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Updating A Painted Banister With Gel Stain


I told you yesterday that I stained my stair banisters. Man that was a project. It took me a full month from start to finish- mainly because I chose to tackle this project in the middle of the summer during high heat and humidity. It would have taken considerably less time had I waited until it cooled down to start. Unfortunately I do not possess such patience. I wanted it done and I wanted it done now. It’s a curse.


The original banisters were an ugly builder basic oak with painted white rails. I hated them. The varnish was all rubbing off and chipped and the paint was scraped up and chipped. It needed help desperately. After the success of staining my kitchen cabinets I decided to use the same General Finishes Gel Stain in Java color to do the banisters too. I was unsure how the stain would work over the white paint of the rails and it was a little different than staining the banister.



I did the same prep work as in the kitchen– washed and lightly sanded every surface then taped the carpet and walls around the banister and rails. I used white thick masking tape on the carpets and it worked fine. I did the first coat of stain using the same white athletic sock method I used in the kitchen and then using a small foam brush to get in the grooves of the rails. Oh my gosh, y’all. Those rails were the worst part. I was so tempted to sledgehammer them and replace them with straight bars. The only thing that stopped me was that I couldn’t find my sledgehammer in the messy garage. Matt will never again complain about the mess in the garage, I assure you. The first coat took me about an hour to complete. And then it took forever to dry. Because our city was in the middle of a heat wave, of course. Murphy and his stupid law.


After the first coat I broke it up into chunks. The rails were dry after 3 days but the banisters were still sticky to the touch. I went ahead and did the second coat on the rails and waited another 2 days to do the second coat on the banisters. I knew after the second coat on the rails that it was going to take at least 4 coats to cover the white paint entirely. I let the banisters dry for a full week after the second coat before starting the third coat but the rails were again dry sooner. Knowing I was going to need 4 coats on the rails I went ahead and did the third coat on the rails while waiting for the banisters to dry.


2 days after doing the third coat on the rails I went ahead and added a fourth coat. I probably could’ve gotten away with just 3 coats but after all that work I tend to subscribe to the better safe now than sorry later theory. I let the rails and the banisters dry for a full week before adding 2 coats of the General Finishes satin poly/acrylic top coat that I used on the kitchen cabinets. Again, a little of this stuff goes a long way. I used a clean white athletic sock to apply the top coat and allowed it to dry for 6 hours in between each coat.


I’m amazed at the difference it made in our entry way. I think it updated our house by at least a decade, maybe even more.



How’s that for a cheap way to update your house? I used the same can of stain and top coat that I used to do my kitchen so it didn’t cost me anything additional. I’m in love with my staircase and banister again. It’s amazing what you can do to update your house when you’re willing to get your hands dirty!


TDC Before and After

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