finished staircase makeover

How to refurbish your bannister and staircase

Refurbishing your bannister and staircase, rather than replacing it can be a very rewarding task and can save you a load of money. It can be time-consuming but the end results can be quite amazing.  A replacement bannister can cost upwards of £800, but for as little as £50 you could turn your existing bannister into a work of art. Learn how to refurbish your bannister and staircase with this how-to guide.

finished staircase makeover

In this post, I’ve detailed four DIY project ideas that can completely transform the look and feel of your bannister without costing a fortune.

Project one – Paint stripping and re-painting

Sometimes all it takes to refurbish your bannister is a re-paint. But this can look a little messy when painting on top of layers and layers of old paint. So the best thing to do is strip it back to bare wood and start again.

Here’s a picture of when I first started this project. As you can see the hallway and bannister were in urgent need of a makeover.


Little did I know when I decided to do this myself that there were 3 layers of paint on the existing bannister.  Overall I think this took me a week to sand, paint and stain the wood.  Probably the worst part of the job was the mess and dust from all the sanding. If you decide to go this route ensure you close all the doors in the house and were protective clothing, especially a mask.


To minimise the mess it’s best to use a vacuum attachment on your orbital sander. This way most of the dust will be collected. Unfortunately, you won’t catch it all so cover your furniture, carpets and anything else you wish to keep dust free.


I took the majority of the paint off with an orbital sander.  I bought an orbital sander for £50 from B&Q specifically for this job. You’ll need a load of spare sanding disks as you can wear them out quite quickly.  To get into the corners I used a mouse sander and for some other bits, I used a multi-tool.  Something like a Dremel is perfect for getting in all the little corners and tight spots.

Paint stripper chemical

For some of the thicker areas, I applied a paint stripper and scrapped off the many layers. For some of the rounded corners, I used a combination shave hook. The paint stripper is very potent so always wear gloves, a face mask and goggles. Always avoid using it around children.

Once I’d removed all the paint I smoothed it all off with a fine grain sanding block.  This left a very good and easy surface to treat and paint. Once I’d treated the wood and let it dry I used masking tape to protect the finish whilst I re-painted the stair stringer.

Painting and staining

I really liked the look of the original retro styling and wanted to restore this with a slightly modern twist. I decided to keep the nice warm feeling of the wooden handrail and balusters. The wood was treated with interior wood varnish. Two layers were applied to get the perfect finish.

I painted the retaining runnings with gloss white paint to keep it the same as the rest of the staircase.

The carpet also needed a little refresh so we took this up and had a new one installed. As you can see below I’ve also created a couple of under stair drawers for some added storage.

Staircase with drawers and new carpet

Much better!

The second project – Under stair drawers

Adding some under-stair drawers to your staircase is a great way to increase storage space and make use of the lost or unused area under your stairs. This is quite a simple DIY task if you’re willing to take it on.

You can read my full guide on how to build your own under-stair drawers or you can hire a professional for the job.

Here is a quick look at how you can achieve this as a DIY project.

Under stairs drawers diy step by step guide how to
Under stairs drawers DIY step-by-step guide

Project three – Replacing the balusters/spindles

The last upgrade project I took on was to replace all the balusters. At the same time we decide to remove the carpet, paint the stairs and add a tile effect pattern on the stair risers. This was a great project and completely transformed the staircase.

You might be wondering why we did this after the first refurbishment. The simple answer is, that my wife wanted it this way. And she normally gets what she wants. 🙂

The first job was to remove the existing balusters. This was easy enough with a thin saw and chisel. I left the original handrail in place.

baluster removal staircase

We purchased some pine balusters from B&Q and fitted them in place of the 70s-style pieces that were there originally. Each one had to be cut specifically for this staircase. To do this I set up a jig on my mitre saw to cut the correct angle and the correct length. I tested the first piece to ensure everything was correct before I cut all the others.

I created another jig on my table saw so that I could cut out a section at the bottom of the spindle. This would allow me to set the spindle over the side wall.

Working out the spacing between each baluster is important. There are building regulations in place regarding this. The maximum spacing between the spindles cannot be more than 100mm. It specifies that a 100mm sphere cannot pass through any part of the staircase.

staircase new balusters

Each spindle was glued and nailed into place. The spindles can be painted before or after installation.

Project four – Remove carpet for tiled effect risers

This was a great project to give our hallway the ultimate makeover. A low-cost project that made our staircase feel like it was modern and trendy.

staircase refurbishment

The first job was to remove the carpet and retaining carpet strips. I then filled any small holes in the wood with a wood filler. This was then all sanded smooth.

The next job was to paint the risers and treads. For this, we used special floor and stair paint.

staircase painting wood

The self-adhesive tile effect stickers were cut to size and fixed in place.

We have a wooden effect laminate floor on our landing so I had to make a special bullnose to wrap around this and finish the staircase off neatly. This needed to be strong so I made it out of oak.

So here is the final staircase.

finished staircase makeover

What a transformation. This was probably the lowest cost upgrade we have taken on in this house and it has made such a huge difference. Now, this is the first thing you see when entering the house. It’s a talking point for everyone who comes in.

Thanks for reading this DIY bannister makeover guide. I hope it’s given you some ideas and inspiration to have a go at this yourself. As it shows, you can refurbish your bannister on a low budget and without too much effort.

Please feel free to comment below and ask any questions. I’ll be happy to answer them.

Why not take a look at some of my other DIY home improvement projects?

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