How Much Does It Cost To Refurbish A Staircase?

If you have a staircase that's covered in old carpet or layers of paint, you have probably thought about refurbishing it. With the ever-increasing price of home renovations, you may be wondering how much it will cost to do so. We have researched and listened to both professionals and avid DIY-ers to bring you the most accurate information about this project.

The price of refurbishing a staircase will depend on the materials you use and how many stairs you have. Still, you can expect to spend between $300 and $1000 on average, which includes between $0 and $800 on labor and between $200 and $750 on materials. There are several different options for refurbishing, and which one you choose will affect the price. Stair refurbishing methods include:

  • Painting
  • Refinishing
  • Carpeting
  • Pre-cut stair treads
  • Stair runner

All of these options have advantages and disadvantages. Read on to find out more about what's involved in each one and how much you can expect it to cost.

A wooden stairs in the old palace, How Much Does It Cost To Refurbish A Staircase?

Refurbish A Staircase Affordably

Large and bright loft apartment interior


If your stairs are unfinished and the wood is in good condition, painting will probably be the cheapest and easiest option for refinishing them. This may be the case if you have unfinished basement stairs. Make sure that you use a paint formulated for floors or porches. You don't even need to prime the stairs with this type of paint. A latex, water-based paint will make for easy cleanup.

Click here to see floor paint on Amazon.

A 2-1/2 inch paintbrush is the ideal size for painting the treads and risers. The treads are the top part of the stairs that your foot steps on. The risers are the front of the steps. Depending on your stringer's size, the side casing of the staircase, you may need a smaller brush for that.

Click here to check out paintbrushes on Amazon.

First, make sure the stairs are clean and free of debris. You may need to sand down any rough spots. Then start at the top of the stairs, painting the stringer section, the riser, and the tread for each step. Work your way down the staircase so you can brush out any drips as they occur. Once the first coat has dried, apply a second coat in the same manner.

Classic vintage elegant wooden staircase with wrought iron railing


Painted or stained stairs can be refinished if the underlying wood is in good shape. This can be a time-consuming process. If you hire someone to do it, expect to pay between $7.50 and $9.00 per square foot.

You can do it yourself with just a few tools and some time and patience. You'll need to start by sanding the stairs down to bare wood, removing any paint or stain finish. Sometimes the finish will build up in the corners, so you may need to use a scraper to get that out.

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Once the stairs are sanded down to the bare wood, you can paint the risers and stringer and apply a stain to the stair tread. Alternately, you may want to stain the tread, risers, and stringer the same color. Regardless of which method you choose, you'll probably need to apply at least two coats and possibly a third to the treads for durability. Stairs get a lot of wear and tear. Lightly sand the stairs between coats.

Click here to check out polyurethane on Amazon.

A young couple doing up their hallway in the old house they have bought


Carpeting stairs can cost between $3 and $10 per stair for labor in addition to the price of the carpet. Installing carpeting on stairs can be complicated as tack strips have to be placed on three sides of every step. Installing carpet is not generally a do-it-yourself job since it involves specialized knowledge and equipment.

Bright small hallway with stairs in a house

Pre-cut Stair Treads

For staircases that are not finished or are in bad shape, you might want to finish them with pre-cut stair treads or a stair tread and riser combination. This option is more expensive than refinishing or painting but is cheaper than rebuilding the staircase.

To install the precut treads, the existing tread needs to be flush with the riser. It may be, in the case of a basement staircase or other unfinished stairs, that the tread is already flush with the riser. If not, you'll need to cut the existing tread overlap off so that it's flush with the riser.

Click here to see this saw on Amazon.

Next, measure the depth of the stair tread and cut the riser to fit if necessary. Using a stair tread gauge and layout tool, measure the angle of the sides of the tread. Transcribe the angle to the pre-cut stair tread and cut it to fit the stair tread width.

Click here to order a stair tread gauge and layout tool on Amazon.

Check your cut by dry fitting it onto the staircase.  If it fits, apply adhesive to the back of the pre-cut tread and install it. Tap it in place with a rubber mallet, then place 2 finish nails in each corner and use wood filler to conceal the holes.

Stair Runner

For stairs that in good shape but just need to be updated, a stair runner can be a great alternative to refurbishing the staircase. Stair runners look best if they're placed in the middle of the staircase. Measure your runner, then measure your staircase. Subtract the measurement of the runner from the measurement of the staircase and divide the result by two. That's how much space should be on either side of the runner.

Click here to see this stair runner at Amazon.

Mark this distance on each tread with painter's tape. Then put two strips of carpet tape on each tread between the painter's tape. Put one strip near the back of the tread and one near the front. At the top of the staircase, place carpet tape on the riser above the top step. This is where you will start the riser. Line the stair runner up with the top of the riser and press it against the tape. Push the runner against the back of the tread and press it against the tape.

Using a staple gun, staple the runner against the riser's top, placing one staple about every two-inches. Then staple along the side of the runner about every two-inches as well. Continue in this manner down the staircase, making sure the runner is pressed firmly against the carpet tape and stapled down.

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To finish the stair runner, cut it an inch longer than the bottom riser. Apply carpet tape to the bottom of the last riser. Turn the runner up under and press it against the carpet tape on the bottom riser. Use the staple gun to staple it securely against the riser.

How Can I Redo Stairs Cheap?

The cheapest option for refurbishing stairs is painting them. You can buy floor paint for around $20 per gallon. Depending on the number of stairs you have, you may be able to refinish them with one gallon of paint. You would only need a sander or sanding block and sandpaper and a paintbrush, bringing your total to less than $50 for the cheapest option.

Home classic wooden step stair inside the house

What To Put On Stairs To Prevent Slipping?

If your stairs are slick or you're worried about falls, you can put a transparent nonslip strip on your wooden stairs. It's almost invisible when installed but provides traction to prevent falls. These are self-adhesive, so you just peel off the backing and apply them to the middle of the tread.

Click here to see nonslip strips for stairs on Amazon.

Should Stairs Match Upstairs or Downstairs?

Stairs should match the floor from which they are most visible. However, it's easy to choose a neutral finish or color that will coordinate with both floors. Oak is a good choice if you are letting the natural wood show. If you are painting or installing a runner, choose a color that matches both the upstairs and downstairs flooring.

Light and shadow on wooden stair steps

In Conclusion

An ugly stairway can be an eyesore for the entire house. Luckily, there are many options for refurbishing your staircase on any budget. It's a home improvement project that will yield satisfying and beautiful results.


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