I know I said a couple of weeks ago that the major home projects were on hold for the time being, but this was a major, must happen now type of project and we just so happened to have all the material (minus a little trim) on hand. Two years ago when we redid the flooring throughout
the house most of the house, we failed to tackle the stairs going into the bonus room. Why? Because we are idiots. We left the stairs to the bonus room carpeted and said sayonara suckers to the contractors that took way to long to finish our little project. Now I'm left with some really bad carpet that was in need of a staircase makeover ASAP!
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Here is my easy and budget-friendly unfinished staircase makeover.
1 | First things first, remove the funky carpet.
To get the party started, I had to pull up all the old carpet. This was a tricky task and a dangerous one. Several times I was pulling back and nearly fell down the stairs. Now that would be a story to tell at the office. I simply took a box cutter and cut through the carpet to get started and pulled it apart. The carpet was held into place with tack strips which I had to carefully pry off using a pry bar. Then I just popped out the staples that were left.
Beneath our stairs were 2x4 treads and particle board risers. Not something I could easily refinish and call complete. But I did love the unfinished look of the 2x4s and how they were knitted together to create the landings. I wanted to give these a finished look while still showing the character from the lumber. My day job is in a lumber mill, so I have a deep-seated appreciation for the beauty of the wood grain. So, the idea of an unfinished look staircase was born.
2 | Sand down the treads
My idea is to whitewash the stair treads, sort of like I whitewashed the brick on the adjacent fireplace. I love the look of whitewashing. It gives it a nice light and airy color while still being able to see the beauty and characteristics of the element. There was a ton of crud on the stairs. My guess was texture spray from when the house was built. I used a scraper to get off as much as possible, then I used my oscillating handtool with the sanding attachment and sanded the wood down. Talk about a dusty job.
3 | My riser secret - underlayment
Have you seen all the brilliant posts about using floor underlayment for shiplap? Well, I have a ton of it for that very same project. But since we are on a project hiatous, it was just laying in the garage. I grabbed a sheet and ripped it down with our table saw (all of which can be done at your local home improvement store) and cut them to fit over the particle board risers. With the treads being whitewashed, I wanted an all white riser. This made the cheap decision to use underlayment for our risers an obvious choice. I believe we purchased the underlayment for about $14 a sheet and barely used half of one. The pieces we had were pre-primed so I just rolled on two coats of paint for an easy and classic look.
4 | Whitewash
To whitewash the treads, I created a mixture of 1:2 white paint to water. Mixing it well, I brushed it on then scrubbed it down with a piece of cloth. Making sure to get the entire step covered. I wanted a super thin coat of paint, so I also used a paper towel to wipe up any excess paint. This really allowed the character of the wood with the knots and the nail holes to peep through.
5 | Finish with a Top Coat
If you have a high traffic area like a main staircase, you can use a satin polyurethane to prevent wear. Since my staircase is leading up to a bonus room we only use as storage, I chose to skip this step as I didn't want a shiny look to my staircase. I may go back later if I notice a lot of wear.
Here is our current view. We still need to finish this off with some quarter round trim along the bottom of each step. But everything else will stay unfinished for the rustic unfinished staircase look. What are your thoughts on the unfinished look?