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EASY Way to Paint Stair Railing Using Chalk Paint

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Do you have a space in your home that makes you crazy every time you look at it? I did! The stair rail leading to my basement always looked dirty because it was covered in stains. Not pretty! Chalk paint was used to transform the ugly stair railing with no need to sand!

This process was used just on handrails, but could easily be used to paint spindles, balusters, a banister, and trim around a banister! It was also be a great diy project to get rid of the orange oak look.

How to Paint Stair Railing Using Chalk Paint

The before pictures don’t look absolutely horrible until you get an up close peek.


Stairs leading to basement.

Now take a look at an up close view. See what I mean?

White stair rail with brown stains.

You are probably thinking I just didn’t clean them well.

That is only partly accurate. 😉 

I used to wipe the railing weekly. On several occasions, I tried to get the markings and stains off with no luck. 

The paint was patchy, faded and there were several stains that couldn’t be wiped away.

So, of course, chalk paint came to the rescue for me yet again.

Painting this rail had been on my project list forever. But, I always kept pushing it down on my list of priorities – until I painted my dining table with black chalk paint.

See more painting projects here.

Supplies for Painting Stair Railing:

This project was fast and easy; my favorite kind of project.

Clean stair railing

Prepping is fast and easy, but necessary. 

Ensure you wipe away any dust, dirt, or grime. Tsp is a good cleaner / degreaser. But, I actually just used a damp cloth for my prep work.

A tack cloth or microfiber cloth would be helpful in wiping away any dirt, etc.

Protect Area from Paint Drips

Use a drop cloth to cover the floor. You will almost certainly have some paint drips, especially when painting the underside of the rails.

Coat of Primer (Optional)

True confession, I did not use a primer since I was using a black paint over white. 

It is especially important to prime if painting over polyurethane (for those of you who are wanting to paint over stained wood). Unfortunately, if you are painting over a clear coat such as polyurethane, you actually should use a sander if possible to remove this top coat.

I know, I know…I said no sanding. Mine did not require this due to the nature of my project. 

But, I just want yours to last without chipping. If painting over polyurethane, consider using a a medium grit sandpaper to rough up the surface, then follow that with a fine grit sandpaper. 

Using a tack cloth, wipe away any dust created by sanding.

THEN use a primer to ensure no bleed through from the stain or old varnish.

Paint the Railing

Chalk paint dries very quickly, so this part goes pretty fast. Use quality paintbrushes to minimize brush strokes.

RELATED: Best Paint Brushes For Chalk Paint

Paint first coat, and allow 30-45 minutes to dry. Apply second coat, allow to dry an additional 30-45 minutes. 

Depending on the color (light paints tend to need more coats of paint), you might just need to do a few touch ups here and there.

Apply Top Coat

Apply a quality top coat or sealer and allow proper dry and cure time before use.

Other Types of Paint

Admittedly, my basement stair railing isn’t as nice as what many have on their main levels. If I were painting my stair rails in the main part of my home, I would likely have selected a different type of paint.

Why? Because of overall durability and the finished look.

Benjamin Moore Advance in semi gloss has a beautiful finish. I used this on some trim in my home and it held up beautifully. While it does take longer to allow dry time between coats (I’d wait a full day between coats), there isn’t a need for a top coat.

Other popular recommendations for stair railings to investigate include Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel Paint or Behr Latex Enamel.


Black handrail leading to basement.

With all of the hands that touch this railing, black is perfect! I added the pretty sign from Kirklands (I had a coupon burning a hole in my pocket).

The boob light (yes, I said it 😉) isn’t going anywhere. Since it is a stairway leading to the basement, the angle and space won’t allow for much variation from that.

It was a small change, but it made me happy. I can finally check this off the project list!

Do you have anything in your home that’s making you crazy? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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Painted stair railing.

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