Staircase Makeover

6 Materials
25 Hours

My front curved staircase is the first thing you see when entering my home. The staircase was the reason I fell in love with my house initially but keeping carpeted stairs cleaned and vacuumed was a giant frustration. After looking into replacing with wood, I decided on tile. A hardwood replacement would have been far more expensive and required additional tools. I wanted to create a statement look and love Spanish tile detail. There are a lot of options for tile, but in the end I didn't want to spend thousands of dollars on high end tile for the stairs. I ended up buying my black and white tiles from Lowe's for $1.29 per tile and the larger tiles ran about $30 per tile from Home Depot.

Before Pic

Prep the stairs/Remove carpet/clean surface

Remove all staples and hammer in remaining nails. The carpet can easily be removed by using a small crowbar or flat head screw driver to get a corner of the carpet up and then easily pull the rest up.

Plan and Purchase your Tile

Decide on type of tile and how best to position the tiles. I wanted the top of each step to match the new flooring we installed upstairs, which was a walnut color laminant. So I chose a tile that was long enough to fill the full width of each stairs ( 48 inches long). This way there would only be one grout line for the large steps and none on the smaller standard width. I chose a detailed tile for the face because I wanted a statement look. If this style is too bold for you, consider using the same large wood looking tile for the face of each stairs.

Apply mortar for tile and schluter edging

Start by applying mortar with a trowel to the top side of stair.

This step is much easier if you have a partner who is measuring and cutting the tiles with a wet saw, while someone else installs.

Install schluter edge and tile.

Place the tile on top of the schlutter edge

You will need to make sure the schluter edge and the tile stay about 3/8 of an inch over the step, to cover the black and white tile that will cover the face of each stairs. We improvised by making a small cheater guide with wood, cut to the correct distance. This was easier than measuring each step.


For more of my grouting tutorials:

Finishing Touches

I used a white caulk on the face (edges only) and a dark/wood colored caulk on the steps. I ended up painting the banister black and staining the final step a similar walnut color as the wood colored tile. We will refinish the lighter hardwoods on the first floor eventually but for now I don’t mind the difference. Overall, I’m super happy with my new staircase, which is beautiful and very easy to clean!

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 7 questions
  • Kelli Cook
    on Jun 10, 2020

    Looks fabulous! Now make use of the wasted space beneath the stairs. Bookcase? Sitting area? Dog bed area? Coat rack? Or You could put the chunky white settee there.......

  • Sjr Spike
    on Jun 10, 2020

    Gorgeous! I love this look! But did you really pay $30 for each of the walnut tiles?

    • Flawless Chaos
      on Jun 11, 2020

      The tiles are $15 per square foot, so each tile is around $30. To me it was worth fewer grout lines on the steps.

  • HandyGirl
    on Jun 11, 2020

    That’s beautiful! Wonder how the tiled treads will hold up over time? Say that because those treads tend to flex because of the constant stepping in one zone and flex causes tile to crack. It appears you set long tile strips on particle board rather that using a cement based backer board—which would have eliminated that flex. Absolutely love the tiles on the risers and as long as you allowed a gap between the riser tiles and the tread (you can use sanded caulk that matches your grout to fill gaps), the riser tiles should be ok. One alternative would be to use real wood treads or wood-look vinyl treads. What you did looks fantastic and I hope it holds up!

    • Flawless Chaos
      on Jun 11, 2020

      Hi - the stair base is solid wood, no particle board what so ever. Solid wood(/4 inch boards) don't have a lot of flex, if any. We also used silcone flex mortar, which will accomodate a bit of movement. The sanded grout is only between tiles that are sitting on the same board...meaning there won't be any movement in that area. The sides of each step and riser are silcone caulk, so that will allow for movement. Tiled stairs are fairly common and typically hold up over time if installed correctly.

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