told me that once about those stains (he uses the same kind you used) and not putting them on thick. I'll have to ask him!

  16. Melanie- most of the time and labor went to the sanding and painting (painting took near 10 hours, all that detail).
    Once the rail was sanded the staining took a matter of minutes! So if all you have to do is the hand rail you will get done fast.

    Chelley- I don't know a thing about stain, so maybe you should ask your husband! I remmeber someone telling me that Oak just sucks when it comes to staining evenly, but maybe I used that as my excuse... either way, I LOVE how it turned out (but ask him for my next staining project...)

    Thanks for all your comments, it makes it feel worth it after all is said and done

  17. It turned out gorgeous. Big transformation on this.

  18. Wow, it looks beautiful! What a fabulous update. I hate it when projects end up taking soooo much longer than you think! But it was worth it.

  19. Oh, I love it, came out beautiful!

  20. Your banister looks AMAZING!!! Well worth all the sweat and tears. Congrats on such a beautiful job VERY well done!

  21. It's absolutely beautiful!!! Please come do mine. :) It is one of many projects on my list of to do's. Thanks for the instructions.

  22. Mikael! Seriously! This blog is so inspiring! I can't wait to get our own new house. I'm so happy to know that I don't have to be as picky as I was planning on being because I really do have control to change so much of it! Thanks for inspiring me in more ways than one :)
    Lindsey Bundy

  23. I just used your picture to show my husband that yes, we could do this kind of stuff. I didn't mention the hours of work, I just said it only cost $25 though...but I don't think he's falling for it. lol

  24. It seems like a lot of work, but so worth it! It turned out very pretty. Great job!

  25. No wonder all of my painting bids on the banister are coming back so high! I know I would ruin the carpet on the stairs, so me doing it is out of the question! Everytime I look at my ugly oak banister I think "iiiccccckkk!"

  26. Oak isn't the worst when it comes to accepting stain, pine is. Pine is a whole different breed of horrid.

    The next time you stain something, pick up something called "wood conditioner". It's essentially a primer, but for staining stuff. Also, pick up a GEL stain. It's far easier to work with, has more "open" time to be able to work with it.

    When staining things, if at all possible, try to have a piece of scrap wood to test out your color. You also want to wipe on the stain, AND wipe it off. Different amounts of time will give you different looks, but you don't just want to leave the stain on there. It simply won't come out well because you won't be able to put it on evenly enough to color your project equally all over. That's why the gel stain is also a better choice - you have more time and leeway with how it's applied and removed.

    Lastly, you may want to look at dyes. Similar to water colors for wood, you can mix up your own personal color. Just remember to write down the proportions so you can repeat your dye color.

    If you can't find any places near you that sell wood dye or gel stain (the gel stain, you SHOULD be able to find at HD or Lowes, at the very least), you can buy it online at a woodworking site such as Rockler or Woodcraft.

    If you're having to strip paint (and you seem to be doing quite a lot!), you might want to look into an infrared stripper. It's lots more gentle on your wood than a heat gun, and will let you remove the vast majority of paint from your project with little fuss.

    It's nice to have someone show others that jumping in headfirst doesn't have to end badly even if things don't go the way you expected! Kudos!

  27. thank you for all that info Drewkaree! you are the best! Wish I had you when I was doing it (the home depot lady didnt say any of that...). I am a total novice at staining, so next time I am sure it will turn out better. And you are right, instead of crying and wanting to give up on my project I took what I had and made it into what I wanted!

  28. Hi, I just stumbled upon your blog and this is exactly what I need!! Where do I get Kiona Brown paint?? Thanks!

  29. The kiona Brown I got at Home Depot! They also have "espresso" there too. Good luck!

  30. Thanks! It is actually "kona brown" (that's why I couldn't find it when I googled) and I did find it at Hope Depot...thanks so much! Your pics and info really helped me bc I had no idea what to do w/my banister and I didn't want to sand it down. My DH has been painting the spindles for days. By the way I have 8 year old twins and I wish them on everyone! 18 months wasn't the easiest but it does get easier and it's so amazing to watch their relationship. Enjoy!

  31. Sorry for commenting on your older posts. I just found your blog today, and I love it. I'm getting caught up on all the stuff you've already done.

    For never having stained anything before, you did a fantastic job!


  32. Did you try any spots just applying the Kiona Brown paint like a stain? Am I crazy to think I can do this to my ugly railing? (The twin vibe flowing through he comments makes me think I can. I've got 2.5yr old identicals...just enough crazy to attempt an overhaul)

  33. How'd I miss this one? Can you tell I'm catching up? You did an amazing job - gorgeous!


  34. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your step by step instructions on how to do this. We are closing on a house in less than 60 days with an original oak banister which I hate. Much like yours it is exposed all the way up to the 2nd floor and it just leaves the entry to our home so dark and dated. I know I won't be happy with the current banister but was unsure if it was even possible to DIY the job myself. I appreciate this soo much!!! Now I know that I can do it and don't have to settle for the ugly oak.

    No surprise that you say it is grueling and stressful as I am fully expecting ours to be the same, but wow, the results? Totally worth it! The work looks so professional!

  35. Hello wondering if you used semi gloss or high gloss? Also if i dont use stain do you think it will turn out the same?

  36. Hi,

    I have the same questions as the post above? Could I skip the stain and achieve the same results just using the Kona Brown? Also, was the top coat a satin finish?

  37. some FAQs- I used "GLOSS" Paint. It wasn't semi gloss. Get the highest gloss you can to get that great finish.
    I am pretty sure if you don't stain and just paint you will save yourself alot of time and it will turn out GREAT! I like how I can see a little bit of the grain through the dark color, but other than that I am pretty sure the look you will want will end the same. Good luck!

  38. Haha I have the exact same family sign that you have at the bottom of your stairs, except that I'm guessing the last name is different. :) My sister-in-law made it for us.

  39. For your white paint, seal it with polyacrylic. It won't yellow one bit! Just found your blog! Can't wait to look around!!

  40. So glad I found this blog! I'm currently in the year long process of refinishing my staircase and banister, and like you, nothing has turned out the way I had envisioned. I'm stumped with the banister, I have three coats of stain and its still not dark enough and is kind of blotchy. I'm so excited to read how you solved this problem and I'm going out in search of the exact paint you used and hope mine comes out as beautiful. thanks for sharing!

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  42. For anyone who gets this far in the comments, when you open the Rustoleum Kona Brown paint, it looks PURPLE! So purple, we were sure the can was mislabeled, and returned with it to the store. Turns out, it dries brown! Hope this saves someone a minor freak out and unnecessary trip.

  43. Thank you for this post. I am getting ready to take on this daunting task, as my railing has about twice the amount of spindles as yours and reading how much work it is has me a little intimidated. But...hopefully like birth, I will look back after I am done and forget it too ...haha, at least that is what I am hoping for. Thanks for your tips, especially about the brown paint, I have had to do that before on a table project, glad it wasn't just me who had issues with oak taking the stain!

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