What Kind Of Paint & Finish To Use On Handrails? [Inc. Tips & Tricks]

Handrailings are one fixture we tend to treat as an afterthought. They are subtle, but they contribute to the general look of your interior. They are also surprisingly expensive, especially if you consider getting high-quality materials.

So, how do you balance your budget and paint quality? What finish makes it last longer? We have researched the answers for you.

The best paint for handrailings that balances quality and budget is the Benjamin Moore Advance, which is said to have excellent coverage, adhesion, and durability: all essential for the stair's support beam.

Make sure to get paint that has a semi-gloss finish so it would be easier to clean and hide flaws over time.

Ideal colors for handrails include:

  • Black
  • Dark Brown
  • White
  • Beige or Cream
  • Deep Green
  • Periwinkle
  • Deep blues

Choosing the right paint and finish for your handrailings is essential to maintain the visual appeal of your home. It's a subtle fixture, but it can affect your interior or exterior since the smallest details are often the most attention-grabbing.

Keep reading below to learn more about applying new paint on your handrailings and how to make them last longer. With that said, let's dive right in!

hand-woman-holding-on-metal-banister, What Kind Of Paint & Finish To Use On Handrails? [Inc. Tips & Tricks]

Why Should You Use Semi-Gloss Finish For Handrailings?

A semi-gloss finish gets you the best of both worlds: it has a "shiny" sheen that makes the handrailings look effortlessly elegant and clean, but it is also not too shiny that it will reveal the tiniest specks of dirt easily.

These finishes make the paint more durable because they are easy to scrub and clean and hold well against high humidity levels. They are also ideal for places that have high foot traffic: which stairs and handrailings go through daily.

Aside from handrailings, you can also use this finish for other subtle fixtures in your home that are often neglected, such as window casings, trim, baseboards, and frames.

How To Paint Your Handrailings

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Knowing which paint to use is the first step to successfully revamping your stair's handrailings. Now that you know which paint to use, it's time to understand how to paint the fixture.

Before anything else, prepare an orbital sander (preferably one with 220-grit), sanding blocks, and a good-quality furniture brush to obtain the best results.

Clean The Area

This is the first step to almost any project. You need to get rid of the debris so you'll have a smooth paint job, and you need to remove the grease on the surface so the paint will adhere properly.

You can also take this opportunity to look for flaws and cracks, which you can promptly fix using a wood filler. This will refresh your staircase and give it a brand-new look.

Sand The Handrailings

Before successfully applying paint, you need to sand the surface, so it will stick and not peel later on.

Removing the glossy surface is essential, and you can use an orbital sander to make the process more time-efficient.

Check out this sander on Amazon.

Apply A Coat Of Primer

Applying a primer is crucial if you have a dark railing you want to convert to a lighter color. You should also apply primer if you see dark and permanent marks over the surface so your railings can have a smoother appearance later.

A primer will seal the handrailings and prevent them from getting easily damaged. The primer would be able to increase the durability of your railings and make them last longer.

Check out this primer on Amazon.

Paint The Railings

After sanding and priming the surface, you can go on ahead and paint the railings. Besides Benjamin Moore, you can also use the Sherwin-Williams paint, although it is more expensive.

Remember that if you use Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams, you won't need to prime the railings unless you're dealing with intense stains or knotty pine surfaces.

If you don't intend to paint the entire staircase, it's best to stick with neutral colors.

However, if you want a unique look, you can explore other hues, typically in a lighter or darker shade, making it look more aesthetically versatile.

Should You Paint the Spindles And Railings At The Same Time?

There's no hard rule about whether you should paint them both. However, you should protect your spindles by taping them off if you don't intend to paint them.

To paint them both, you should start with the spindles before painting your railings for a smoother process.

Color Options For Handrailings

Choosing the right color for your handrailings can be challenging since many options are available in the market.

Most designers suggest sticking with neutrals, but whether you go light or dark depends on your preference and the stair's color combination.

Here are the color options you can try:


Small table under stairs, close-up

Black is a tried-and-true solution for most handrailings, and they are generally preferred.

Black-and-white combinations for railings and spindles are popular among contemporary-styled or minimalist homes.

You can never go wrong with black, even if you choose a different aesthetic for your home. The colors are versatile, and they can make your interior (or exterior) look classic and effortlessly elegant.

However, since they are two stark and contrasting colors, you may need to clean them more often since they can show specks of dust easily. However, this can be made easier when you have a semi-gloss finish.

Read: What Color To Paint Stair Railing? [4 Design Options]

Dark Brown

View down the stairs of modern boho coastal style

Dark brown railings create the perfect foundation for a farmhouse-inspired, classic, or traditional and rustic look. This is an excellent alternative to black railings: they have a pronounced color but aren't as heavy as black.


A freshly decorated wooden staircase in a modern home

If you want a neat and minimalist look, go for white railings.

They can make the space feel airy and bright and are aesthetically versatile. They also seamlessly blend with the color of your treads, so you can't go wrong with them.

Make sure to clean your railings regularly to consistently have a pristine appearance.

Beige Or Cream

Beige or cream is an excellent alternative to white. They have a classic look and easily blend with neutral-toned interiors. You wouldn't have to worry about the color being outdated since it's timeless.

Deep Green

If you want a more unique and vibrant look, go for deep green railings. However, ensure that the treads and spindles are in a neutral tone to balance out the look, so the stairs wouldn't look tacky.

Deep green railings can be an excellent start to creating a nature-themed color scheme, and you can make it blend with the rest of the interior.


Periwinkle is a whimsical and unpredictable color that you can incorporate into your handrailings. They can make your interior pop and blend well with light neutrals.

Make sure to incorporate complementary colors in your color scheme, so this color doesn't look out of place.

Deep Blues

Deep blues are an unpredictable but sophisticated color you can paint your handrailings with.

They have an elegant look, so they can make your interior look effortlessly chic, especially if you tie it up with neutrals and complementary colors.

It's also a great alternative to black since it doesn't show light specks of dirt easily, making it relatively low-maintenance.

How Do You Maintain Stair Railings?


Stairs are one of the most used areas in the house, and they experience the most foot traffic: literally and figuratively. So, you must know how to keep it clean to retain its pristine appearance after a lot of work.

Cleaning the stair railings is pretty straightforward. You only need the typical cleaning materials such as a spray bottle, a wiping cloth, disinfectant, and soap. If you want to deep clean, you can add vinegar and polish.

Here's what to remember when cleaning handrails:

  • Clean from top to bottom so the dirt can fall to the ground, which you can sweep later.
  • Dust the railings daily to avoid the accumulation of dust.
  • Disinfect the railings weekly. The hands that hold the railings can be riddled with germs.

Wood railings should not be soaked for an extended period. You can revamp it with varnish if it starts to fade later.

Read: How To Clean Wood Stair Railings And Banisters

Our Final Thoughts


Stair railings, although subtle fixtures, shouldn't be an afterthought, especially since they are the most used fixture in the house. Maintenance is key to making the paint and material last long.

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