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".







25 comments:

Holly said...

Whew!! You had me nervous. It looks really nice. Get someone else to do the spindles and risers - do it. :)

Jen @ RamblingRenovators said...

The only thing worse than having to strip and refinish stairs is having to strip and refinish stairs twice. Glad the gel stain worked. The stairs are looking good!

Calypso In The Country said...

Wow I am so impressed. I am sure I would have been crying at that point. Thank goodness for the internet huh? The stairs are really coming along!
-Shelley

Cathy Wall said...

Carrie, you guys are rockstars! This foyer is looking amazing and I am glad to know of the General Finishes gel stain. Even tho I am not much of a DIYer I know many who are, so I'll tuck that into my arsenal!

My Crafty Home Life said...

I'm sorry that happened, but the finish is stunning. I rarely get it right on the first try many times. Thanks for sharing this great product. I need to try it.

Whitney @ Drab to Fab Design said...

So.much.work, but it paid off!! Your stairs look so good! I have heard of gel stain but didn't know you could put it right on top without stripping. Your entry way is making me swoon. BTW, just subscribed to your blog!

Ashley said...

Your newel post is absolutely gorgeous!

The treads turned out great, too.

Aubrey {All Things Bright and Beautiful} said...

Haha, I would definitely be opting out of the painting job, too (c; But Daaaaaang gurl! The treads turned out *awesome*! Especially with that little scare in the middle...doesn't it just make you so proud of your problem solving skills??? (c:

Cassie @ Primitive & Proper said...

not it either! :) the stairs look amazing and so glad it all worked out in the end for you!

meryl rose said...

I LOVE gel stain. We used it for our front window when we got it replaced. The window frame is not real wood (just made to look like it) and it went on amazingly well. Glad you found something that fixed it! That's always the best :)

Carol@TheDesignPages said...

Well thank goodness for that. The stairs look amazing but all I could think about when reading this is how there's virtually nothing we can't find an answer for now. What did they ever do in the olden days when they ran into a problem like this.

Kelly said...

Oh man that is stressful! I'm glad it all worked out in the end. PS: not it!

Amy@BuffaloRoam said...

Oh man, I would have just cried. But they really turned out nice in the end! Hooray for happy endings!

Tiffany said...

We have the same kind of inlay on our floors. I like the idea of doing the darker treads with the white risers. Getting my husband on board is a whole different thing.

Julie Taylor and Danni Greenwalt said...

OH MY GOSH...I'm exhausted just reading about what you did! One time I thought I could refinish my kitchen cabinets....In the middle of the job I just sat down and cried....never again! Just to much work! Its going to look great and when its all done think about how much money you saved!

DecorandtheDog said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one that reads how to do something right...after screwing it up. :) The stairs are looking lovely. Makes me want to rip the carpet off of mine!

Janna McCalley said...

So happy it turned out well in the end! If you can, have some one spray the paint for you, it's fast and makes a super smooth finish! You deserve a break!

Andrea said...

I feel your pain!!! I stripped and refinished my stairs this past fall! Took about 8-10 wks to complete. The hardest part of painting was finding a comfortable position to paint and get the edges and corners of the risers. Your stairs look beautiful! Cant wait to see the completed project!

Gail Storti said...

I've been watching this project unfold because your stairs and downstairs hall look exactly like mine. I too did the striping of the treads and though our floors are old oak, the treads were some other disgusting wood....fir or something like that. I had the same horror when I applied the stain. I ended up sanding them all down and leaving them natural and have always hated them.We had stained our floors dark when we moved in 39 yrs. ago...that's when I did the steps and I don't know if gel stain even existed then. Then then everyone was doing light floors 25 or so years ago, we sanded them again and now they are natural. I wish they were a little darker, like yours. I love the really dark treads and have thought about doing our dark for a long time....just seems like too much work. We do all the work ourselves, so I know you can relate. Anyway, I can't wait to see your project all finished. It's going to be fabulous!

Running Person said...

Wow! Your house is looking fantastic! We remodeled just about everything in our house, but I'm feeling too old to start that sanding nonsense again. :o) NOT an easy job.
Love your blog.

Lisa @ Shine Your Light said...

Carrie!!! Oh my gosh, they are FABULOUS!! As I knew they would be. So glad you found a solution - this project is not for the faint of heart. They look so good in the end though - I'm SO excited for you!!!

Lisa - A Room with A View said...

Carrie, I am very impressed with your persistence. But you had no choice but to move forward and keep trying - I love how they look and how they tie-in with the inlay. You and your husband are so skilled and such a great team!

stpaulhaus said...

Looks great so far. One of the most time consuming projects anyone could take on--but also very rewarding when it is all said and done. Keep up the good work!

A Engineer in the Kitchen said...

The stairs look amazing! Can I stay that you are a bit of a dare devil staining in a white shirt.

Kathy Shea Mormino said...

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Cheers,

Kathy Shea Mormino

The Chicken Chick

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