How to Decorate Stair Risers

Updated February 21, 2017

Stair risers cover the opening between the stair tread and the next stair tread. Risers keep your foot from slipping through the framework of the staircase. Decorating a stair riser adds an element of style and interest to an otherwise mundane section of the house. The possibilities and ideas for decorating stair risers seemingly are endless. There are several ways to turn a riser from boring and unnoticed to a focal point in the house.

Clean the risers with a mild detergent and rag. Dry the surface thoroughly.

Measure each stair riser with a tape measure and note the measurements. Each stair riser can have variations in height and width because of manufacturing, shrinkage or expansion. Draw a template of each riser. Create a ceramic tile design on each template with full-size tile or mosaic tiles. Apply tile adhesive to the riser with a small trowel and adhere the tile to the adhesive to cover the entire riser. After the adhesive dries, apply grout to the void spaces between the tiles.

Calculate the measurement of each riser and write the measurement down. Cut decorative wooden stair riser panels to the exact measurement with a circular saw. Affix the panels to the riser with construction adhesive. Use finishing nails to toenail in the decorative panel at both the top and bottom of the panel every 4 to 6 inches.

Apply a base coat of paint in the colour of your choice with a paintbrush. Let the paint dry for 24 to 48 hours. Attach a stencil to the riser, holding it securely in place with light-tack masking tape. Dip a foam stencilling brush into paint and blot the paint onto the stencil.

Measure and cut wallpaper to the exact size of the riser. Apply wallpaper paste to the back of the wallpaper or active pre-pasted sheets with water. Line up the edge of the wallpaper with the edge of the riser and smooth the paper over the face of each stair riser.

Cut tin, copper or stainless-steel ceiling tiles with metal-cutting shears to the same size as the stair riser. Apply construction adhesive to the back of the metal tile, line it up with the edge of the riser and affix it to the face of the stair riser.

Tape lines or squares on the face of the stair riser with light-tack masking tape. Apply a coat of paint over the area to create a pattern on the riser.

Take measurements of the riser and cut plastic laminate countertop material to the same size with a utility knife. Apply laminate adhesive to the unfinished side of the laminate and press it in place on the riser.

Measure each riser and cut marble, granite or slate veneer to the exact size with a masonry saw. Apply a coating of mortar to the riser and set the veneer in place on the stair riser.

Affix pictures to the stair riser with white glue and allow the glue to dry completely, usually two to three hours. Apply a coat of clear shellac over the pictures to create a d├ęcoupage collage.


For added interest, make the design of each riser different.


Choose only thin decorations that will not interfere with the size of the stair tread. Shorter stair treads are a tripping hazard.

Things You'll Need

  • Detergent
  • Rag
  • Tape measure
  • Ceramic tile
  • Tile adhesive
  • Trowel
  • Grout
  • Decorative stair riser panels
  • Circular saw
  • Construction adhesive
  • Finishing nails
  • Hammer
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Stencils
  • Light-tack masking tape
  • Foam stencilling brush
  • Wallpaper
  • Wallpaper paste
  • Metal ceiling tiles
  • Metal-cutting shears
  • Plastic laminate countertop material
  • Laminate adhesive
  • Utility knife
  • Marble, granite or slate veneer
  • Masonry saw
  • Mortar
  • Pictures
  • White glue
  • Shellac
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Sal Marco began writing professionally in 2009. He has written many online home improvement articles based on his more than 20 years of experience in the home improvement and building industries. He has worked as both part of a team and as a site supervisor. Marco has a Bachelor of Science in management science from Kean University.