10 Mistakes To Avoid When Staining A Staircase

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10 Mistakes To Avoid When Staining A Staircase

Death to honey wood

If you’ve read my post about my kitchen cabinet makeover and/or my whole house trim makeover, you will be able to see without a reasonable doubt that I have a very strong aversion to honey oak wood.

I just hate Honeywood oh so much! (Yuck!)

I am “allergic” to honey oak wood. It is the bane of all types of wood out there.

It conjures up a feeling of being trapped inside a giant peach or a honeycomb, for me.

I am constantly bothered by the mere sight of it.

Stomach turning…

Every time I walk into my kitchen, I can’t help but lose my appetite.

It’s not like I can cover my eyes and avoid my kitchen cabinets.

They’re always there staring right back at me, mocking me with their angry orangey hue.

Not to mention that staircase, what a lovely sight for sore eyes.

If only it were any other color other than orange honey wood oak, of course.

Oh, honey wood, how I loathe thee so…


To each their own

Now, if you’re a fan of it, great! To each, her own! 😉

But as for my family and I, we choose to burn the honey wood DOWN to the ground!

Or, rather, the more sensible approach, stain and/or paint over it with a more current, modern, and trendier style preferably found in this decade.

Anything, but honey wood oak is fine with me.



Like a cat, ready to pounce on the next sneaky mouse that scurries by, I was bound and determined to get rid of that honey wood oak once and for all.

Even if that meant I would have to do it myself!

So I hopped on Pinterest and scoured through tutorials like a mad woman. Then I went to all the places that the contractors would often frequent:

Lowes, check

Home Depot, check

Menards, check

Sherwin Williams, check

Amazon, check

ReStore, of course, check.

I decided to settle on Amazon because as you know, I’m frugal.

I used a gift card that I had previously earned from Swagbucks and I ordered a can of Java Gel Stain and a can of Clear Poly from Amazon.

Two days later when it finally arrived, I got right to work and prepped the entire surface of the staircase and banister.

Photo Credit: taken from my iPhone


Here’s what I did:

1-I started by wiping down the surface with a warm soapy water mixture and rinsed it off with clean water.

2- Then I let it dry overnight and left the windows open to speed up the process.

3-I lightly sanded the clean surfaces down with fine sandpaper.

4-I taped up all surrounding carpet with blue painter’s tape and covered the new burbur carpet with plastic sheeting and a drop cloth.

5-I stained the stair rails first, with a couple of coats of the Java stain.

6-Then I primed and painted the spindles last with the white color HGTV Brand Paint and Primer in one. The spindles took about 7 coats total in between all the sanding and painting.

Photo Credit: taken from my iPhone


Warning: This was a lot easier to do on the rails than the spindles.

The spindles took FOREVER and I mean FOREVER.

By the time I was done sanding them individually, my hands and fingers were so sore I could not bend them for days! But I have to say, though, that it was worth the effort.

Now, I could not have done this myself without my husband’s help and support as well as the advice and know-how from these Pinterest ladies.

Check out my Pinterest board to see and read about all of their eye candy results.

If you are looking to redo your staircase, check out these similar tutorials below for more ideas to help you finish your project and do it right.

Here is a list of Materials that I have used on this staircase project:

  1. -General Finishes Java Gel Stain
  2. -General Finishes Clear Poly
  3. -small Angled sable brush
  4. -large straight-edged sable brush
  5. -plastic Saran wrap (to temporarily wrap the wet paintbrushes during break times)
  6. -aluminum foil (to wrap the paint tray for easy clean up)
  7. -paint tray
  8. -paint thinner
  9. -paper towel roll
  10. -sandpaper (fine, medium, and course)
  11. -sanding block
  12. -protective gloves
  13. -frog tape
  14. -heavy-duty plastic sheeting or drop cloth
  15. -mask
  16. -protective eyewear
  17. -various sized foam brushes
  18. -rags (old socks with holes in them are great for these staining types of projects)
  19. -a bucket of water (for cleaning up the socks or rags in between coats or touch-ups)


Here are the 10 mistakes that I have learned to avoid for the next time I decide to take on a project of this caliber again:


  1. Not Prepping the Area:

    Clean all the parts of the staircase that is going to get painted or stained with soap and water, TCH powder (drying agent that is found in the paint aisle) So, a few months after finishing my staircase remodel, I got this nice juicy tidbit from a very knowledgeable guy at my local Lowe’s store to wash down the wood with TCH powder. Too bad, it was too little too late, but I appreciate the advice anyway. I will definitely be doing that to my future remodeling projects from now on. Thanks, Dude! 😉

2. Not covering or blocking off the surfaces and nearby areas with tape and plastic sheeting.

This is SO SO SO important! Plastic sheeting is so cheap and furnishings are not, enough said. 😉


3. Not reading or failing to understand the instructions of others.

Ok, so this is like driving in the car with your husband and refusing to ask for directions. You both know you’re lost but you say nothing because he knows exactly what he’s doing, right? Unfortunately, no. There are just no detours when you are working with wood stain. If you’re going to spend the time to do it, save yourself more time and frustration by doing it right the first time. (i.e.see white spindles above):/


4. Not asking for help when you are clearly in over your head and have no idea what you are doing. (See #3 above)

Clearly, I was way in over my head. Correction, anytime I get an idea like this, I need to be reminded that I am way- in- over- my head.


5. Not staying focused on the “SQUIRREL!”… the task at hand.

Yes, I get so easily distracted by all-the-things…


6. Not finishing the work you started

Due to frustrations that it’s taking longer than you’ve originally anticipated. Fantasy: I had originally anticipated that this project would only take me 1 week to do, from start to finish. Reality: The end result took a good 10 weeks. Yes, we lived in total chaos for about 3 months and we can’t even blame the kids for it. How is that for a dose of humility? 😉


7. Not ventilating the area very well.

For the bulk of this project, especially the sanding, priming, and clear finishing parts, we sent the kids to their grandparents’ house. We also kept all the windows and doors open to let out all the paint fumes. However, traces of the paint smell can still be detected whenever we’ve left the house for any period of time and came back inside the house.


  1. Not waiting for it to dry in between coats and rushing to just get it done.

Whoever said, “patience is a virtue,” cannot be more right. Ten weeks felt like FOREVER! But, let me reiterate, it was worth it because of the money we saved by doing this project on our own.


9. Not Sanding in between coats.

This is so important, see #3. Seven coats of paint and primer will mean absolutely diddly squat if not for sanding.


  1. Not taking care of yourself

because you think the project is more important than your basic needs, i.e. skipping a few meals or nights of sleep just to get it done. Paint fumes, dehydration, lack of sleep, and starvation will lead to some very interesting hallucinations.


Now that you have an idea of what this all of this DIY Staining Your Staircase entails and you still find it overwhelming, you can definitely consider hiring a handyman to do it for you instead.

Check out Andrea’s post on how to hire a good handyman, one that will ensure that things get done the way you want it the first time without going broke.

Andrea will give you all the nitty-gritty details on what you need to do to make you feel at ease and happy with your end-result.


To help you with planning your next home improvement project, I have created a free printable DIY Project Check List.

It is a handy dandy little sheet to help you figure out the costs, materials, and labor before you tackle your next project.


Get instant access to my free printable DIY Project Check List below:





Photo Credit: taken from my iPhone



Photo Credit: taken from my iPhone


Remember, above all else, your health is paramount.

Nothing is worth more to you, your family, or your friends if you are not around to share the gift that is you.

Take care of yourself and each other.



10 Mistakes To Avoid When Staining Your StairCase


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