How to Paint White Stair Risers

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Things You'll Need

  • Drop cloths or plastic sheeting

  • Duct or masking tape

  • Rag

  • Mineral spirits

  • Fine-grit sandpaper

  • Tack cloth

  • Oil-base primer

  • Natural-bristle paintbrushes

  • White paint

White stair risers add elegance and flow to your home.

Your stair risers -- the vertical facing of each step in your staircase -- may seem like an insignificant area of your home, but remember that every person who ascends your stairs will see that area. Many homeowners turn to a majestic white color for their stair risers, which helps to add a flowing sensation to your stairs. To achieve proper adhesion and finish for your paint, you must prepare the riser surfaces and apply the appropriate primer and paint.


Step 1

Cover all of the treads of your stairs with drop cloths or protective plastic sheeting to prevent paint drips. If necessary, hold this protection in place with duct tape or masking tape so that it does not shift while you work.

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Step 2

Dampen a rag with mineral spirits or a similar solvent-based cleaner. Wipe down every riser with this cleaner to remove dirt, dust, oil, wax and grease from the surface. These contaminants will interfere with the bonding of paint to riser.

Step 3

Sand all of the risers with fine-grit sandpaper. If your stairs are wood, work in the direction of the grain. Sanding will make the stairs rough and more accepting of the paint. As you work, wipe all risers down with a tack cloth to remove sanding dust.

Step 4

Start at the topmost riser so that you move away from the wet paint as you work. Coat each riser with a thin layer of oil-based primer applied to the surface with a stiff, natural-bristle brush. Overlap passes of the paintbrush to eliminate brush marks; if you are working with wood, paint in the direction of the grain. Continue until each riser is covered; allow the primer to dry completely according to product instructions before continuing.


Step 5

Lightly sand the primer coat with fine-grit sandpaper and wipe it down with a tack cloth. Starting at the top stair, apply a thin layer of your chosen white paint with a stiff, natural-bristle paintbrush. If you are working with wood, paint in the direction of the grain. Continue until all risers are painted. Allow the paint to dry overnight before continuing.


Step 6

Inspect the surface. Apply a second coat, or touch up as necessary or if recommended by the manufacturer of your chosen paint product. Lightly sand between coats for better adhesion. Allow the final coat to dry completely before removing the plastic or drop cloths.


Some paint products, such as exterior products, do not require a primer. Read all instructions on your chosen products before beginning your project.


Chemical cleaners, primers and paint produce strong fumes. Ventilate your work area by opening windows and running exhaust fans to get rid of some of the fumes. You can also choose to wear a dust mask or respirator if it makes the project easier.


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