DIY Stair Renovation

I completed this DIY Stair Renovation 5 years ago! I am very excited to chat with you today  about the process for this DIY stair renovation project. When we moved in 6 years ago the stairs were in bad shape. This project made a huge impact on the overall feel of our home. When we bought our home the stair backing and sides were wrapped in a laminate. Our home was built in the early 80s, and other homes in our neighborhood actually have stairs that seem to be original and they are solely carpeted floating stairs. At some point they added on all the wood laminate and backing to match the then new flooring. They might have added the backing to the stairs for safety reasons.

Dwell Aware - DIY Floating Stair Renovation

I did this entire Reno project for $75!!

Getting Started

The very first step was to pull up a little bit of the carpet on the tread to confirm that the treads were in fact wood. From some tutorials I read, sometimes the treads are plywood, but they are usually at least pine. Pine is a softwood, but there are tons of homes built 100 years ago that still have functioning pine flooring so I thought if it works there, there has to be a way for me to make this work.

Besides the aesthetic issues I had with everything going on, the stairs also were a huge dirt trap. With the treads wrapped in carpet and also on the back board, there was literally no way to keep clean. The dirt would get trapped and then stay.

About 9 months into living here, I was done with leaving the stairs the way they were. It brought down the whole mood of the space. I started to look into the price for a renovation by professionals, and they were running in the $1000s so that was definitely out of the picture for us.

One of my most asked questions is about the stair brackets that hold each step. They were already existing, and I haven’t found similar ones online. I will update when I do!




I completed this project with a very old drill and sander. Now that I have better tools, I see the value in making a small investment to get better tools will save so much time. But I had know idea at the time the difference it would make!

Video about Process

1. Demo

So the first stage of the process was to pull off all the laminate. The demo wasn’t too extreme. It revealed that underneath the laminate there was solid wood on the sides. It was pretty bumpy but I didn’t mind the texture. I used some joint compound to smooth it out a little, and it still has a lot of texture but I think it adds some character to it. 

2. Carpet Removal

After pulling off the laminate and back of the stairs, it was time to focus on the individual steps. Once I purchased the correct sized hex bit to loosen the stairs brackets, I removed the stair treads one by one, and then painstakingly removed so many staples. At the time I wished I would have had this tool . We ended up buying it when we removed the carpet upstairs for the DIY Plywood Flooring , and it made things so much easier. So going back I would have loved to have had it. 

Another thing I was not expecting was the amount of dirt that was going to be involved in this project. Because it was trapped and it came billowing out, this part of the project was definitely best done outside. 

Once the stairs were stripped down and I cleaned off the remaining dirt with lightly soapy rags, I used some wood putty to fill in the holes on the top. I did this to avoid it being dangerous for splinters.

3. Risers

I did run into the issue of the treads at the top part of the stairs. At the time I did not know how to remove the plywood risers with confidence that I could put them back on. So I sanded them while they were still attached and it was messy. I was cleaning up layers of sawdust for a while in the house. Oops. Lesson learned. 

The plywood that was in place for the risers was cut poorly, but at the time being so new to DIY, I did not want to remove it, it felt too risky. So I used some foam to fill in the gaps, and it really worked perfectly to mask the imperfection and appear flush.

4. Stain & Seal:

Once I sanded the steps down, I used a couple of coats of stain to help the stairs come closest to the color of the flooring since I knew we wouldn’t be changing that anytime soon. I used a one coat poly. and I have been very satisfied with the finish and it helped to speed up the whole process. 

5. Safety Bars:

I spray painted the existing stairs brackets with a matte black. And then I needed a solution for the stair gaps. We had a small child at the time, and I wanted to make sure he would not fall through the gap because it was possible. So the cheapest option I came up with that matched the modern, industrial feel, I was going for were these IKEA curtain rod brackets, and metal conduit pipes from the hardware store. The pricing of the pipes is a little under $3 for 8 feet. So affordable! We also bought a pipe cutter so we could easily measure and cut them. I spray painted the pipes and brackets with a matte black. I also bought a black stair safety strip. It is 80 grit so a little rough, but with the littles I don’t want to chance anyone slipping down the stairs. The strip helps to give some grip to avoid more slips. 

The last part that I just completed in 2020 was to take the banister railing outside and spray paint it satin black. It solidified the feel for me, just giving it that last bit of modern aesthetic.

Things I Did Not Have on Hand that I Bought for this Project!

  • Ikea Rod Holder (IKEA discontinued) $1×16
  • Conduit Pipes $3×3
  • Black Spray Paint Matte $4×2
  • Wood Stain $5
  • Minwax Satin One Coat Poly $13
  • Anti Slip Tape (IKEA discontinued) $4 
  • Expanding Foam $5
  • Pipe Cutter $12
  • Hex Bit $3

Total $75!!!

Hard Work

This was a physically exhausting project. It took about 5 days of morning to late evening work, and since I had all the steps off at one point, it was really important to move quickly. But I have to say personally it was a very fulfilling and empowering project, just mentally realizing I didn’t need $1,000s or even $100s of dollars to create an entirely different feel. And I think it was also a catalyst for understanding the power of paint. Paint can radically change your environment.  

This whole project was a pivotal catalyst for realizing how empowering DIY can be. We have since changed the downstairs flooring, so now I need to decide if I want to re-stain the steps or buy new ones and re-install. Always an adventure in DIY renovations! I appreciate you joining me in learning about this DIY renovation, and I hope it can inspire you to Dwell Aware out there! 

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.

11 thoughts on “DIY Stair Renovation”

  1. Christine Stewart-Rhoads

    I know you’ve learned a lot since you have done these but they are beautiful and this is so encouraging.

  2. This is my first visit to your blog…I must say with all honesty, “I LOVE it”!!! ❤️ My family and I just recently moved into an old home n hilt in 1916, and I have been (inwardly) terrified of making needed and wanted renovations! We Have to diy as much as possible due to finances. Going though your post and just now your blog has given me a much needed shot of Courage and Inspiration to get off my keister, feel the fear, and get to diy-ing anyway!!! Thank You Dwellaware for sharing your process and progress with All of us…I want to do an action Today (any actionl to get the momentum going…Thanks again and Many Blessings to You and Your Family!!! Love your brand name by the way, very creative! 😁

    1. Hi Lawanda, thank you so much for the kind words. Honestly, the reason I share my DIY projects is that others like you and me can feel encouraged and empowered to take on their designs and bring their vision to life. You’ve got this!!

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