DIY Banister Makeover Tutorial


This post has been a long time coming.  I have put off this project for a few years knowing how long it was going to take.  After updating my bathroom cabinets (check it out here!) and realizing how easy and wonderful gel stain was, I knew at some point I’d have to do the banister.  I couldn’t stand the oak staircase anymore and since we finally decided to get all new flooring downstairs, I knew the time had come to bite the bullet and do it. And do it, I did!!  All for under $50 too!!

diy oak banister makeover tutorialThis was my least favorite home improvement project because it’s doing the same thing over and over again and it takes a long time.  I’m an impatient person and once I decide to do something, I want it done now and painting the banister is not one of those quick projects.  It’s not hard by any means, is cheap, and requires no tools but it’s tedious.  Two weeks of tedious!  However, now that it’s done, it looks beautiful and makes our house look so much bigger and lighter!!  It’s made the biggest impact on the feel of our house and I’m so glad I stuck it out!  You can do it too if you follow this easy DIY banister makeover tutorial!

We originally talked about iron spindles or staining the whole thing the same but decided it would  make the house too dark looking since we have so many spindles.  I didn’t want the handrail white because it would get too dirty with all the grubby hands that run down it all day!!  So, a brown railing and white spindles seemed to be a perfect fit for my farmhouse style house makeover.  The hardest part of this process was the fact that we just replaced the stair carpeting a few years ago so I had to paint around it.  We were tearing up downstairs so that was the only part that didn’t matter if I was messy on.  So, here we go!!

This is what it looked like before – the lovely popular oak color of the 80s and 90s!General Finishes handrail bannister makeover tutorial

General Finishes handrail bannister makeover tutorial

Materials Needed for DIY Banister Makeover

  • General Finishes Java Gel Stain – there are other gel stains out there, but this one is the best to use and is rated 5 stars!  Trust me it is super easy to use!!
  • Chalk Paint – I used Renaissance Chalk Finish paint in Ivory Tower.  Click here to check it out!  I love this paint!  It is non toxic, doesn’t smell, and I only needed 2 coats.  If you haven’t ventured in to the world of chalk paint, it a different type of paint that doesn’t require sanding and minimal coats.  It does have a slightly different feel and look to it than regular paint so make sure you like it before you start!
  • Sand paper or sanding block
  • Big and small paint brushes and old cotton rag or shirt
  • General Finishes Top Coat
  • Polycrylic Finish
  • Blue painter’s tape

Start off by wiping down your handrail and spindles.  I just used a wipe.  I didn’t break out the TSP or anything for this.  The railing really wasn’t that dirty.  The spots that had some grime built off I just scrubbed with the wipe.  After it’s dry, lightly sand the handrail and any large spindles that you will be staining.  And I mean LIGHTLY sand!  It doesn’t take much, just a little to scuff it up.  It only took me about 5 minutes to do it and then I wiped it off with a wipe again.DIY banister makeover tutorial

Tape off anything you don’t want stain getting on!  It doesn’t matter if it gets on the spindles, because the chalk paint will cover it up as long as it’s not a big glob!  I taped the carpet in front of the wood and the walls where the aprons were.farmhouse laminate flooring

This is the easiest way I have found to apply the gel stain.  First put a disposable latex glove on your dominant hand, then put a kitchen glove over it, and then put a sock over that.  Now you’re set!  All you do is dip your socked hand into the stain and wipe it on the wood.brown banister and white spindles

brown banister and white spindles

Rub it all over the wood until it’s pretty even.  The first coat will be pretty streaky and even the second coat will too.  It’s after the 3rd coat that it starts looking even.

General Finishes handrail bannister makeover tutorial

After 1st coat

General Finishes handrail bannister makeover tutorial

After 2nd coat

For the parts of wood near the spindles I used a small paintbrush so that I could get into crevices.brown banister and white spindles

I did three full coats – allowing for each to dry overnight -and then did some touch up so some parts had 4 coats.  Looking pretty good already, right??!!brown banister and white spindles

brown banister and white spindles

Now, on to the tedious part… painting the spindles with chalk paint… I started by using a small paint brush to paint around the top of the spindles.  General Finishes gel stain banister staircase tutorial

Make sure the stain is dry (wait a day or two) before you tape off the bottom of the spindles.  Then I painted the spindles with a chalk paint brush.

painting spindles in carpet tutorial

General Finishes gel stain banister staircase tutorialIf I was painting near the stairs, I put a piece of paper in between the spindle and carpet so I didn’t get paint on it.
General Finishes gel stain banister staircase tutorial

I painted as close to the carpet as I could and then I went back and painted the very bottom.  I tried two different ways.  First I taped off the carpet and that worked well but it took a lot of time.  So I ended up using the edge of a metal ruler and just pushed down the carpet while I used a small paint brush.painting spindles in carpet tutorial

painting spindles in carpet tutorial

My next tip would be on painting the second story spindles.  I am not a fan of heights so getting on a tall ladder was not appealing to me!  So for the back side of the spindles, I leaned over the top railing and painted down as far as I could go.General Finishes gel stain banister staircase tutorial

Then after I taped off the bottom of the spindles with painters tapeGeneral Finishes gel stain banister staircase tutorial

I held a mirror with my left hand behind the spindles and painted the back side with my right hand.  Unfortunately that left with me with no hands to take a picture of me in action, but hopefully you get the idea!General Finishes gel stain banister staircase tutorial

The other amazing thing about this paint is it dries very quickly!   If you really have a rhythm going and your hand isn’t killing you yet, you could paint both coats in the same day!

I think the one thing that kept me going is that we were getting our floors done at the same time so I couldn’t go downstairs and do anything for 4 days!  This kept me upstairs and made me keep going. Take a look at how nasty our carpet was.  I couldn’t take it anymore!  10 years of dogs and cheap carpet… not a good combo!  My kiddos had a great time drawing with Sharpie all over the laminate that was going to be ripped up!farmhouse laminate flooring

farmhouse laminate flooring

This is what I got to watch while I was painting!!

General Finishes gel stain banister staircase tutorial

Ok, back to the banister… I did two coats of the chalk paint and touched up a third coat in spots.  Once it was dry I brushed on a coat of polycrylic protective finish.  Now you are really supposed to lightly sand the spindles and then add another coat but I couldn’t do it anymore!  I figured the spindles do not get touched very often so one coat was going to have to do.  For the java stain, I used an old cloth dipped in General Finishes top coat to rub on the coating.  I let it dry for 3 days and then added another coat.General Finishes gel stain banister staircase tutorial General Finishes gel stain banister staircase tutorial

Whew!!  Finally done!!  A long project but one that was totally worth it!  Take a look at how it came out!

General Finishes gel stain banister staircase tutorialMy next project was the family scrabble tiles on the wall at the bottom of the stairs.  Those were much easier to do!  You can find the tutorial here.

brown banister and white spindles


diy oak banister makeover tutorial

diy oak banister makeover tutorial

diy oak banister makeover tutorial

What a dramatic difference, right??  Not bad for $30!!  I only had to buy the chalk paint since I had left over gel stain and top coats.  Take a look at the before and after!diy oak banister makeover tutorial



Please follow me!

Related Post

It's only fair to share...Pin on PinterestShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someonePrint this page

What do you think?