Thursday, July 20, 2017

Banister and Railing Renovation

So the stairs tie into the living room renovation I wrote about last week.

Since we have what is considered a bi level the steps connect both levels. When we took up the carpet in the living room the carpet on the steps basically had to come up as well.  It was a mess, not only dirty but covered in the previous owners cat fur.  

In addition the banister and railings were painted this unattractive brown color.  From the moment we walked through the house I knew they would need to be changed.  Could not believe they had painted over a nicely stained banister and railing with this flat color brown.  

Guess there had been a nice wood door with character on the house but the previous owners replaced that with a fiberglass door that was painted this brown color as well. (the door will eventually be painted a brighter color)  It appears they matched banister color with the door.  Anyway, back to the banister and steps.

Painters came to give me estimates, they all ranged from $1200 and above. They all warned how much effort and work was involved in stripping wood that had been stained then not properly painted over.  It seems the previous owners never primed or sanded before painting over the stained wood so the paint was peeling.  Most of the painters didn't think it was worth the effort to strip the wood or pay that kind of money to do so, they said it would be cheaper to buy a new banister and railing.  Also suggested coating it with a primer and then painting over it but eventually they thought it would peel again.  The man didn't seem to want to get involved with replacing the banister as with new flooring being installed in few weeks we had limited time.

So of course what do I do?  Well I decided to take on the project of stripping, sanding, priming and painting it all myself.  Never imagining just how much work would be required and how crazy it would drive me.  Maybe breaking it down by steps will be easier to explain and helpful for anyone interested in actually tackling such a project.

1. Sanding.  Luckily my brother in law has amazing tools and let me borrow his sander.  I set out to sand the banister but quickly found out how challenging it is.  The shape, detail and curves of each spoke make it almost impossible to get a sander properly into.  The sander is powerful, it leaves your whole body vibrating afterwards, and can easily take off too much as well.  I had to make sure to take breaks, it's something I kind of wish the man might have jumped in to help with but it was football season and he was too busy watching football on tv. 

Sanding makes a mess, I mean everything is covered in find wood sand.  Curtains, walls, furniture,etc., now I understand why professionals cover everything in plastic.  Though that might seem like an annoying extra step it's well worth it.  Wearing a mask is very important as well. Because not enough old paint was coming off on some spots I realized a stripper would be required. (hey get your mind out of the gutter...lets clarify that a paint stripper) lol

2. Stripping.  Something I wanted to avoid at all costs as they can be messy and the odor extremely overwhelming.  My body does not handle such strong chemicals and knew I had to find some kind of safer alternative than the standard strong chemical stripper that can not only leave one feeling awful but overwhelm a house as well..  While researching paint strippers came across Citristrip which was supposed to be a safer stripping alternative which came with no harsh fumes, biodegradable and could strip multi layer of latex or oil paint.  
Citristrip was interesting definitely better than the harsh chemical paint strippers. Though it still has a citrus odor that can eventually be overwhelming so wore a mask while using it. And kept all windows open for days. The smell was odd and lingered as well.  They say the gel stays wet for 24 hours and had read the longer it sits the better it works but that was not the case with the banister.  Found that the longer it sat it dried up and was impossible to removed. The paint did not always peel up as the label suggested it would. 

So I would suggest applying a thick layer, letting it set for maybe 30 minutes to a hour at most most then using a metal scraper to remove it and paint.  It did an okay job but still left a lot of paint in some places. And in the places it dried it was hard to remove especially the odor.  Had to buy another product that is made to clean off the paint stripped.

Honestly stripping was just a tedious, unpleasant job. Understand why so many of the painting estimates we got suggested replacing the banister instead.  It seems no one, including professional painters like to tackle such a project.  Not even sure my husband realized what a project I took on as he sometimes can be oblivious to the amount of work I do on home projects. ha  It's one of those things where if you aren't doing it yourself it may look easy but when you are the one doing it, it's far from being as easy as it looks on those HGTV shows. 

3. Cleaning.  After the sanding and stripping was complete next came the cleaning.  As the wood has to be clean and dry before painting.  So I bought a special paint stripping cleaner wiped everything down with that.  After it dried I then wiped the banister and railings down with a mix of warm water and dawn dish soap.  In fact because of the lingering odor of the citristrip I did this more than once. Overall think I let it dry at about a week before painting.

4. Priming.  Once the wood was dry the next step was to prime. Priming was important because not all spect of the paint was removed. So to make sure those remnants didn't come through or eventually cause peeling I used a water based primer. Water base primers have a much lower odor and are more easily cleaned up than oil based ones. Since the wood has been sanded and stripped felt a water based primer would be fine.  So applied two coats to the banister and railings.  Let the primer dry for at least seven days to make sure it soaked into the wood. 

5. Painting. Before painting went over any areas of the primer that might be imperfect with fine sand paper to make the surface as smooth as possible. Applied two coats of semi gloss white paint to the banisters and railings. Semi gloss tends to be a thicker paint and can be a little harder to apply then say a flat or satin wall paint. But it holds up better and has the ability to be wiped down without taking off any paint. 

So would I do it again?  Honestly probably because just can't see spending $1200 to pay someone else to do it. Though when I was actually working on it I'd probably have said no way. All I know is I'm glad the project is finished.  Changing the brown to white was definitely worth it and goes great with all the other renovations.


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In middle of renovation.

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