Railings and Banisters

You know when you’re updating one part of your home and all of a sudden it’s like the book, “When You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” I had always planned on updating the railings and banisters, but I hadn’t planned on doing what I did.

One of my favorite ideas for my split entry home was that I was going to remove the railings and replace them with a clear plexiglass like this home below.

Railing Replacement

Once I got started on my staircase though, I had the stain and the paint out already and the rails and banister seemed like they were kind of a part of that project, too. I started by painting the railings with primer which was a bit like a thin coat because I didn’t want drips or brush strokes. The primer was nice because the consistency is thinner than paint. But, if I were going to do it again, I would skip the primer and use Behr’s paint and primer in one. I think using paint and primer in one would have saved me a few hours / days because the consistency is more like pudding and I would have had to do fewer layers.


I ended up having to tape the top of the railings as well. It’s tedious work. This kind of thing is therapeutic for some folks. For me, I turned on hits from the 90’s and took a couple breaks to run the kids to the ice rink. The railings took me a few full days, and then a few more times for going back and doing touchup. I had the railing upstairs and then the railing that leads to the basement.


Preparing the railings and banisters for stain is VERY important! You’ll see that while I was staining the stair treads I thought I could do a little swipe on the handrail as well. I hadn’t prepped the wood at all and two weeks later the stain on that handrail was still tacky. You couldn’t touch it without getting sticky-feeling stain on your hands.


To prep the areas that were getting stain, I wiped them down with deglosser, lightly sanded them and then wiped them down with warm water and dish soap. Once they were dry, then they were ready for stain. The deglosser also completely removed the original swipe of stain that I had applied. You’ll want to wear gloves when you’re working with this stuff. I’m not certain, but I think it would remove your skin. It’s the consistency of water and looks like milk. The fumes aren’t bad, but be careful folks!


I used a gel stain because that’s what I had. I also didn’t want the wood grain to show through when I was done. I think a liquid stain would have required a few more layers and I believe it also would have left the wood grain showing through.


The drying time for any project just kills me. I did my first round of stain and let it sit for a day. I’ve never been one to follow the instructions of sanding in between layers of stain on any of the projects that I’ve done, but for the hand rails and banisters I actually did as instructed. It always just seems to me like I’m wrecking what I’ve done. Here is what it looked like after the first layer of stain and a light sanding.



This process felt like I’d taken 2 steps forward and 1 step back. I wiped them down with warm water to get the dust off from sanding and with the second coat of stain I started to see how amazing it was going to be when it was done. The painting on railings were pretty much complete, so it was just finishing the stain.


After the second layer of stain was on I let it dry for another few days. There were a few areas where the wood grain was peeking through yet after this layer so I did a little touch up with a very light swipe using a paint brush. The bristles on the paint brush are really important for this. I use Purdey paint brushes because they’re soft and don’t leave brush strokes. Some other brands use tougher bristles and shouldn’t be used for a project like this one.

The tape was a little bit of a bugger to get off of the railings because the stain that I got on it acted like a glue. You’ll want to have a razor blade and maybe a tweezer handy for areas where the tape doesn’t want to come off of the railing.


I can’t believe the transformation and you can see in the picture why I couldn’t do the stairs without also doing something about the railings and banisters.

Now, to continue with the, “When You Give a Mouse a Cookie” dilemma, I had white trim that met up with the golden oak trim. You can catch a glimpse of around the doors and foyer closet…Stay tuned for that update next!



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