Gradient Stairs: A Pinterest DIY that takes forever, but rocks!

Wow. Okay so this is one of those projects. It should have been pretty straight forward. The original pin can be found here.  (photo below) It’s a pretty neat little project that I was very excited about. Turns out the word “little,” does not adequately describe the insanity that was to follow.

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To start, our stairs had carpet, we had to remove it and when we did we were pleased to find out that the stairs were made out of hardwoods and not some kind of particle board. We thought, this should be easy. Remove a few staples, give it a quick sand and viola! we’d be ready to do the cool gradient.

Thousands of staples. I mean really. I don’t know how many times the carpet had been replaced on these stairs before we purchased the home but I can tell you based on the different kinds of staples I had to remove there have been at least three. Each carpet installation added more and more staples. This process took about two days of about 5-6 hours each day spent removing staples. Nothing else but weaseling out staples. By the end of the second day my hands were swollen and bruised from forcing these mini torture devices out of each step and riser.

With the staples at last removed (or so we thought, really we ended up finding a few strays as we began sanding.) we continued on. The corner of each stair had white paint on it. Almost as if it had a really thin coat of paint once upon a time that got completely worn down. You can kind of see it here.



We had to take care to get the paint off the top of the stair and out of the corners. We are staining these later so they need to be basically raw wood so that they’ll accept the stain as best as possible. Making these smooth and clean took a long time. Like four packs of 80 grit sandpaper, two packs of 120 and two packs of 220 for the final product. Also do yourself a favor if you need to do this for your own stairs use a sander. I did. I can’t even imagine how long this would have taken without it. I mean, it took me DAYS and I had a sander.

Removing the dust is not small thing either. Good thing we bought the fancy shop vac. This thing sucks up EVERYTHING. Well almost. I swept the stairs, used the shop vac to get to the left over sawdust then used a cloth with a bottle of Mineral Spirits (got it at Home Depot, it just removes any hiding dust and it helps the stain “take.”) It’s cool to look at as it absorbs into the wood, it really brings out the character of each stair. I just know these will look so pretty with stain.


Then onward to painting. Do yourselves a favor and use a bowl. I used a plate and winded up making the painting a little more difficult than necessary. I put solid black paint on my plate and added a little more white every step, by the time I got toward the top it was nearly solid white but for the top step I rinsed my plate and added just white so it was stark and clean. This part was the most fun and hopefully for those of you looking to do this project, this is the only part you have to do. (Not everyone has to deal with carpeting on the stairs.) I didn’t tape off any edges though. I didn’t have any tape and I didn’t feel like waiting so I took my time on all the corners and edges and used a precisions angled brush (3/4 inch width) for anything along the sides. For most people I recommend tape. I mean really it would have saved me the back ache (I think) from all the crouching and maneuvering it took to get everything just so.


So that’s my Pinterest crack! I hope you guys get the chance to do the same, maybe in another color perhaps? I’d like to see this in reds and oranges if there is a person out there who is brave enough 🙂 My cousin-in-law was telling me about using a mosaic on the risers which I think is a wonderful idea. I may just have to do that on the stairs in the basement!