Asked on Dec 27, 2013

I need to stain my pine stairs. Risers will be painted -- not sure

by Louise
what color yet for them. Right now they have white primer on them. But I plan to stain the treads to match the floor -- a honey oak kind of color. I have 3 cats and a large dog who will need to be kept off the stain during the process. Is there something I can use that's a quick-dry product? Or, is there something that can be added to the stain to accelerate the drying process? Or, do any of you have other ideas in how to handle this? I also like the look of painted treads and I think paint might dry faster, but maybe not. AND, with the dog going up and down the stairs, I don't think paint will hold up as well as stain. I don't want to be repeating this chore every so often. After staining, is anything else needed? (This photo isn't of my stairs -- just a similar color pattern.)
  22 answers
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Dec 28, 2013
    There are some stains and varnishes that dry in hours. As for the color? Have you considered painting them the color of the walls?
  • Nest Home Improvement Nest Home Improvement on Dec 28, 2013
    Whatever you decide to apply you probably want to put on two coats. Suggest running fans to help with drying. Perhaps boarding your pets for a few days during this process.
  • Lori J Lori J on Dec 28, 2013
    I need to redo the stairs and am facing the feline dilemma myself. Love their fuzzy butts, but they make any remodeling a challenge.
    • Louise Louise on Dec 28, 2013
      @Lori J They absolutely DO. Whenever I think about doing anything, the critters come to mind first. :-)
  • Lauren Lindborg Caddo Lauren Lindborg Caddo on Dec 28, 2013
    Use baby gates or old doors to block if possible, or even old panelling or plywood (both are 4' x 8' uncut). Possibly put a space heater in that area. I'd use at least 3 coats of polyurethane or marine grade varnish. The finish will last forever. Putting polyurethane over anything will make it last forever if you want to paint them a color. That's my experience anyway.
  • Louise Louise on Dec 28, 2013
    A baby gate will work fine for the dog, but cats can find ways around nearly anything. My current plan is to put the cats in one room with their food and litter boxes until the stain/paint/whatever is dry. The dog and I can use the back door during that time.
  • Shari Shari on Dec 28, 2013
    Sounds like you have come up with a workable plan for the pets so you just need to figure out whether paint or stain will work better for your situation. Either way, have you considered putting down a stair runner afterwards? They are a very popular and chic alternative to carpeting. It would not only help protect the finish on your treads but it would also be easier (less slippery) for you and your pets to navigate. You might find these two links interesting and helpful.
  • I've done several of these. The stain and each coat of polyurethane will dry within a couple of hours. I suggest a lighter shade of the stain you want, then 4 to 6 coats of polyurethane, lightly sanding between each coat of polyurethane. Once the poly is finished you will need to repaint or touch up the risers. Paint does not do well on top of the poly, so you should tape off the risers or take care not to get poly on them. There will be some odor to the poly - not bad, but I tried at first to do the stairs right before we went to bed and it bothered us a bit. I suggest doing them before you're going out for a couple of hours to shop or whatever. It will take only ten to fifteen minutes to apply each coat of poly. John Rigdon The Computer Doctor Flat Rate Computer Repair $45.00 678-739-9177
  • Sheryl Hart Sheryl Hart on Dec 29, 2013
    I will be painting an old plank floor and the stairs in the Spring when I can open windows and the furnace is off (otherwise cat hair will be blowing, no matter how I vacuum). I am using porch and floor paint in a satin finish. Satin won't be slippery to sock feet. Cats will be confined to the office for the duration. The room has a sliding glass door so they can watch the birds. This floor is so old and dry that the grain is splintering. My paint store guru suggested thinning the paint and using a coat or two of that first to allow the floor to soak it up (paint can says NO PRIMER MAY BE USED). Then 2 coats of non-thinned paint on top of that to seal the old wood and give a smooth finish. Here's hoping! Paint guru said that since the stair treads are in good shape to just paint with 2 or three coats of non-thinned paint. She also suggested adding white to some of the paint to lighten it a shade or two and alternating treads, since this stairwell is not very well lit, and has the curved "pie wedge". It will let the eye know where each step is, making it safer.
  • Tradition Wood Works Tradition Wood Works on Dec 29, 2013
    Most good (not Minwax) solvent based stains will be dry and ready to topcoat in 30 min. I've never seen a poly that will dry in a couple of hours, even the quick drying versions. You probably cannot get a hold of it because it's a commercial type product but a conversion varnish would be the best option in my opinion. if you stained first thing in the morning you could get 3 coats of this on my mid afternoon and be walking on it by evening.
    • Louise Louise on Dec 29, 2013
      @Tradition Wood Works What is a solvent based stain? Any brand recommendations? If not available to the public, then what's a conversion varnish? The varnish goes over the stain, right?
  • Sheri Ketarkus Sheri Ketarkus on Dec 29, 2013
    I had stairs very similar in an older home we lived in. I stenciled autumn colored leaves ( elm, maple and oak) all over them. loved them and the compliments were nice too.
    • Louise Louise on Dec 29, 2013
      @Sheri Ketarkus Do you have a photo of your stenciling?
  • This is what I did at my house...
    • Bonnie Bonnie on Jan 04, 2015
      @Vintage Restorations.....Formerly Closet Furniture I had painted the risers on my stairs white, but they always became scuffed with black from shoes hitting them (big men feet!) I have been wanting to paint them black but wasn't sure how I'd like it....thanks for posting your photo; I LOVE it dark!!
  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Dec 29, 2013
    Hi Louise If I have a job that needs the stain to dry fast for stairs or furniture, I use a water based stain. It dries super fast, and is water clean up. There are water based stains that have the urethane in them too. Also there are also water based urethanes out there too that dry fast, but for the stairs, I would advise using an oil based polyurethane for high traffic areas. Since you have pets, the polyurethane would hold up alot better. If you do use polyurethane, do not get the high gloss one, it will be super shiny and slippery. Do the urethane at night, when most pets are sleeping, then cover up the area. If you have rails, then open up a large garage bag and intertwine it around the rails to keep the cats away. Look forward to seeing your finished stairs.
    • Louise Louise on Dec 29, 2013
      @Kim DagenaisThanks. I'm going to print out your info when I go to buy the stain. So, an oil based polyurethane for high traffic areas would NOT be cleaned up with water and wouldn't dry as fast, right? I'll have to read up on all of this since I'm not in the know enough. :-)
  • Cyndi Moore Tippett Cyndi Moore Tippett on Dec 29, 2013
    I painted the risers the color of my wall color (a sand color) and then the treads I painted red and put water based polyurethane and they have held up fine. I am going to stencil on the risers in the next couple of months, whenever I decide the look I want. I don't have animals so I can't tell what they would do to my stairs. But our everyday wear and tear has been fine.
  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Dec 29, 2013
    Hi Louise for water based stain or urethane I use Minwax or Varethane brands. They dry pretty fast and clean up really well with warm water and a little liquid dish soap. I use good quality sponge brushes, but to get into the cracks, and have a straight line/edge to your stain, you might have to have a small angle brush on hand, or tape the edges with Frog Tape. Make sure to stain from one side to the other, and don't put too much on the first coat, as you are going to have to go over your work with sand paper (grit 220) lightly. (When you add stain to wood, it lifts up the wood and roughs it up a bit). After approx. two hours sand lightly, just enough so your wood feels smooth again. You may notice half the stain is gone, but that is OK. The next coat will fix that, and the wood won't get all rough like after the first coat. Depending on what colour to decide on, you may need two to three coats of stain, and always do light coats so it is more even and dries faster. I would wait until the next day to coat your stain with polyurethane. Make sure there are no drips or runs from your stain. If there are, just use 320 grit sand paper or 0000 steel wool found at the home improvement store. Use the proper brush to apply the polyurethane. Some urethanes dry faster than others, depending also on how much you put on with each coat too. It may take you two to three days to do the polyurethane. You should leave each coat to dry over night, before you apply the next coat, but it will be worth the wait. (I have been mixing my polyurethane/varnish with thinner or mineral spirits in small batches in a glass jar. I use 3/4 polyurethane and 1/4 thinner, and sometimes 50%-50%. When dilute your polyurethane with thinner or mineral spirits, it helps the polyurethane dry much faster and it is called Wiping Varnish). I would inquire about this, at your home improvement store or here is a link below so you can read up on it. If you have any questions, don't hesitate. Plus there are so many members here that can answer almost any questions you have on staining, and coating wood.
    • Louise Louise on Dec 29, 2013
      @Kim Dagenais Thanks for this excellent info! Too bad you're not a street over to come do this for me. :-)
  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Dec 29, 2013
    Hey Louise Yes if you lived much closer, I would most likely give you a hand. Believe me, I had trial and error through the years, and learned a lot of things from obtaining hands on experience. I love refinishing furniture, painting etc. If you have any questions, just fire away. Hope it will be a good experience for you.
  • Jack Hammons Jack Hammons on Dec 29, 2013
    ZIP-GUARD is the way to go. It's a water based urethane. It's white prior to application and dries clear. You can use it on bare wood or over stain and comes in different sheens. It dries quick also and you can apply multiple coats within a days time. I have used it on many wood pieces, trim and molding. It's very durable and easy cleanup. Hope this helps!
  • Jack Hammons Jack Hammons on Dec 29, 2013
    oh and you will want to lightly sand between coats to keep the finish smooth. I use 360 dry sand between the finishes when using Zip guard.
  • Sheri Ketarkus Sheri Ketarkus on Dec 29, 2013
    I am on vacation til next Tuesday. will check when I get home. I'm sure I do. found an inexpensive stencil with several different leaves on it. found a deep burgundy, dark green and old gold and just sort of played on some scrap wood to get the feel and then went crazy. the wood had no finish, so u may have to sand your steps. then poly them. u could put any design on them u want.
    • Louise Louise on Jan 28, 2014
      @Sheri Ketarkus Did you find a photo of your stencil?
  • Tradition Wood Works Tradition Wood Works on Dec 30, 2013
    Solvent based vs water based, Sherwin Williams Wood Classics are pretty good. You may be able to get a hold of a conversion varnish from a place like Sherwin Williams if they have a commercial dept and will sell it to you, I'll have to look through my product guide to see what might be a good option for you, stay tuned!
  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Dec 30, 2013
    Hi Louise Please Do Not Use Water Based Urethane, no matter the brand. I have alot of experience with it, and love it for many uses, but for high traffic areas, it is not the way to go. The fact that you have four pet also means you need something that is very durable. I like Sheri's idea about stencilling, and if you find a real nice one, I suggest using a dark stain for the stencil instead of paint. The look would be fantastic with two different coloured stains on the steps. Or paint your risers whatever colour, and use a stencil on that with paint. Number the risers with a stencil, or a quote on each riser etc. There is so much you could do with your blank canvas. Anyway I was just checking the comments on this topic sent to my inbox and just had to comment again. LOL
  • Kim you are spot on.......Never use water based Poly on a "High Traffic" area as it will be gone within a year unless you let it dry for a month before walking on the floor. Been there, done that, got the "T" shirt......I ONLY use oil based poly and stains now. That way I can gaurantee my work for life
  • PollyMac PollyMac on Aug 13, 2015
    Have you considered just a simple wax polish. Comes in different colours too. Can't really recommend anything on American market as I live in Scotland. I use this on natural woods and it gives a great natural fnish. Really easy to apply. Not slippy despite being wax and touches up really simply! No need for expensive paints, stains varnishes and messy work. You'll need to clean/dust stairs every so often anyway, so do it with a little more Wax. This is really quick drying, almost instant its rubbed in, so no harm to dogs and cats. You could try a baby gate to keep them off stairs...hahaha!
    • Louise Louise on Aug 13, 2015
      @PollyMac Seems I read that this wouldn't stand up on stairs, but I love the idea. Does anyone have experience with this on stairs and if so, which product might work?