Avoiding Scratches on Your Hardwood Floors

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Your staircase should be an elegant and welcoming space in your home, but it can become an eyesore if its banister and stairs aren't consistent with the color of your floor. Paints and stains come in an array of colors and finishes, but matching them to a preexisting color can be difficult. When done properly, however, refinishing your staircase to match your floors will add a new level of sophistication to your home.

  • What you will need
  • Sandpaper- medium and fine grit
  • Chemical Paint Stripper
  • Paint Scraper
  • Drop cloth
  • Stain or Paint
  • Masking tape

1. Remove existing finish or paint from your staircase

Use a chemical paint stripper, sandpaper, paint scrapers or a combination of all three to strip any old paint or finish off your staircase. Be sure to protect surrounding walls and furniture! Sand the stairs so that they are even. Uneven sanding will become even more visible after stain is applied. When you're finished, vacuum and wipe down the stairs to remove any dust or dirt.

2. Analyze your flooring

Determine what kind of wood flooring you have and whether or not it's the same kind of wood as your staircase. Also take into consideration the age and grain patterns of your wood and make sure the lighting on the stairs and floor is consistent. These factors can impact the final color, especially if you're using stain.

3. Experiment with color until you find a match

Matching stain colors across brands and wood types can be difficult because wood is unpredictable. It might react to stain differently from one type of wood to the next. Even if you remember the brand and color of stain you used on your floor, it may not produce the exact same color on your stairs, so it's important to do a test before altering the entire staircase. Use the bottom step of your staircase to test different stain colors and compare them to the floor. Experiment with mixing different stain colors together and the length of time you let the stain sit until getting the color you desire. Remember, the length of time you leave stain on the wood before wiping it off will affect the final color. Matching paint colors is a bit easier. Most home centers can match paint colors for you if you can manage to bring in a sample. If not, bring home some sample colors of paint you think might be a match. In a hidden spot, brush on small amounts of the sample colors and allow them to dry before determining whether or not they match. Several paint brands also have iPhone applications which can determine your exact paint color with a picture. When you've finally found your desired color, write down your formula so you get the same results each time.

4. Tape

Use painter's tape or masking tape to mask the areas you're not going to paint or stain to make sure you don't get paint anywhere it shouldn't be, for example, carpet, the spindles of the bannister (unless you plan on painting those too), and around the edges of your work area.

5. Prepare the staircase

Some paints require a primer and some stains require a wood conditioner before they can be applied. Follow the instructions on the product you're using to ensure you're preparing your wood properly.

6. Apply stain or paint

Sometimes paint requires several coats to cover the wood underneath. Apply thin layers at a time, allowing them to dry completely before adding another layer. Stain generally only requires one coat, but you may choose to add another coat depending on how intense you want the color. Use a rag to apply the stain evenly to the stairs and banister in small areas at a time by rubbing it onto the wood in circular or back and forth motions, and then wiping off the excess liquids after a few minutes. Allow stain to dry completely before applying a new coat, if desired.

7. Add the finish

Once the staircase is completely dry, apply a coat of polyurethane or a finish that will match your floor, whether glossy or matte.

8. Remove masking tape

Take off the tape you applied earlier, and enjoy your beautiful newly refinished staircase!

Things to Consider

  • Open your windows and wear a breathing mask while you work to avoid breathing in chemicals. Paint and especially stain tend to have strong odors.
  • Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Start at the top of the staircase and work your way down.
  • When blending two or more stain colors, do not mix oil-based stains with water-based stains.

Rags used with oil-based stains are flammable. Allow them to dry in the sun or saturate them with water before throwing them away.

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