4 Ideas for Decorating with Wooden Stair Treads

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Wooden stair treads create a great first impression on someone entering your foyer or main room. They reflect your decorating style and compliment the appeal of any room. If you’d like to give your existing staircase an overhaul by removing existing carpet or tiles, there are many ways you can personalize it by painting, staining, or stenciling your stair treads. Keep reading for more information on these great decorating ideas.

1. The Basic Look

Cover and protect floors and walls and areas you don’t want to get damaged with drop cloths, painter's tape, and plastic. Next, prepare your stair treads. Sand them down to their bare wood to smooth out imperfections in the existing wood and remove any residual stain or paint or glue if they were under a carpet. You will need a sander and edger for the stair treads. If you don’t own these, you can rent them at a local hardware store.

Start at the top of the stairs and work downward. Be careful not to slip and fall. If you live in an older home, and the steps are uneven or a little warped, you may want to enlist the help of a carpenter. Use wood filler to conceal any imperfections. Sand these lightly.

Wipe the surfaces clean of dust with a damp cloth. If you still feel rough spots in the wood, sand down with a piece of light-grit sandpaper. Apply a wood conditioner to stair treads.

If you decide that you like the way the stair treads look at this point, you can seal and finish them by applying polyurethane to the bare wood. If you still want to paint, stain, or stencil, keep reading.

2. Paint to Give a Colorful Look

Apply a coat of primer to the stairs. Once dry, apply the color(s) you have chosen with a brush. Start painting at the top of the stairs and work your way down. Paint the stair risers (below and above stair tread) and stringers (on the side of step) first. That way you can still go up and down the stairs. When the risers and stringers are dry, paint the stair treads. You may want to paint each alternate step first, so that you always have a path to go up or down the stairs. Paint unpainted ones when the others have dried. Apply a second coat of paint.

Some people prefer to paint the stringers and raisers one color and the wooden stair treads another color, or even a stain, which provides a nice contrast. You may want to consider this option if it appeals to you.

3. Stained Look

Choose a stain color and finish. Try to match it to existing flooring and parts of the staircase. Apply stain with the same process you would if you were painting (see text above). Apply the stain in the direction of the grain. You will need two or more coats, but read the instructions on your stain can to make sure. Let the wood dry before between coats.

4. Stencil Designs for Fancy Look

Choose a stencil design from a local craft or hardware store, or perhaps design your own pattern.

Use masking or painting tape to tape a stencil on the wood stair tread (make sure it is completely dry!). Fill in the design with a small or stencil paintbrush, using the colors you have chosen. Gently lift the stencil and re-tape it to the next area to be painted. Repeat step above.

When you are done, apply a clear coat of polyurethane to prevent the design from wearing out.