Painting Basement Steps

This is a project that had been nagging at me for quite a while.  Every time I went up and down my basement steps, I knew I had work to do.  Since my laundry area is in the basement, and with two girls in basketball, this happened quite frequently.

Basement steps before new paint

Basement steps before new paint

Shortly after moving in three and a half years ago, I had a large freezer moved into the basement, and the appliance dolly did a number on the wood stairs.  Then I pulled off the old, ragged, vinyl runner that partially covered the steps.  They were painted multiple colors with little paint where the runner had been, and the vinyl runner left a layer of tape and adhesive down the middle of the steps.  The dolly had made a few gouges, and the odd, red-brick and grey paint definitely did not match the new tile I installed when remodeling the basement bathroom.  The time had come for a stairway makeover!

Gouge in basement steps

Gouge in basement steps

 

The first step was removing the old adhesive and paint and evening out the finish.  I searched the local Menard’s home improvement store and found a very helpful employee who gave me advice on the best tools for the job.  The orbital sander and multi-tool I purchased, along with painter’s plastic sheeting to quarantine the area, helped me feel more confident about the prep work.  This is, after all, the most important part of any painting job.  It was also the part I had been dreading and what had kept me from painting for the past three and a half years.

Skil orbital sander

Skil orbital sander

Newly armed with knowledge and energy, I went to work cleaning the steps and duct taping the plastic sheeting to enclose the area.  Overlapping the plastic by a few feet helped to create a doorway that I could open and close without having dust filter through an opening and onto every surface in the basement.  Luckily, I have a door at the top of the steps that I also closed to contain the mess.  With the orbital sander, I sanded each step using a light side-to-side motion.  The dust collector on the sander helped to prevent a dust cloud from overtaking my lungs.  I also wore a mask.

Basement steps with plastic and after sanding

Basement steps with plastic and after sanding

Although the multi-tool’s pointed sanding attachment made it possible to sand in the corners, the plastic, Velcro-like attachment system for the sandpaper wore off and melted away before I got to the bottom of the steps. Every time I put on a new piece of sandpaper and turned on the vibrating tool, the sandpaper fell off. I finally gave up on that futile tool and resorted to hand-sanding the corners. The multi-tool will be going back!

Once I had the steps sanded, I allowed myself to look at paint swatches. With my interior design background and training, this is the most fun for me!  It was my reward for the hours of sanding and dust in my hair.

Paint chips for basement steps

Paint chips for basement steps

I researched paint to find the most durable finish for these well-used steps, and I found Benjamin Moore’s Floor & Patio paint.  I chose Sherwin-Williams’ Dovetail, SW7018 color and had it color-matched from the paint chip.

Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio paint

Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio paint

Once I’d had my fun, I went back to work cleaning the steps thoroughly with my trusty, Stanley shop vac.  I also wiped the steps down a few times with damp rags after removing the plastic sheeting. Once the steps were dry, it was painting time!  Woo hoo!

Stanley shop vac

Stanley shop vac

 

I have found that quality paintbrushes and paint make a huge difference when taking on a painting project, so I turned to my Purdy paintbrushes to get the job done. These, along with the Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio paint, made the job smoooooth!  Also, if you’ve ever struggled to open a gallon of paint, check out the opener tool with the curved, screwdriver-like end.  By slipping it under multiple places on the lid and prying up slightly, the can will open and be easy to close up again when you’re finished.  I didn’t need to prime the steps, since I had given them a thorough sanding.

Purdy paintbrushes

Purdy paintbrushes

I am a bit compulsive about keeping my paint can rims clean of excess paint, so I like to use this plastic pour spout that fits into the rim of the paint can. It makes clean up much easier!

Handy pour spout for paint can

Handy pour spout for paint can

Since I need to get at my laundry area at a moment’s notice (that is, when a daughter reminds me an hour before a basketball game that her uniform is still dirty!), I made sure I wasn’t banned from the basement by painting only every other stair tread.  I went ahead and painted every riser. (The risers are the parts of the stairs that “rise” – the vertical parts, and the treads are the parts you walk on.)

Half-painted stairway

Half-painted stairway

Half-painted treads with all risers painted

Half-painted treads with all risers painted

The paint went on super smoothly and had great coverage, but I decided to apply a second coat for better durability. Although the paint dried quickly, I waited overnight before brushing on the second coat, just to play it safe.  The color is closer to concrete grey than the taupe I had in mind, but the stairs are finished!

Freshly-painted stairs

Freshly-painted stairs

Paint finish on stairs

Paint finish on stairs

Now when I make my way to the laundry room, I smile instead of feeling stressed. The stairs turned out great, and I am not embarrassed anymore by the first impression most people have of my house.

Well, not entirely at least. The green and gold, 1060s-ish vinyl with the cushy foam backing is still the first thing you see when you step onto the stairway landing. Stay tuned for its removal (more stubborn than I’d hoped) and replacement with leftover tile from the basement bathroom remodel!