How to Finish a Stair Railing

Written by ryan lawrence
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How to Finish a Stair Railing
Metal stair railings require special primer. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

If you want to finish a stair railing, you must prepare the surface properly, based on its composition. While some railings are made of porous wood, others are made of nonporous materials like metal and vinyl, which are not conducive to paint adhesion. They will shed their new finish unless they are properly pretreated. In addition, the type of paint or finish you choose should be based on the location of the railing, or you may ultimately end up with a finish that flakes and chips.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Tack cloths
  • Pressure washer
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Professional painter's tape
  • Heavy-duty fabric dust sheets
  • Acrylic latex primer
  • 2- to 4-inch latex paintbrush
  • Galvanised metal etching primer
  • Acrylic latex paint
  • Oil-based stain
  • 2- to 4-inch oil-based paintbrush
  • White spirit
  • Varnish or polyurethane wood sealer
  • Latex primer
  • Semigloss or gloss latex paint

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Instructions

    Painting

  1. 1

    Wipe interior stair railings with tack cloths. Clean exterior stair railings with a pressure washer, following the owner's manual for proper operation so you don't damage the railing surface. Wait two to four hours for the railings to dry.

  2. 2

    Abrade vinyl stair railings with 220-grit sandpaper to promote adhesion. Sand all the surfaces until the railing feels slightly rough.

  3. 3

    Apply painter's tape to cover the portions of the stair railings you don't want painted. Spread heavy-duty fabric dust sheets over the areas beneath the railings.

  4. 4

    Apply acrylic latex primer to interior and exterior wood railings, and exterior vinyl railings, using a paintbrush specified for water-based coatings. Paint a galvanised metal etching primer on metal stair railings, following the label directions. Wait four hours for the primed railings to dry.

  5. 5

    Clean the paintbrush with water.

  6. 6

    Apply acrylic latex paint to exterior wood, vinyl and metal railings, using the clean paintbrush. Paint interior wood railings with a semigloss or gloss acrylic latex paint. Wait two hours for the railings to dry. Add another coat if the primer shows through.

    Staining Wood Railings

  1. 1

    Wipe interior wood stair railings with tack cloths. Clean exterior wood stair railings with a pressure washer; consult the owner's manual for proper operation. Wait two to four hours for the railings to dry.

  2. 2

    Apply oil-based stain to wood railings with a paintbrush manufactured for use with oil-based coatings. Wait two hours for the railings to dry. Add additional coats for darker results.

  3. 3

    Clean the brush with white spirit.

  4. 4

    Wait eight hours. Apply varnish to the stained wood railings, using the clean paintbrush. Wait six hours for the varnish to cure.

Tips and warnings

  • Never paint unsanded vinyl stair railings, or the finish will fail.
  • Never paint bare wood, vinyl or metal stair railings, or the paint will peel.

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