How to Paint Your Stair Railing and Banister Black

2 Days

If your home is anything like mine, you’ve been in need of a paint job for a while now. Check out this tutorial on painting my stair railing black. This DIY project was the first big one I did to my new home that my husband I bought in mid 2021.

Now I know there are some people out there that really love the oak wood finish. I am not hating on that, but this banister and railing had a very early 2000’s vibe to it. Modern farmhouse was my inspiration and adding a modern finish to this wood railing and banister was my goal.

I have seen some other talented bloggers doing something similar in their homes. My friend Jeanette inspired me with her banister makeover in her home.

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  • Sanding Block
  • Sandpaper (Grits from 80-120)
  • Canvas Drop Cloths
  • Delicate Surface Frog Tape
  • Blue Painters Tape – Masking Tape
  • Carpet Shield Protector
  • Foam Roller – Small
  • Kilz Primer
  • Behr Paint Enamel – Paint color “Leather Limousine” (Deep Base Semi-Gloss Finish) You can get it at Home Depot
  • Angled Paint Brushes
  • Paint container cup
  • Varathane Gloss Finish Clear Polyurethane Top Coat
1. Prepare Your Surface

Start by taping your space. Sometimes prepping a space for painting takes longer than the painting itself.

For my banister and stair railing, there was a gloss finish on the oak wood and I wanted to rough up the surface a bit before I added my new look to it. This is where I broke out my sand paper sanding block and got to sanding the surface a bit.

I started with my 80 grit sandpaper and worked my way to about 100 grit. I didn’t use a power sander. Instead I just hand sanded the surface a bit.

When painting any area in your home you want to follow some steps preparing your surfaces that you will be painting. This includes cleaning the surface and making sure it is free of dust, dirt, or any grime.

After you and cleaned the surface, laying out your drop cloths and adding painters tape to mask the areas you don’t want painting.

If you are doing this in your home, then you may want to use a power sander if your railings and banister have been previously painted OR if there are in bad shape. If you find significant damage or nicks on the wood surface, then using wood filler would be a good thing to do before sanding.


2. Paint on Primer

Prep work is never my favorite even though it’s probably the most important step. If you don’t prep well, the rest of the process crumbles. I was excited to start the painting part of my handrails on my staircase!

I love using Kilz as my primer of choice due to it being a stain blocker and primer in one. It’s super durable and since the handrails are used quite often, I wanted it to hold up over time.

I used an angles paintbrush to apply my primer and ended up applying about 2 coats.

*Pro tip* – Make sure to allow the primer to completely dry before applying the next coat. Otherwise it will remove the layers you previously painted.

3. Paint Your Railing Black

I was so excited to start painting my stair railing black! There were so many shades of black to chose from, but I chose the color “Limousine Leather” from the brand Behr. It had a little bit of some warmer tones to it. Semi-gloss finish was my choice because the higher the gloss you will see less and less imperfections and the paint will last longer.

I like applying the paint with a smaller foam roller. Minimizing the texture as much as possible was my goal. I wanted to apply even coats, even if it took longer to build.

I was able to apply most of the paint with my roller. My angled brush came in handy for the underside of the railing and other small crevices.

This painting process took about 2-3 coats to make sure I had full coverage.


4. Paint The Spindles

Being the ADHD-er that I am, once I was wrapping up the painting of the railing, I notices that the spindles looks kinda dingy. I have no idea the last time these spindles got some love, so I decided to make this the second part of this project.

There were nicks in the spindles that I wanted to fill with wood putty. I allowed plenty of time to dry before moving onto the sanding step.

The process was similar for this step. Sanding, priming, painting. We had some left over paint from the sellers of our house that seemed like the same color these spindles were originally painted.

5. Adding Top Coat

The last step of this project was to add a gloss top coat to protect the paint from chipping or getting scuffed. I used a Varathane poly gloss clear coat. I did about 2 coats of this protective finish and allowed it to dry overnight.


6. Enjoy!

Once the top coat dries you can kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. This project exceeded my expectations. I am so happy with the finished result.

When painting stair railing black, there might be some fear attached to that kind of contrast, but I really feel this helped me modernize this feature in my home. I love modern farmhouse style! What did you think of this makeover? If you have any questions or want to share what you think, please leave them in the comments below.

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