Monday, January 21, 2013

Refinishing the Stairs Part 2: (Or How I Fixed a Bad Stain Job)

Click here to read Part 1.

Lordy Lordy. If I said I was fearless at the start of this project when we started stripping the old finish from the stairs, I was certainly eating my words when I stained them.
I got scared. Real scared.
Everything started off smoothly. The oak banister took the dark Varathane "Kona" stain like a champ.

 But the stair treads? Not so much. They were a big blotchy disappointing mess.
You can actually see defeat in the slump of my shoulders as I persisted.
No, I didn't pretreat using a wood conditioner. The directions said I didn't have to. All I can figure in my research is that the kind of wood our stairs are made from is one that doesn't take stain well. This may also explain why they looked so bad to begin with.

I seriously didn't know what I was going to do to fix it. The last thing I wanted was to sand them again and start over. Thank god for the Internet, because that is where I learned about General Finishes gel stain. I stopped hyperventilating long enough to place the order. Then naturally, my mind went to worst case scenario land as I waited for it. (As in, we're probably going to have to replace the entire staircase...)

When it arrived, I cautiously tried again. The gel stain is thick, like chocolate pudding. It smelled pleasant.  I was hopeful. I used a white sock over a rubber glove on my right hand to wipe it directly on top of the bad stain job. Then I used a clean white rag in my left hand to wipe off the excess a few minutes later. I used a foam brush to get the stain in corners and around the spindles.

To my relief, IT WORKED! Top step, Varathane + General Finishes gel stain. Bottom step, Varathane only. My stairs only needed one coat of General Finishes to even out the finish.
In reading online reviews about General Finishes gel stain, we probably didn't even need to strip the wood first. Oh well, live and learn.

Three coats of poly later and the treads are done.

I really love how the dark treads look with the mahogany inlay of our floors downstairs.

Now someone is going to have to paint the spindles and risers.

I call "not it".

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