How to Refinish a Wooden Ladder

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Things You'll Need

  • 180-grit sandpaper

  • Tack cloths

  • Heavy-duty fabric drop cloth

  • Oil-based stain

  • 2- to 3-inch natural-bristle paintbrush

  • Rags

  • Mineral spirits

  • Polyurethane varnish

Take your time refinishing an old ladder.

Because wooden ladders are subject to heavy use, they are finished with a protective layer of varnish. Eliminate this coating before you apply a new finish, or the new finish could flake. It's also important to apply the stain properly, or the finish could dry blotchy. Finish the ladder with a fresh coat of varnish to ensure many years of continued use.


Step 1

Move the wooden ladder to a ventilated area.

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Step 2

Sand the ladder until the finish appears dull. Always sand with the grain, or the wood could splinter.

Step 3

Clean the sawdust from the ladder, using a tack cloth. Don't skip this step, or absorption problems may result.

Step 4

Use a 2- to 3-inch natural-bristle brush to coat the wooden ladder with oil-based stain. Wipe the wet stain from the rungs and rails, using clean rags. Allow the ladder to dry for four hours.

Step 5

Wash your brush with mineral spirits.


Step 6

Use your clean brush to coat the wooden ladder with varnish. Apply a light coat, or the varnish may sag. Allow the ladder to dry for four hours.


If you do not wipe the wet stain from the wooden ladder, the finish could dry unevenly.


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