MakeOver Steps With Chalk Paint and a Sponge

4 Materials
3 Hours

Transform steps with a texture that hides dirt and adds a bit of traction. We used two shades of brown for the steps, and off-white for the risers. Watch our longer video for the full tutorial at this link.

Chalk paint has many advantages. It covers in one coat for the most part. It comes in natural colors that work well for neutral décor. Chalk paint bonds very well to concrete, unlike latex that forms a film that can be peeled off.

However, a flat surface of chalk paint will still show dirt and stains. That's how sponge painting came to the rescue of these old steps. This texture truly hides dirt and leaves that tend to accumulate here. Low maintenance always looks good to us!

Also, the slight texture created by the sponge painting adds a bit of traction for more safety. The white risers add height, making a short flight of steps look taller.

The white risers help show the edges of the steps, making them much safer at night.

Here's a closeup view of the texture. We love the look and believe it will wear well. A sealer can be used on top, but these steps don't get heavy traffic and we'd like to see how the chalk paint weathers. If you use a sealer, do a test first to make sure it doesn't make your steps slippery.

Before, our sad steps were falling apart and looked drab

Look how awful the steps were when we began this project. We had major chipping and lots of cracks too.

… there were many cracks especially on the lower steps

We repaired our steps with QuikreteVinyl Patcher which had lots of great reviews on the HomeDepot™ website. It comes in manageable buckets so you can mix small batches. Let any patches dry for a week before painting.

We mixed 'peanut butter' consistency to repair the vertical surfaces. We used 'milkshake' consistency to repair the horizontal. We like to keep concrete work easy. Our longer video at the link above will give you many tips and tricks we used for using Quikrete™.

Base Coat for Sponge Painting

We started with a flat coat of Waverly Chalk Paint 'Truffle' and let that dry overnight. We began the sponge and spatter painting the next day starting at the top step. We sat on the steps as we worked our way down.

We used ordinary synthetic sponges. We saw natural sponges at HobbyLobby™ for just $4.99, however the concrete will ruin any sponge used for this project because we scrubbed and streaked paint into the surface. We used a synthetic sponge we had on hand for washing cars.

You can use lots of different colors for sponge painting. We used two shades of brown for a neutral finish. We used Waverly Chalk Paint 'Truffle' for the background and blending; and Waverly 'Hazelnut' for the second layer of the texture and spattering painting as the final touch. Bright colors of chalk paint will fade outdoors so you may want to top those with a UV sealer like ModPodgeOutdoor formula. Apply the clear finish with a sponge so that it has a slight texture and is not slippery.

We sponged 'Hazelnut' on top of the flat 'Truffle.' Next, we added a third layer of sponged 'Truffle' to blend and mix the 'Hazelnut' into the surface.

Adding spatters of 'Hazelnut' was the finishing touch. The sharp edges of the spatters contrast well with the blurry sponge painting. We let this dry a bit, and blended some of it back with the 'Truffle'. Leave as many of the sharp spatters as you can. They look great and hide dirt.

We used WaverlyChalk Paint 'Plaster,' off-white on the risers and were able to create crisp edges using ordinary masking tape.

It's fun peeling the tape after the paint as 30 minutes to set to reveal the clean edge. We used a small paint brush and 'Truffle' to clean up a few rough spots.

Closeup of Sponge and Spatter Chalk Paint

If you should get a stain or see a wear spot, this finish will be easy to touch up with matching paint because it is deliberately patchy instead of one flat color.

Sponge painting may sound like child's play, but it takes practice to do it well. Practice on scrap wood if you are a beginner. We used a number of motions like 'zig-zag' and 'scrub' to blend our two colors, you may want to try.

If your stairs get a lot of traffic, you may want to use a clear sealer on top. Test it on a small spot first to make sure it will not be slippery when wet. It may also darken your colors a bit. A matte finish may be the least slippery, but a semi-gloss finish will create the look of polished stone. We left ours unsealed to weather naturally.

Use a lot of care when working with steps. Take your time and be safe, wear non-slip shoes. Work on steps at your own risk.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, we have more photos and tips on our website here, or click the "GO" button below. Remember, the link to the longer video is at the top!

Resources for this project:

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

Frequently asked questions

Have a question about this project?

  3 questions
  • Nancy Marek Ligi Nancy Marek Ligi on Nov 02, 2020

    What temperature does it have to be in order for this to work.?

  • Gail Gail on Nov 02, 2020

    How well does this last? I would love to do this project on my patio but do not want to have to continually do touch ups.

  • Mak Mak on Nov 03, 2021

    Is any chalk paint ok to use outdoors? Anddid you use cement patch and fix it then paint ?


Join the conversation

3 of 14 comments
  • Sharon L Rabideau Sharon L Rabideau on Nov 03, 2021

    That came out beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  • Em Em on Nov 03, 2021

    I would put several coats of sealer on. Here in the north east it would not stand up to the rain and snow.

    It is beautiful though.

    • Stephie McCarthy Stephie McCarthy on Nov 03, 2021

      We love sealers too! We'd go for the matte finish to make sure it doesn't become slippery.