top of page

hello there

  • Writer's pictureKiersten

Main Entry Reveal - Painted Trim, Wainscoting and Stair Railing!

Updated: May 16, 2021

This has for sure been one of our biggest paint transformations to-date - painting the wainscoting, trim and staircase to modernize the main entry of our home! We've been working on this space since the start because, while it had a lot of potential, the size, scale and quantity of oak trim really made this space feel heavy. If you're new here, you'll want to get caught up to see it in action. We shared how we picked out our paint colors on this blog post, then we started painting trim which you saw on this post, and we revealed the before and after painting photos of all of the main areas of our house on this post. We updated the wall sconces here. But for a quick look, here's what it looked like before we moved in: 2000s oak in all its glory. Or like I so lovingly say - orange on orange on orange.

Main entry staircase oak wainscoting
Photo from Walkthrough

Entry Progress

After a coat of fresh paint on the walls and upper level trim, and installing the new wall sconces, I thought that would help settle my soul a bit longer than it did, but after sitting in the house all winter, I decided I wanted to keep painting.

Main entry staircase wainscoting
Progress After Wall Paint and Sconces

Painting Stairs, Trim and Wainscoting

Like before, with this big trim, I had my favorite painter do it because I knew this would require a professional finish. There are jobs I'm willing to tackle as you'll see below, and others that I feel like my money is better spent on. The tape job alone on here was worth it. You'll see how detailed he got up the stairs! We continued with the same color we started with on upstairs trim - White Flour by Sherwin Williams after a coat of oil-based primer.

Painting stairs
In Progress: Treads on Stairs
painting trim and wainscoting
In Progress: Hall Trim and Wainscoting
painting wainscoting and stairs
In Progress: Wainscoting Up the Stairs

I know many wood purists think painting wood loses the detail, but I love what the paint does to bring out the different layers of the wainscoting. You can see up the stairs above that we took the railing down to make painting easier. While the railing was down, I rolled right into what has been personally my biggest project...

Staining the Stair Railing and Bannisters

I talked Zach into taking the kids to grandma's for a weekend, which is exactly how much time this project took... literally the whole weekend working long days. With the smell of stain and need for ventilation, plus the mess, and concentration needed, this is not a project that would have been completed that quickly with kids running around. It would have probably taken more like a week and two weekends to get done if I had to do it in short bursts like I usually have to DIY.


To prep, I carefully taped off the top of each spindle and anywhere the banister met the wall or floor. I also put some painters paper along the top to help catch drips and used a canvas drop cloth to shield the carpet. My goal was to NOT to have to write a blog about how to get stain out of carpet.

prep to stain bannisters and railing
Prep for Stain
paint and stain prep up stairs
Prep for Stain

To start, I removed all hardware I could, did a light sanding with a 220 grit sandpaper block and wiped all dust off with a microfiber cloth.

sand the railing
Step 1: Sand the Railing


I chose Varathane's Stain and Poly in One in Gloss Black. I liked what I read about this product - that it went on like paint, but dried glossy without the extra step of a clear coat. I'm all for saving a step if it's possible! I definitely recommend wearing gloves as you work with this product - it's not easy to get off your skin. To get started, I stirred the stain with disposable plastic spoons for easy disposal.

stir the poly and stain in one
Step 2: Stir the Stain

The can of stain was pretty small and I was worried about transporting it around, so I used a plastic bucket with handle to hold the can while I worked sections. This worked great to catch any initial drips and make this more manageable as I was up and down the stairs. I also kept a cloth with Mineral Spirits on it nearby to quickly wipe any splatters off the hard surfaces nearby. It wasn't too messy once I got a hang of it, but there were definitely small splatters.

carry bucket
Step 3: Paint on Stain - CAREFULLY!

The easiest part of this was paining the railings that we could remove - that's obvious, but if this is an option for you - do it. I set the railing up on plastic saw horses in the garage which made painting and drying a lot easier. Not only did I paint the railing that we took off going up to the second floor, but I also did the railing going down to the basement the same way.

After some trial and error, eventually I found I got the best finish if I painted the bottom first, let that dry, then painted the sides before painting the top. Going back to smooth out drips is a must - and took me a while to figure that out unfortunately. You can do a light sand between coats but I found that wasn't always necessary. Letting it dry is.

staining railing on saw horses
Saw Horses for the Win

I painted on two full coats then hit just the top of each railing with a third. After removing the tape, I used a small paint brush to apply stain on areas that came off with the tape. Once dry, I used mineral spirits on a cloth to wipe off any splash on the white, and then took a similar sized brush and touched up the white paint where the mineral spirits didn't take everything up.

Touch up brush with stain
Step 4: Touch Up


When totally dry, I carefully hung the railings back up. The screws were pretty stripped so I ended having to buy some new replacement ones to make many work (nothing can just be an easy fix in this house!)

Hanging new painted railing
Step 5: Install! Railing Going Back Up!

The Main Entry Reveal!

It was a LOT of work going up and down stairs, hanging over the side of the railing to paint, then do it all again after drying. Truly a full body workout for an entire weekend!! And definitely was only something I could do without a house of people. But the final result was worth all that sweat equity! I may eventually decide to paint the spindles black too - but would need another free weekend to tackle that....

painted and stained stair railings and bannister

painted and stained stair railings and bannister

painted and stained stair railings and bannister

The entry feels so much lighter, brighter and bigger! And, for the price of a can of stain and some supplies, the impact is huge! SWIPE to see the before, progress and after!!

Need a Fix Up? Here's what we used:

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.Thank you for your support!

Related Posts

See All



we're kiersten and zach

Follow along with us each week as we work to make the very 2000s home we bought during the middle of a pandemic more “us.” We’ll share everything from quick fixes to more permanent changes, along with projects you can do in your own home. Zach will also share all his lawn and garden advice as he starts over on the yard.


Thanks for stopping by!

  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube

blog categories

top tags

explore our shop

explore our shop

Apparel and home goods designed by us to bring you joy and inspire your next DIY. Be sure to check back soon because we're just getting started.

bottom of page