How to Decorate Stairs with Stair Treads or Paint

One of the most overlooked design elements in a house is the stairs. Decorating with stair treads or paint is an easy way to create a wow factor, especially if the staircase is in a front foyer and is one of the first things visitors see when they enter your home. Whether your house is old or new, you can create a great first impression of your interior design style with a little material and some time.

Decide what type of wood you want your treads to be. By re-covering the stairs with treads you can create the look of a grand wooden staircase for about half of the expense of building a whole new one, with choices that include walnut, oak, tigerwood and Brazillian cherry wood.

Choose the stain colour. Consider matching the stain in the staircase railing to the top of the steps, the front (risers) or the sides.

Prepare your existing steps. Decorating stairs with wood stair treads sometimes calls for cutting off the "nosing" (the part that sticks out on each step) to accommodate the new tread. Use a power saw to start and then a hand saw to smooth out the job.

Start at the top stair and put your riser (front piece) on first with tread glue and finishing nails. Glue your tread on next and continue in this manner until you reach the bottom step.

Glue on side caps as needed. They also come in numerous colours and moulding details.

Repair your existing staircase as needed. The website Mussun Rubber says that "Worn or dished-out steps, cracks, holes, depressions or any other irregularities on the step should be repaired by filling or sealing and smoothing with an underlayment compound."

Clean all surfaces to remove dirt, grease, paint, old adhesives or other build-up. When decorating stairs with rubber or vinyl stair treads it is important to also nail down any loose wooden steps and make sure they are completely dry before proceeding.

Trim the treads to fit the steps. Use a steel straight edge blade or a linoleum knife and match them to fit from side-to-side and in depth to the existing staircase.

Spread adhesive on the step, using a contact adhesive for vinyl treads or an appropriate one for rubber if you are using that material. Spread it evenly over the surface and then over the back of the tread before setting it in place.

Clean your steps thoroughly to remove any old build-up, including adhesive residue or chipping paint. Allow to dry thoroughly.

Nail down any loose boards and fill in any holes or cracks with wood filler. Sand until smooth.

Choose your design. Using stencils or freehand, if you're artistic, you can create designs such as a simple star pattern up the sides of the steps or a fake stair runner up the centre.

Seal in your design if you wish. When decorating stairs with paint, make sure to get a sealer that is meant for the stairs, to avoid a slick falling hazard. Or leave as is, with no sealer, to add weathered character over time

Things You'll Need

  • Wood Stair Treads:
  • Power saw
  • Hand saw
  • Risers
  • Tread glue
  • Side caps
  • Rubber or Vinyl Stair Treads:
  • Cleaner
  • Nails and hammer (if needed)
  • Steel straightedge blade or linoleum knife
  • Adhesive
  • Painting:
  • Wood filler
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint and brushes
  • Stencils (optional)
  • Sealer (optional)
  • Sealer
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About the Author

Rosallee Scott has been a freelance writer since 1998. Currently, her career is focused on creating informational articles for Web content. Though Scott's articles cover a variety of topics, her concentration is predominately on garden-related issues, decorating and interior design.