DIY Hand Painted Stair Runner

The FINAL part of my home that needed a major glow up was the stairs leading from the ground floor to the second floor. The previous owner had covered it with a thick, plush beige carpet that’s been an eyesore to me for the past 4.5 years.

I can’t believe I let myself live with this for over four years!

I held off on this project for so long for a few reasons: 1) It was a major thoroughfare for workers doing renovations upstairs for the past several years. I knew this high traffic area would would get f*cked up at some point or another.

2) Fear: I didn’t know what was under the carpet. More carpet? Spiders? Rodents? Rotting wood? When I was finally ready to tackle this project, I asked my handyman to tear up a bit of the carpet to reveal a set of intact stairs. (I didn’t stay too long during the unveiling process to check for spiders.)

This led to my third hesitation: costs. The stairs under the carpet were gross: completely untreated and patchy. Did I want to replace the stairs completely? Get new carpet? Get a patterned runner? These options seemed cost prohibitive, not to mention I didn’t want to endure selecting a new carpet or runner from the thousands available.

Then there was the last concern: how do I transition the stairs between two types of hardwood flooring? The original floors downstairs are a honey blonde, while the ones upstairs are a dark espresso. 

This is just a sad stairwell.

The inspiration

Designer: Hannah Childs; Photo: Elizabeth Watsky

The simplest and cheapest solution was to paint the stairs in a neutral color and call it a day. Mais non, I couldn’t simply just paint it one color! I decided to create another trompe l’oeil effect like I did with the bathroom pocket door and paint the illusion of a runner directly on the stairs instead, heavily inspired by this DIY-er.

Note: This DIY includes video saved under my Instagram Highlights.

How easy is this DIY?

So I cheated. Yup, I hired someone to rip up the carpet for me and prep it for painting. (It was worth every penny.) Once the stairs were ready for painting, I would rank this DIY a 4.5, on a scale of 1 (hanging a framed art piece) to 10 (building a dresser). Like other DIY projects, it just requires a lot of time and patience.

Preparing the stairs

Prepping included a lot of elbow grease and a power sander, caulk and wood fill.

A lot is involved when removing carpeting, especially from stairs. Not only did my handyman have to pull off the carpet, he then had to carefully remove tack strips, carpet padding, staples and nails. THEN, he used an electric sander to smooth the wood (to prevent splinters) and applied wood putty to patch up any holes and uneven spots. 

We used wood putty and caulk to fill in any holes and cracks.

My friend and I managed to do a final round of sanding, and caulked the edges of the stairs ourselves to get it completely ready for paint. (At this point, my stairs looked straight out of a horror movie.)

Painting the stairs

Okay, here we go!

Materials needed
Primer (1 quart)
Floor paint in black (1 quart)
Semi-gloss paint in white (1 quart)
1” painters tape
Small flat object to help draw flat lines (like DVD or book)
Minway Polycrylic Protective Finish (1 quart)
Anti-skid additive 

First things first: I painted the entire stairs with a basic primer. It already looked so much better covering up all the uneven patches!

Already looking so much better…

Painting the base color
The “runner” would be black, so I applied two coats of floor paint tinted in a basic black. (It was the same paint from my tile stencil DIY.) 

We could stop here, but why be basic?

Measuring and taping the “runner”
A standard runner is generally centered with 3”- 4” on each side of the stairs. I started by measuring 3” from each side of the stairs using my pencil, ruler and DVD to draw one continuous line from the top to the bottom of the stairs, and continuing through the landing.  

Marie Antoinette is one of my favorite movies of all time. 🙂

Then I carefully placed a single piece of painters tape all the way down the stairs using the line as a guide. Be sure the tape adheres properly on the edge of the steps, including under the lip and the risers. (Risers are the vertical parts of the stairs between each step.)

Next, I measured 2” from each of the pieces of painters tape, drew another line and ran another set of tape down the stairs. 

Painting the supplementary color
I used two coats of a semi-gloss paint in a standard white for the sides of the “runner.” I painted through the first piece of tape and stopped at the second piece. (Note when working with semi-gloss paint, you should wait until a coat dries before applying a second coat to avoid “goopiness” and ensure smooth and consistent coverage.)

Removing the tape
This is the best part! While the white paint was still a little wet, I removed the painters tape. Pro tips: pull the tape at a 45 degree angle, and DO NOT wait until the paint is completely dry or you run the risk of pulling dried paint off with the tape.

It’s SO good!!!

Cleaning up the edges
Using a small craft brush, I cleaned up any parts of the painted runner where the white might have bled into the black parts or vice versa.

Sealing the “runner”

This might be the most crucial part: I used three coats of a polycrylic protective finish from Minwax and added anti-skid additive to it. The polycrylic will protect the paint from chipping while the anti-skid additive will prevent you from slipping on the stairs, especially if you tend to wear socks indoors.

Overall, I’m super pleased with the results – it was a definite “upgrade” from the carpet! This wasn’t the perfect situation, but it was meant to be a budget-friendly solution for the time being.

Ta daaaaaaaa!

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  • Gladys

    Love it! Thank you for sharinggg 💓💓💓!

    • missnataliewong

      Thanks for reading, Gladys! <3

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