How to Paint a Stairwell

Stairwell painting may not be easy, especially when the wrong procedure or paint selection is engaged. Low-quality paint or inappropriate painting procedure leads to peeling and scuffing with time. Could you be facing similar challenges? How to Paint a Stairwell

On how to paint a stairwell – select the tools and material required, clean the surface, strip old paint, sand the surface, and fill & repair damaged sections before final polishing. 

Besides, you must select the right primer and prepare it accordingly, apply the primer, select and prepare finish paint, apply to finish paint, and undertake quality coat finish. You will also need to cover unwanted sections (to prevent staining) and prioritize painting handrails before coating the stairwell.

Details: How to Paint a Stairwell

For safety purposes, wear protective gear and adhere to precautions highlighted in this article.

Do not undertake paint application if you are new to painting works (contract a professional painter). The tools and material required are:

  • Extension ladder and a paintbrush
  • Finish paint and primer
  • Stripping chemical and paint scraper
  • Extension pole and Empty bucket
  • A roller or a paint sprayer
  • Waterpoint and power source
  • Blower and Polishing Machine
  • Sander or Sandpaper
  • Putty knife and Painter’s tape
  • Protective gear – boots, overall, respirator, goggles, and gloves

Step 1: Surface Cleaning

  • Wear the protective gear – respirator, goggles, boots, overalls, and gloves
  • Using a broom, sweep the stairwell and dust the handrail. Alternatively use a blower or a vacuum cleaner to remove dust particles and debris from the surface
  • Mop the stairwell and leave it to dry
  • Set extension ladder in place for easier access to higher sections

Step 1: Strip off old paint

  • Prepare to strip chemical as per the manufacturer’s guidelines
  • Apply to strip chemical over the stairwell using a paintbrush until the entire surface is covered
  • Leave the stripping chemical to cure and quench sufficiently
  • Using a paint scraper, strip the old paint gently. Be careful not to damage the primary stairwell material
  • Remove paint debris with a broom or blow off with a blower
  • Repeat the steps above until the entire old paint is finished

Step 1: Sand the Surface

  • Connect the sander to the power source and switch on
  • Gently, sand the stairwell to remove paint remains and attain a finer finish
  • Repeat the step above until the entire stairway is well sanded
  • Use a blower or a broom to remove sanded material

Alternatively, you can sand the stairwell with coarse-grit sandpaper (40 to 60 grit).

Step 1: Repair and Fill the gaps/porous sections

  • Fill the damaged sections, gaps, and porous parts with wood filler or patching compound
  • Cut off excess filler with a putty knife
  • Leave the filler to dry to touch

Step 1: Polish the Surface

  • Connect the polishing machine and switch on
  • Gently, run the machine over the stairwell and polish the surface to attain a smooth finish. Be careful not to clean the filler material in the process or cause further surface damage
  • Alternatively, use fine-grit sandpaper (100 to 160 grit) when polishing
  • Blow off the dust particles and surface debris
  • Mop the surface with a wet cloth and rinse it sufficiently
  • Leave the stairwell to dry to touch

Step 1: Cover Unwanted Sections

  • Using masking tape, newspaper, or painter’s tape, cover unwanted areas to prevent them from paint staining
  • Cover the floor with polyethylene to prevent stray paint droplets or particles
  • Trim corners and secure handrails where necessary

Step 1: Choose and Prepare the Primer

When selecting primer for your stairwell, consider factors such as the drying time, the smell emitted, quantity, stickiness level, durability, and ease of application.

Go for a primer that is less toxic (has low VOC components), fast-drying, and more comfortable to apply (high flowability).

Avoid purchasing primer with high Volatile organic components or low active ingredients.

Importantly, match your primer with the finish paint option – water-based primer should be used with water-based finish paint and vice versa.

  • Gently, power the primer into an empty bucket
  • Thin appropriately – as per the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Stir sufficiently until the primer mix uniformly
  • Test the solvent over the stairwell to assess the stickiness level

Step 1: Apply the Primer

  • Dip the paintbrush or a roller into the primer solvent and load sufficiently
  • Cut off excess primer to prevent runs or surface drains
  • Apply primer – back and forth gently
  • Repeat the steps above until the entire stairwell is coated
  • Leave the stairwell to dry to touch

Step 1: Select and Prepare Finish Paint

To select stairwell finish paint, you must consider the type of primer applied – water-based primer can only be primed with a water-based finish coat and vice versa.

Further, go for a fast-drying finish paint, low VOC, scratch-resistant, and on with a variety of attractive colors.

  • Pour finish paint into an empty bucket, gently
  • Add thinner and stir accordingly until you gain a uniform mixture. Follow manufacture’s directives
  • Carry out a drop test experiment over the stairwell to ascertain the stickiness level

Step 1: Apply Finish Paint

  • Dip a paintbrush into the paint solvent
  • Load the brush sufficiently and cut off excess paint
  • Apply finish paint – back and forth smoothly
  • Repeat the steps above until the stairwell is painted completely
  • Leave the paint to dry naturally
  • Apply the second finish coat where necessary

For a better finish, consider using spray paint. But, a spray painter is susceptible to overspray during paint application as compared to a paintbrush or a roller.

Step 1: Quality Finish Coat

Upon paint application, it’s advisable to cover the finish layer with a light paint coat to attain an excellent finish.

Further, cover the stairwell with a polyethylene bag in case you are painting in a dusty environment – to prevent staining.

Alternatively, sprinkle cold water after some time to keep off the dust – not over latex paint.

Remove surface drains and runs before they dry out. Never sand or polish dried paint in a bid to eliminate runs – you will destroy the excellent outlook impression.

How to Maintain and Prevent Stairwell from Peeling Paint

The following highlight indicates proper maintenance of your stairwell that will not only improve the paint coat’s service life and eliminates peeling/scuffing, but also reduce frequent painting cost:

  1. Dust the stairwell frequently to remove dust particles and surface debris – dust particles weaken the paint bond and cause the paint to face easily.
  2. Often, mop and rinse the stairwell to maintain the initial aesthetic impression
  3. Use highly adhesive paint for your stairwell to prevent peeling and chipping
  4. For stairwells found in humid environments, consider waterproof paint with mold-resistant properties.
  5. Your paint choice should be well thinned (as per manufacturer’s instructions) and scratch-resistance – the stairwell is susceptible to abrasive motion often.
  6. Consider using acrylic-latex paint for indoors stairwells to prevent poisonous fumes found in most oil-based paint from affecting inmates.
  7. When painting, consider using a paint sprayer for a quality finish – the stickiness level is higher, However, the paint sprayer needs a highly trained painter when painting a stairwell.
  8. Any peel or scuff found at the onset should be restored immediately before it extends further.
  9. Don’t thinly painted stairwell – thinner removes entire paint
  10. Faded stairwell should be repainted or restored entirely
  11. Never paint over old stairwell paint – old paint weakens the new coat layer.
  12. Consider using two or more paint coat to strengthen the finish layer

Precautions when Painting a Stairwell

When painting your stairwell, follow safety measures and precautions highlighted below:

  1. Always thin primer or paint as instructed by the manufacturer.
  2. Never prepare and apply paint if you are new – consider contracting a professional painter.
  3. For the paint restoration process, match the new paint with the one previously painted.
  4. Never smell paint, primer, or thinner directly as they contain fumes that may irritate your respiratory system if inhaled
  5. Always wear protective gear (goggles, respirator, overall, boots, and gloves) when painting your stairwell for safety purposes.
  6. Before applying your finish paint or primer, carry out a drop test experiment to ascertain the stickiness level.
  7. Check the expiry date of primer or finish paint before preparation is done. Never use an expired primer or finish paint when painting your stairwell.
  8. Cover unwanted sections before paint application to prevent them from staining. Paint handrails before coating the stairwell.
  9. In case you get into contact with thinner, primer, or finish paint, wash the area with plenty of soap and water.
  10. Always match primer with finish paint – oil-based primer should be coated with oil-based finish paint.


In summary, on how to paint a stairwell, you begin by selecting the tools and material required, cleaning the surface, stripping old paint, sanding the surface, and filling & repairing damaged sections before final polishing.

In addition, you must select the right primer and prepare it accordingly, apply the primer, select and prepare finish paint, apply to finish paint, and undertake quality coat finish. You will also need to cover unwanted sections (to prevent staining) and prioritize painting handrails before coating the stairwell.

Importantly, wear safety gear when painting stairwells for protection purposes and stick to precautions listed in this article.

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