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How to Update Your Railings in 9 Steps!!

Today I am sharing my step by step directions to update your railings with paint and gel stain.

I have been painting the wood in my home since we moved in 3 years ago and this was my last area of the main level to complete. I started this project on a Friday afternoon and was finished by Monday afternoon.

Supplies You Will Need:

  • -Sand paper/blocks

  • -Painters tape (I like the Frog brand)

  • -Wash cloth and Wood Cleaner ( I use Dirtex Cleaner)

  • -Gel stain ( I used Old Masters in Dark Walnut)

  • -Polyurethane ( I used Old Masters)

  • -Oil Based Primer (I used Sherwin Williams)

  • - Water Based White Paint ( I used Sherwin Williams)

  • -Plastic/Cloth drop- to avoid getting paint/stain on floors

  • -Foam Brushes (applied the gel stain and poly with them)

  • -Paint brush for painting the wood ( I like the Purdy brand 1inch size)

*****Clean up tip- I personally hate cleaning oil based paints from brushes so I buy a cheaper brush that I can toss after applying the Primer. If you don't mind the clean up you can use Mineral spirits to soak your brush)

  • -White wood putty

Step 1:

Sand the wood- light sanding on the parts that will be painted and a heavier sanding on the areas that will be gel stained.

Step 2:

Wash the wood off with the Dirtex Cleaner or similar type of cleaner.



Step 3:

Taping- I taped the top of the spindles where they connect to the top rail in order to protect the spindles from the gel stain I was putting on the top rail. I also taped all other necessary areas that will need protection from the paint/stain.

**I completed steps 1-3 on Friday afternoon)

Step 4:

Apply Gel Stain- I used the foam paint brushes and applied a liberal coat of gel stain to the top of the rail. Let dry for the instructed time on product. Apply 2nd coat and dry again. You can keep repeating this layering process until you get the desired darkness. (I did 2 since I wanted a hint of the wood grain) ***FYI- I found that the gel stain took a little more time to dry than my product said so you may have to be patient before moving on to painting the spindles.

**I completed 1st coat on Friday and the 2nd coat on Saturday and let dry all day.

Step 5:

Remove tape from top of the spindles.

Step 6:

Fill Nail Holes - with the putty if needed.

Step 7:

Prime the Spindles an base of railing and let dry for the time instructed on the product

**I completed these steps on Sunday.

Step 8:

Paint the Spindles with the water based paint I did 2 coats drying in-between coats.

**I painted the 1st coat on Sunday and the 2nd coat on Monday.

Step 9:

Apply Poly to gel stained top rail. I waited 2 weeks for it to completely cure based on recommendations I read on Pinterest. I applied 1 coat with foam brushes since it is an area that doesn't get touch often. If applying to hand rails that get touched often consider applying 2 coats.


This was a fun project and really transformed my main level!! Would love to see your project if you take on this home update.






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St Michael, MN, USA

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