Baby Got Back (Staircase)

Ok, so here it is. I know you’ve been holding your breath to see the final result of the back staircase, but first, let’s take a trip down memory lane. When Andrew and I first moved our house, one of the first things we started to tackle was the back staircase. Being dark and dirty was the least of our problems. The floor was covered in carpet, 3 different linoleum patterns (wearing through to the wood in some places, doubled up and covered with carpet in others), and each step had a metal strip covering the edge. It was fucking awful.


The wood at the bottom of this staircase was covered in gross yellow carpet.

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You can see the multitude of fun patterns we were dealing with here.

It look us like, 6 months to rip everything up. That is 32 steps (not including the basement steps) and 5 landings of linoleum, pulling out upwards of 10 headless nails per step, and removing each strip (each having about 10 additional nails each). Finally, the moment came when every last bit of linoleum was removed from the steps and landings, including the black goo that covered the landing on the 2nd floor. That moment was glorious, but it was the middle of winter and that means that we wouldn’t be able to finish any wood until the weather was suitable to opening doors and windows. Suffocation is not the way I wanted to finish the floors.

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Note the goo.

Fast forward a few months to find Andrew trying and failing to sand the steps with both a pad sander and an orbital sander. We broke down and bought a belt sander. Pro tip: the belt sander works the best. Sanding was a huge ordeal. It involved the shop vac, all 3 of our sanders, earplugs, face masks and many, many extension cords. It was dusty, but mostly loud and it took us maybe 1.5 weeks total to sand everything. Please note we decided to start this project when our kitchen was only 1/2 finished. We are not the smartest raccoons.

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Andrew sanded most of the stairs, but I did get in on the action.


The shop vac looked like this.




During this point I decided that we were no longer going to paint everything white with a dark stain on the treads. Instead Pinterest convinced me to paint everything black. I read somewhere on the internet that black risers were a common thing in old homes as it hides scuffs better on steps that are skinny. Since our stairs are really narrow and constantly have people going up and down them, it seemed fitting.

This is my pin-spiration


So we went back to Lowes to pick out a new stain color. We chose a red/orange stain called Gunstock (Minwax), because it would look the best with the black trim we were planning. I started staining.

Y’all, it was really red.

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But I soldiered on. It was still really, really red. I started to get a little nervous.

The next day I opened up the back door to the massacre scene from Carey. The floors were super red. Like pigs blood in buckets red.



Wait… more blood


Fortunately, by this time in our homeowning process, Andrew and I have adopted a mantra. It goes like this: not everything has to be fucking perfect. So I moved on and we began to prep for polyurethane. I cleaned everything really well and started to poly. The first coat went on great, but once it dried, we were concerned that the steps still felt like wood and not like glossy, protected wood.

Here’s Andrew applying some polyurethane


So the recommended 2nd coat went on. It went on thick. Like as thick as you can apply this viscous liquid. I was super proud of myself. The steps looked fantastic, but after the 18-24 hour drying time was up, the floors were still tacky. After 72 hours, the floors were “dry” but if I walked on the steps I would leave sock prints. Oops. Fortunately (?) it was so thick and not dry that any prints left would sort of melt back into place by itself. I was strongly reminded of Gloppy from Candy Land.


This is what our floor was like.

Later we learned that many thin coats are the recommended way to apply polyurethane. 3 coats probably would have been fine for us, and would have dried 2 weeks faster.

Reminder: It doesn’t have to be fucking perfect.

So I started to prime the risers, trim and bannisters with the grey tinted primer, leaving many toe prints along the way. The crazy Carrie Red started to not look so crazy. It actually started to look awesome. Like really awesome.


So awesome that we questioned whether the black was going to be too dark; alas the paint was already bought, so again I soldiered on. The priming and 1st coat of paint went on really slowly. I had to paint EVERYTHING with a brush, and I mean EVERYTHING including the beadboard bannister/walls. Side note: I now hate beadboard and it sucks to paint. At least with the 2nd coat of paint I could roll those portions.



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Here is the finished product (so far). The only thing left is adding the quarter round trim along the baseboards on the landings. It’s necessary as there are some large gaps between the floor and the baseboards, but it isn’t as noticeable now that everything is black.

P.S. Kristene is going to be super mad that I posted this before her. She has a whole intro written already for a “Baby Got Back” series. Just pretend that she posted first. I’ve got shit to do this week and I wanted to get this posted before I forgot. Sorry, sister. Love you.



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