Friday, April 1, 2011

My Stairs: Painting a Runner Details

I've gotten lots of comments about how ridiculous taping my steps must have been. While I will say that it wasn't the quickest job in the world, in the interest of full disclosure I also have to admit that I can be a bit melodramatic sometimes. My third grade teacher even nicknamed me "Sarah Bernhardt" because of my skills in that department.

So I thought I'd clear things up with a step-by-step explanation in case you want awesomely fabulous steps with a painted runner, too!

1. Prime with an oil-based primer.

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I painted all the risers and every other tread to allow me to escape up the steps, then went back a couple hours later and finished priming the other steps.

2. Paint the outside edges of all the stairs.

 I used the same semi-gloss white paint I use for all my home's trim. (And since you're only painting the edges, you leave an escape route! Brilliant!)

3. Tape for the runner.
This is where it starts getting a bit more tedious. My stairs were 36 inches wide, but of course my walls weren't perfect and so there were variations in the exact measurements of individual stairs as well.

I decided I wanted a 24" runner with 6" white on either side. I also decided that it was more important for the runner to stay the same width (like a real runner) and have the white outer edges absorb any of the slight width variations.

You could use a chalk line to mark the distance on each tread, but it will only mark the edge of each bullnose. I borrowed my contractor brother-in-law's laser pointer, which will go around corners so you'll have a solid line on your treads and risers which will result in a much quicker tape job.

This same laser kit is available at -- it's inexpensive and even includes a base so you can mount the laser onto any standard camera tripod for jobs like this.

4. Paint the runner!
I sealed the edge of the tape to prevent bleeding with a quick coat of the white paint that was already on the steps. After you paint your runner, do yourself a favor: good gravy, please do not remove the tape!

Just so we're clear, I did remove the tape. Do not make the same mistake I made, pretty pretty please.

Note: The color yellow I used is called Carolina Inn Crossroads Gold, by Valspar.

5. Tape for the thin accent stripe.
Decide how thick you want the accent stripe to be, and simply add a line of tape parallel to the existing one. If I had left the original tape on this would have been a much easier task -- I would have already half a straight template to go from, and half the work would have been done!

After it dries this time, you're welcome to pull the tape off. Have a tape removal party, even. Celebrate!

6. Seal it.
Use poly. Your stairs will thank you for it!

Go see more pictures of the finished stairwell here!


  1. Thanks for this awesome tutorial!!! They turned out so amazing! I wish we were owners and not renters so I could tackle this IMMEDIATELY! :)

  2. This is such a great idea! I would love to do this to my stairs, just with a bright blue...Oooh I can see it now!

    Thanks for the tutorial! :D

  3. You are amazing. Are you sure you're my kid??? AWESOME skills. xoxo

  4. Looks great, especially for basement stairs. Who wants to be lugging the vacuum around down there!

  5. Oh, my goodness!! I love, love, love this!!! I wish I had some stairs to try this on! I would definitely do it! Great job on the painting!

  6. You stairs are gorgeous! BTW I live in Chapel Hill, home to the Carolina Inn (our wedding reception was there). Crossroads is the name of their gorgeous restaurant. It's a great color!

  7. I love your stairs, and have looked at all your posts related to them. I'm on the verge of tackling our stairway with a painted runner, too. I'm not sure I get what you mean by "sealing" the edge of the tape - wouldn't the coat of white seep under toward the yellow, too? Maybe I'm not imagining it correctly - could you elaborate? Also what kind of tape did you use? Thanks!!

  8. When you've painted the white edges and you lay the line of tape down for your colored runner, if you paint over the edge of the tape with the same white, it will seal the edge of the tape -- as in, if anything will bleed under the edge it'll be the same white color, and after that you're painting the color on top of that white that's already dried on the tape edge. So it's impossible for that color to leak under :)

    You can accomplish the same thing with clear glaze. It's a great tip for crisp lines!

  9. And as for the tape, you could use any old tape (even the classic not-so-super blue painters tape) with that technique and it should work just fine. 3M has a new blue tape with something fancy called edge lock, which has brown writing over the blue tape... it's a bit more expensive but it works better. That's what I used for the yellow runner.

    There's also a fancy tape that's green, called frog tape -- it probably works the best in my opinion, especially if you don't seal the edge using paint or glaze. It does a pretty good job creating crisp lines all by itself (but I'm a perfectionist so I'm a fan of sealing it just in case, haha!)

  10. These are ah.may.ZING! my patience would have flown out the window. we are trying to decide if we should paint our floors, or have them professionally done. these give me hope that i might be able to do it. (that is, if i'm able to purchase some patience somewhere!)

  11. It looks gorgeus! :)
    Love it!
    Which kind of poly did you use?
    I wanted to know because one day I decided to paint my floors but I put the wrong kind of poly and it got yellowish, like stains. Horrible yellows stains, not the gorgeus yellow of your stairs. :)
    Thank you!

  12. Anna, this turned out amazing! I love the idea of painting a runner. I'd love to add this and a few of your other room images to the inspiration galleries on my site and include you in a feature post. Let me know if you're interested!

  13. Andrea -- did you use an oil-based poly? I know they yellow, maybe that's why?

  14. My kindergarten teacher said the same thing about me. We'll see if my stairs turn out as well as yours!

  15. Awesome! I'm so glad I found this post. I've been wanting to remove the hideous dingy carpet from the stairs and just leave the wood. This is perfect, I love the color too!!

    I just want to know, how is the paint holding up? I'm worried about the paint getting scuffed up in such a high traffic area.

  16. Amazing! Question: You used oil based primer and then regular latex paint on top? Can't wait to do this!

  17. I'm stuck - I can't work out the angles when going round corners. The straight runs are easy - I'm using a lasor as you suggested. Any suggestions please?

  18. looks gorgeous, but I have a question. Are your stairs slippery now? I have a 5yr old and a huge glass window at the end of my flight of stairs and afraid he'll slip down and through it.


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