How to finish oak stairs

Updated July 20, 2017

Oak stairs are a welcome addition to any home that requires a stairway. These stairs are a hard wood and are very durable. Also, oak wood finishes beautifully. When oak stairs are finished correctly, the finish lasts a long time and provides a good match for oak floors, oak cabinets in the kitchen, and oak furniture. There are many stains to choose from. Use a basic oak stain and you won't be disappointed. For the clear finish, choose from a matt or a glossy look.

Lightly sand the flat areas of the stair treads only, using a hand wood electric sander. Use sheets of fine sandpaper to sand the other rounded parts of the stairs. Vacuum the dust away. Use a clean rag and wipe all the stairs to clear any leftover dust residue.

Brush the stain on the stairs with the grain of the wood. Have clean rags available to wipe off the excess stain as you apply it. Also, wipe the excess off in the direction of the wood grain. Apply two to three coats of stain. Let the stain dry between coats, according to the instructions on the can.

Apply a clear finish over the stain. Brush the clear finish on evenly and with the grain of the wood. When it has dried, lightly sand the first coat of clear finish. Wipe the dust off again to have a clean clear surface. Apply the second coat of the clear finish. Let it dry. Repeat the sanding process again. Wipe the surface clean again. Apply a third coat of the clear finish and allow it to dry.


Sanding between the clear finish coats will make a smooth finish.


Open a window or door for ventilation when using stain and clear finishing products.

Things You'll Need

  • Oak stain
  • Stain brush
  • Clean, lint-free rags
  • Clear finish
  • Finish brush
  • Hand wood electric sander
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Fine sandpaper sheets
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About the Author

Anita Billings has been writing since April 2009. Hundreds of her articles appear on eHow, with expertise in piano, decor, landscaping, crafting and travel. Billings received a diploma in business merchandising from King's College in 1974.