Not only is painting banisters is an economical alternative to staining, it also just looks really freaking cool.
The staircase in our entryway was simultaneously the best and worst feature of the house. It had amazing potential (and imagining our Christmas tree situated beneath the stairs was actually what convinced me that this house was the one). Unfortunately, that potential was hiding under a whole helluva lot of orange.
Is there a name for this God-Awful color?! “Every New House in the 90s Orange” or “Hibachi Steakhouse Ginger Salad Dressing”?
Our plan was to stain the steps the same dark brown we’d be using on the downstairs hardwood floors, but we weren’t sure what to do about the banister. Would it look better stained dark to match the floors, or should we paint it the same shiny black as the doors in the entryway? What about white to match the spindles? What about another color entirely?! (our hardwood guy suggested copper).
After lots of chin-scratching and Pinteresting, we decided to make like the ‘Stones and Paint it Black. We used the same paint that we used on our front door… Sherwin Williams SnapDry in ‘Tricorn Black.’
Full disclosure: we didn’t tackle this task ourselves. We actually ended up hiring a handyman off of Thumbtack to paint the two-story walls in our foyer, and he did such a great job that we asked if he’d be willing to come back and tackle the daunting task of painting the banister.
STEP ONE: Sand it Down!
Our hired handyman started out by going over the handrail with a sanding block to prep the surface for paint. This is a crucial step anytime you want to pain wood that has already been painted / stained / sealed (trust me, I learned this the hard way…) Any pre-existing finish on your wood will prevent your new paint from adhering properly.
The good news: you’ll know right away if your paint isn’t adhering to the wood. If your fresh coat of paint beads up on the surface as you apply it, then you’ll know you haven’t sanded away enough of the old finish. (No big deal: wipe away the paint with a rag, then go back to sanding!)
More good news: you don’t need to entirely obliterate the surface of your wood. The objective is to break through that layer of finish and roughen up the surface of your wood so that the fresh paint can take. Don’t go overboard. You don’t need any power tools… just a little bit of muscle and patience.
STEP TWO: Mask
We had plenty of our tried-and-true blue painter’s tape on hand for our handyman, and he used it to mask off the trim and spindles. Masking is great (and for a project like this, necessary!) but you can’t cover everything… so be sure to keep a wet painter’s rag within arm’s reach just in case 😉
STEP THREE: Paint it Black!
Since we had never gone through the process of painting a banister before, we weren’t sure what additional steps there might be before and after the paint was applied (i.e. primer or topcoat). Our handyman assured us that neither steps were necessary for this project, and that the black paint could go directly onto the sanded wood railing.
So… that’s exactly what he did!
To achieve a super smooth and uniform finish, our handyman used a foam sponge brush* to apply the paint. Besides helping him work around the curves, nooks, and crannies, using a foam brush also helped him avoid the very noticeable texture of bristle / brushstrokes that would occur if he had used a normal paintbrush for this job.
That’s another lesson we learned the hard way when we used the same Snap Dry paint to paint our exterior doors black. The thicker formula of this paint seems particularly prone to brushstrokes, so the best way to get a neat and polished paint job is to avoid bristle brushes and use a foam brush or roller*!
The Snap Dry paint offers impressive coverage with one coat, but since this was a high-traffic surface, our handyman opted for a second coat just to be safe 😉
He did a great job! (I’m pretty sure that if we had tried to DIY this on our own, I’d be writing a post about how we decided to remove our banister, because who needs handrails anyways…)
The new upstairs carpet we chose had such a modern feel that we were worried it would feel disconnected from the more traditional / borderline rustic elements downstairs (like the brushed bronze light fixtures). Painting the handrails black helped bring those elements upstairs, and made the foyer (and the whole house) feel a lot more cohesive!
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hell yeah! i’m all about painting bannisters. We painted ours bubblegum pink 💗
Wow, your stairs sound like a bubblegum pink dream world of magic! Would love to see how it turned out!
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How has it held up being a high traffic, frequently touched feature? We are looking into snap sry in tricorn black for our kitchen cabinets although I’m about to add the banister to the honey do list bc yours looks so good.
Thanks Melanie!! It’s held up beautifully. We used the Snap Dry on our exterior doors as well, and it’s taken quite a beating from the dogs but still looks just as good as the day we painted! Tough stuff!
I have just painted my banisters black using the SW Tri-corn black (I’m not familiar with the Snap Dry). I wasn’t sure if I should paint under the banister, but I see you did paint yours after you taped off the top of the spindles. I may go back an tackle the underneath area. I tried taping the underneath off with my blue tape. I haven’t removed it yet so I will see what it looks like first. Yours looks great!
Your banister looks beautiful!! I am currently talking to people about having this done. Would you be willing to share the name of your contractors? Please and thanks!
What color is the paint on the walls? it looks like a nice shade of light grey?
What did you do with the oak stair treads. My stairs are the same as yours (oak bannister with white spindles). I would paint the bannister. Should I paint the stair treads too?
Looks great! Thank you for the tips about the foam roller vs brushes and the snap dry paint plus two coats. I’m going to be brave and try it myself. I only have 3 hand rails and some spindles. And on a limited-DIY budget. I’ll keep you all posted on my success!
Hey there! Just came across your post and wanting to copy you! Have the banisters still held up nicely after a few years? Thanks for your help!!