How To Paint Stair Banisters & Railings

If you wish to breathe new life into your old staircase, simply giving your banister a fresh coat of paint could work wonders with the appearance of the entire area. Whether the wood of your banister is stained, painted, or bare, the time and effort it would take to paint it will definitely be worth it once you see the results. Granted that wooden handrails or banisters could prove to be the most complicated part of your house to paint, it could also be its most eye-catching focal point. If you plan to embark in this home improvement project, prepare to spend at least one weekend to finish the entire thing.

  • Set up your work area. Protect everything that needs to be shielded from drips and overspray with a layer of pre-taped painter’s sheet. If this is not available, simply cover the walls, furniture, and floors with newspaper or plastic sheets then attach it using masking tape. If your banister has any metal spindles, be sure to cover it with tape as well.
  • Sand all the parts to be painted. Lightly rub a fine-grit sanding sponge across the surface of the spindles, handrail, bottom plate, and spacers. Using a dry rag and a soft-bristled brush, wipe of all the dust you produced from sanding.
  • Coat the banister with a paint primer. Spray cans work best in applying the primer and paint to the handrail or wood banister. If the area you will be working on is quite large, consider renting a high-volume low-pressure sprayer. Get a system that can accommodate a gun trigger to make spraying more convenient. Be sure to wear your protective gear such as a facemask, goggles, and long sleeved shirt. Load your sprayer with a good quality primer. If this is your first time spaying paint, it is a good idea to practice on a different surface before attempting to prime the actual banister. Start spraying primer onto the top spacers. Try to keep the nozzle at an even distance from the surface all throughout the priming process. Do not hold your sprayer too close to the wood as well; this will cause your primer to drip. Avoid starting and stopping each spray on the surface you are painting. Once you are done priming all the top sprayers, proceed to applying primer on the bottom spacers and then the floor and bottom plate. Check if you have missed any area.
  • Fill in cracks and holes. Allow the primer to dry before proceeding to this step. Cut out a small opening at the end of the caulk tube and squeeze out a small amount onto any cracks, holes, and divots. Smooth the sealing compound into the surface with your fingers. Wipe off the excess with a damp rag. Remove any rough or uneven parts by sanding with a fine-grit sponge or sandpaper. Wipe the surface again with a damp cloth.
  • Paint the railings or banisters. Use the same process you employed in applying the primer. It is best to use semi-gloss or gloss paint in any color that would best match the décor of your home. For the paint, it is recommended that you put on at least two layers.

Leave the paint job to dry for at least a day before starting the clean up. Otherwise, you might cause the dust to rise and stick to the surfaces that you’ve just painted. Spraying the banister with a final coat of clear lacquer or varnish could be helpful but not necessary.


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