How to remove carpet from the stairs & paint the stairs

Updated July 20, 2017

Old carpeting on stairways can look outdated and dreary. With a little time and effort, you can eliminate this eyesore and the dismal effect it has on your decor. Removing the carpet and hardware and repainting your stairs adds a fresh, updated look to your home. Choose a complimentary accent colour to pep up your decorating style, or paint the stairs the colour of the woodwork. If you are artistic and up for a challenge, you may even want to paint a design such as checkerboard, floral, paisley or stripes to coordinate with your decor.

Loosen a corner of the carpet at the top of the stairs and pull off with pliers, working down to the bottom. Discard old carpet.

Remove tack strips with the wonder bar and hammer and discard them. Using a staple puller or flat edge screwdriver and needle nose pliers, remove staples from the padding. Remove padding and discard staples and debris.

Use the chisel and hammer to remove chunks of drywall spatter, if any. Sweep stairs. Putty nail holes and let putty dry.

Sand the stairs and risers until smooth. Vacuum up all sawdust on the stairs and adjacent floors. Wait about 30 minutes to let any airborne dust settle. Wipe the stairs down with tack cloths, to remove residual dust particles.

Seal any knot holes with oil-based varnish to prevent bleeding through. Let dry. Prime the stairs with an oil-based primer (light for light colours and dark for dark). Let dry.

Paint two thin, even coats of oil-based paint on the stairs and let dry between coats, according to label instructions. If the colour is even and saturated, you are ready for the varnish. If not, apply one more thin coat and let dry. Following the label directions, let the final coat dry the prescribed amount of time before applying the first coat of varnish.

Apply one thin, even coat of oil-based varnish and let it dry according to label directions. Wipe stairs with a clean tack cloth to remove any dust that may have settled and apply the final coat of varnish. Let dry overnight, or longer in high humidity, before allowing any traffic. Rope off the area or block the stairs with chairs to remind everyone that the varnish is wet.


Use oil-based primer, paint and varnish to increase the durability of the finish. Paint at night when people will not be using the stairs if possible. You may need to vacate the premises so the final coats of varnish can dry undisturbed. If it is not possible or realistic to keep foot traffic off the stairs for long periods of time, use water-based products in place of oil-based.


Wear a dust mask when tearing off the old carpet and sanding the stairs to avoid dust inhalation.. Wear a respirator when painting, to avoid breathing in paint fumes.

Things You'll Need

  • Wonder bar or pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Wood putty
  • Sandpaper
  • Electric sander
  • Dust Mask
  • Respirator
  • Oil-based primer
  • Oil-based paint
  • Oil-based varnish
  • 1 inch angled paint brush
  • 3 inch angled paint brush
  • Paint thinner
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About the Author

Wendy Hughes owns a successful small insurance business in California and specializes in employee benefits for small businesses. Although she majored in Combined Social Sciences at University of California, Santa Barbara, her true love is writing. Until recently, her writing focused on website content for