Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Creating My Black and White Stairs

This project started out in the same manner as all of my projects.   That's right,  convincing L of it's appeal.  Easy enough to do with all of the gorgeous remodel pictures other bloggers have posted.    In my good fortune, the stars aligned and we discovered L has a serious dust allergy!!!   As soon as we arrived home from the doctor's appointment, I pulled a corner of the carpet runner off the stairs to show him how disgusting the dust was under the runner!!!   (Naturally, I had already explored underneath the runner waiting for the perfect opportunity to put the nail in the coffin so to speak) Once seeing 15 years of dirt build up, he quickly jumped on board.   In our house, I am the do-it-yourselfer.

I contacted my painter for an estimate....UMMMM no way!!  It was beyond out of my price range.  I asked him for his advice.    I saw many pictures of completed projects, but not much guidance.    He advised sanding, staining and a ton of other work I had no desire to do.   I wanted the southern Louisiana plantation look with black enamel.  No wood grain showing through.  I couldn't decide if I wanted to use a latex- or oil based paint.   After researching, I decided on an oil-based paint...mainly because other bloggers used oil based paint. 

Unfortunately, I was told oil based paint wasn't available to me in the state of Ohio.   On to plan B.     I decided to prime the stairs, paint and polyurethane.    HA!!!  The paint product and process changed so much for me during this project.   The project took almost three weeks for me to complete. 

First, I tore off the carpet runner.   I was beyond ecstatic to see hardwood treads gleaming (maybe not) in front of my eyes!!!    The dust was awful.  Thick, crusty and just disgusting.   My boys wanted to help with the project and we all wore masks.  Seriously, if y'all knew what was lurking under your carpet I can guarantee you would stop reading...get the hammer out and start tearing out carpet.

In order to tear off the carpet, I used needle nosed pliers and a hammer.   My boys were able to get most of the staples off themselves.  (They are 5 and 7)  We all wore safety goggles during the staple removal.   We also took out the Dyson, vacuumed and wiped dirt and grim away.    The most difficult part at this point was removing the tack strips used on the landing.   I had to use a crow bar and hammer for this.   I also had to purchase cove molding as the builder left 27 inches on each riser without cove molding.  The boys and I cut this ourselves and I used project nails to piece it together on the risers.  (I've never nailed molding and wasn't about to learn how!)

After tearing off the carpet on the landing, I had to make a descision of what to replace it with as there was a piece of wood surrounding the insert.   I went to Home Depot and purchased a piece of good quality plywood---one of their associates cut it to fit to size, including the proper notch!! 

Second, I filled the holes on the risers.  I did not fill holes on the treads as I didn't want filler on the walking science behind this....just Jackie reasoning. :)  I also sanded the treads and risers down along with the banisters and newel posts.   This took forever!!! I used a palm sander on the flat surfaces and a sanding sponge on the other surfaces.   Make sure to purchase several sheets of sand took about 1 piece per tread.  I used a medium grit.  After wiping down all of the surfaces with tack cloth I was ready to prime.

Third, I used Zinsser OIL based prime tinted gray.   I actually used regular blue tape on all the spindles before applying the primer.   I really wanted to avoid painting the spindles.   The regular blue tape worked perfectly!!  No leaking, seepage or other issues.  After allowing the primer to dry for three days, I primed the remaining treads.  (paint every other in sets if this is your only staircase.)  I tore off the blue tape and reapplied the delicate blue Scotch brand tape.   (it took me 2 rolls of either type)

Fourth,  due to the ban on oil-paint sells in Ohio, I decided to use Behr floor and porch paint in low lustre finish.   I was extremely disappointed in the look of this product.   It was dull and rubbery looking....I thought no big deal since it was going to have polyurethane over it.   UNTIL!!!!!  I discovered latex paint must cure for 30 days before putting an oil based polyurethane over it.   (science--latex dries as the water evaporates--the water can't escape from the oil covering and the result is a foggy mess)  At this point I discovered the polycrylic can't be used on floors.  OMG!!!!  This project was going to be the death of me!!!  I connected several paint store for a solution.   I called a Sherwin Williams and was told since I used a Behr product...there was nothing they could do to help me.   If anyone knows me---I rarely accept NO for an answer.   I am a firm believer there is a solution to every problem!!  I called another Sherwin Williams store.  The store manager answered the line and was beyond helpful.   I explained the whole process step by step to this point.   I won't say what he told me at this point as I don't want him to get in trouble.    But oil wasn't an option because I had already painted the latex floor paint on most of the project.  He said I could use Sherwin Williams Acrylic paint.   But do not apply a topcoat of any sorts!!!   The product didn't allow topcoat adherence very well.  He also said, if the stairs do scuff up it would be easy~peasy for me to lightly sand and apply another coat.  (which seemed to be a common idea from painting forums I researched)   I decided to use the Gloss Acrylic paint in black. 

*****painting process*****  I used a 1 1/2 inch Purdy angled brush....this brush allowed the finest precision cutting in.    I also used a 6 inch foam roller.

FINALLY~!!!!!! The black paint was finished!!!  I couldn't wait to tear off the delicate blue tape.   OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Do not ever buy or use this tape!!!!  It allowed seepage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It was awful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I almost cried when seeing every single spindle with black paint!!!!!!!!!!!  It even seeped onto the risers!!!!!  

I went to Home Depot and purchased the Behr paint and primer ultra white and a quart of zinsser oil primer.   I cut in with the Purdy angle brush....This brush became my new best friend!!!   I couldn't get over how precise the lines were.   I ended up painting all the wainscoting, spindles and trim.   After the white paint was applied and dried.  I cut back in with a final coat of black on the treads.    The end result was and is luscious!!!!  

This by far was my toughest do-it-yourself project to date.  I would be lying if I said it was easy or not a ton of work.  At one point watching me cut in, L said, "I was blessed with an enormous amount of patience. "  LOL!!!  Big Bubba!!!  I laughed!!!  I said, "I have three children....patience is absolutely one of my better qualities!!"

I can't believe how gorgeous it came out!!!  It looks exactly how I wanted it to.   Oh almost forgot...I had to break out the 20 foot extension ladder at some point.   L was making the kids dinner...I had not set up the ladder properly and it slipped out from under me.  I had to hold on to the spindles and hold my body super taunt with feet clutching the ladder screaming for him to grab the ladder as it continued to slip.   Moral of the story---make sure there is a strong adult to stand under the ladder when you are up on it!!  I was shaking so hard after that!!!!  But of course, I got right back on the ladder to finish my project!!!!

I am beyond happy with the results!!!!!


  1. I don't like the blue tape either. It pulled the paint off the walls with one batch I used years ago when we built our daughter's house. I only use the Frog tape now. It is wonderful.

  2. Okay, now I see how you did it! I'm in Kentucky so we can get oil paint. I can't imagine not being able to buy oil paint? I wonder what they use on cabinets, etc. Whew! Scary about the ladder, I would freak! Thanks for such a great tutorial!


  3. I know!!! The whole oil paint issue was a thorn in my side....I discovered later a couple people could have ordered it for me. It's available on a "shop" level. Using a primer will help with the sanding issue. My finish was 15 years old and flaking so I had to sand. If your finish is could get away without vigorous sanding. If using the oil primer. Oh I didn't mention this in my tutorial but dipping a rag in white paint and "wiping" it on my spindles eliminated the brush strokes on the spindles. I still had to brush the square part of the spindle. I highly recommend the purdy 1 1/2 all purpose brush. It's "thin" enough to create a precise edge. In all honesty I adore the really was a ton of work!!! The painter wanted to charge me 2500 to do it. His way!!! He wanted to stain it. I wanted it painted! Now I need to paint the foyer!! Home ownership is always a work in progress!!

  4. Kim, I will only use frog tape!!! Thank you!

  5. Love this!!...I too have discovered the right brush means everything.....I have done tons of painting and can't wait to start this project...thanks for sharing your troubles along the will definitely make my project easier!

  6. Jackie!! Your stairs are GORGEOUS!! It looks just like an inspiration picture that I have from a magazine, before I did mine a couple years ago. The wainscoting is beautiful, and the black treads and bannister just make it. My stairs were hideous to do too.....but I'm so glad I did it now! Spindles are the #1 worst thing to paint, aren't they? But you must be thrilled with the end result - it was so worth all the pain, right?

  7. I love this look of the black and white stairs!! I wish I had hard wood on my stairs again.


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