How to Apply Exterior Wood Stain to Previously Painted Wood Stairs

What You'll Need
Paint brush
Paint stripper
Drop cloth
Rubbing alcohol
Electric sander
Tack cloth
Stainless steel cup

Wood stairs are a beautiful addition to any outside area, from a raised deck to hot tub stairs. Natural wood stairs are great to look at but staining them will bring out the richness in the wood. Unfortunately many people will paint wood stairs instead of staining them. Later, when they decide they'd rather have a stained finish, there is a bit of work involved in removing the paint prior to staining. The article here will show you how to stain wood stairs that have been painted.

Step 1 - Choosing the Paint Stripper

Paint strippers are very common which means you will have a lot of choices. If you need help choosing, always ask the professional at the store for their recommendation. In the end, the stripper is determined by the paint that is on the wood stairs. If you don't know which paint was used you can find out. Dip a rag into some alcohol and rub an area of the wood stairs. Wait a few minutes and then wipe off with a towel. If the paint is removed then it is latex paint.

You may need more than one kind of paint stripper if you don't know how many paint layers exist on the wood stairs. Liquid paint stripper is thin and should be used with one or two layers of paint. Paint stripper that is thick and needs to be applied by a brush is used for more than two layers of paint.

Step 2 - Strip the Paint

Apply the paint stripper to the wood stairs. It is a good idea to start with the larger surface areas as the areas that are hidden will take more time. Allow the paint stripper to eat away at the paint for several days. The paint is ready to be removed when it buckles, crack and appears soft. Use a cloth soaked in water and wrung out to wipe away the paint. If dealing with more than one layer you may have to use a paint scraper. You may need to apply more paint stripper to the wood stairs in case the first try was not successful.

Step 3 - Stain the Wood Stairs

This is, by far, the easiest part of this project. If you prefer the wood stairs to have a slightly textured surface (great if used as steps to a hot tub) then gently sand the surface of the wood stairs. Use a tack cloth to remove the dust. Use rubbing alcohol and buff the wood stairs. Pour a small amount of the stain into the stainless steel cup. Dip the brush and wipe the excess off on the side of the cup. Use long and straight strokes going with the grain of the wood. Apply another coat if you feel it is not dark enough but wait until it is completely dry before evaluating and deciding if you want to apply additional stain. You can then seal the wood stairs with a layer or two of polyurethane.