a staircase face-lift: before & sorta-after.

Okay, it’s a bit anti-climactic to post this after the previous post about the nursery, but it’ll have to do due to circumstances that I’ll explain.

This was a project that we completed in our previous house (which is now being used an income property), and before we moved out into our current home, I completely forgot to take pictures of the final result.
I would go in and ask our renters if I could photograph the stairs, but I’m sure they would think they were renting from a bunch of crazies, and move out pronto.

So, let me begin this story (and unfortunately short-change you out of the afters!)

When we moved in to our first home, this is what the stairs looked like… a little crustier than your average staircase.

Aaaand with a really long strand of hair.. that would be mine (why I didn’t clean that up before taking the picture? I don’t have an answer for that).

Now, not only were the stairs a sight for sore eyes (especially when hair-covered), the lowest step was a death trap; it bowed and creaked under the slightest pressure, and guests would even step over the stair so they wouldn’t plummet to their deaths.
We could’ve sanded, and stained each stair tread, or ripped them out entirely and begin with new treads (which would have cost a lot), but instead we decided to save our pennies & instead add a bit more character and strength to what the house originally came with).
To support the lower step, my husband reinforced the lip of the stair tread with a solid piece of wood, and added a thin piece along the edges for extra support.
For the cost-friendly face lift, we bought ready made stair treads with a rounded edge for $15 apiece from Rona (it was way cheaper & better than buying the ones with an attached cap which would have fit our stairs perfectly, but were $40 a pop, or had a thin veneer of hardwood on top for $20 apiece). 
We wanted to match the stain as close to the flooring in our living room as much as possible, and found Minwax’s Dark Walnut to fit the bill.
Using a dollar store plastic tarp on our back porch, the stair treads were laid out with the edges slightly lifted to ensure the stain would wrap around the edges nicely.

After they were stained, they were left to dry, and later received many coats of Polyurethane. 
My husband wanted the glossiest gloss one could find, and he was so excited to see the difference in the treads pre-gloss (on the right), and post-gloss (left). He is easily amused.
After they dried, they were glued to the original stair treads with PL-premium,

and hubby gave them extra security by screwing them into place (the screws were placed closely to the back edge, so they wouldn’t be seen when the stairs were complete).

The lower staircase started looking a bit better already, but the past was still rearing it’s ugly tread ;)

Knowing that the creaks from the previous treads could still come back, my husband bought sturdy particle board, cut them to fit the risers perfectly, and screwed them in place. The edges of the new risers hid the screws in the new stair treads.
The ugly screw holes were then filled in with drywall compound, so it would be smooth and seamless.
To cover the edges of the original stair treads, these were primed, painted, and cut to size.
Then they were hammered into the original treads (you can see my husband’s shadow in this terribly lit picture).

… here’s what they looked like before the set nail holes were filled in with DAP (is this changing light tripping you up yet? ;)
annnnd that’s all I got, folks.
This is where the journey ends in our terribly-documented before n’ after (you’ve been forewarned ;). 
If you’re losing sleep over this cliff-hanger, just imagine no nail holes, no terrible sepia-type lighting, and of course no stray hairs.
Hope you’re staying warm (for those of you experiencing minus double-digits like us here in Toronto!)


  1. says

    Your stairs are wonderful. I don't have stairs in my house now, but I sometimes wish I was in my former 2 story home. It would have looked fantastic if the blogs, Pinterest and the internet had existed when we lived there.

    • says

      Thank you! Our new home also doesn't have stairs as well, and I share your longing for a two-story home! (well, except when I'm super tired and can't bother lifting my feet… shuffling is just a little easier. lol)
      And yes, the internet is wonderful for that very reason. :)

  2. says

    This is my first time visiting your fabulous blog and I am in love with your stair facelift! They turned out so great and this is awesome inspiration for my gloomy looking stairs! {that i've been dreading to reveal what's lurking under the carpet}


  3. says

    Hi Jane, I just found your blog through Better After and you have some terrific projects! We have plans to redo our basement stairs so I was interested to see you have alrady tried this idea.

    I was also excited to see that you are from Toronto, which is where I live – small world. I'm now following you as I look forward to seeing what you do next.


  4. says

    I love this…We used left over laminate flooring to cover our stairs, but I feel that after watching this process, and especially using the poly urethane for protection, I might have to give this a try.

  5. says

    These are coming along beautifully! I love it! We have a staircase to our basement that will need a facelift eventually and I will definitely have to keep this in mind! Happy to come across a fellow Canadian too! Woo!

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