Monday, October 24, 2016


Transforming oak staircase into sultry, dark espresso staircase is easy. It’s messy though. I’m going to walk you through it step by step as much as I can in this tutorial. I hope you’ll find it easy, non-intimidating and then recommend my blog to all your friends so my blog can grow and grow. Since I do this all for free out of the goodness of my little heart. No pressure. Tell your friends.

(1 coat)
Alright, let’s do this. You need some supplies first. They’re not pricey, but you do need all of them. If there’s an appropriate alternative, I’ll list it. Otherwise, plan to get exactly what I list to get the same results I did. YOU CAN DO THIS! 

(after 3 coats)


-Sanding block (I bought an one for about $4 from my local hardware store.)

-Lysol dual action wipes (or a sponge with soap/water)


-Masking tape AND painter’s tape

-General Finishes Java Gel Stain (YOU CANNOT SUBSTITUTE THIS! I had a ton of trouble finding it locally, so I bought it on Amazon and had it to my door in about 4 days.)  If you’re doing a large staircase, order the quart. I ordered the quart since I am doing a medium size staircase. I just wanted to make sure I had enough. A little of this goes a LONG way.

-General Finishes Satin Poly  topcoat or any other satin polycoat will do.

- White Semi Gloss paint. I will only need a quart.( Any brand will work for this part) Also skip this part if you are not changing you spindle color. 

-Tack cloth

-Men's sock or a foam brush


-Postal wrapping paper or drop cloths or tarp to protect floors. I bought the postal wrapping paper at Dollar Tree and it was so easy to cover up my floor.

Total cost for all of the materials should be between $50-$100ish. 

                     (railing after 3 coats) 

Step 1: Prep your area.

This is probably the least fun step, but you must protect your floors, walls, carpet or any area that may get stain on it. And trust me, this stuff is oil based,  so it stains easily and quickly. Makes it great for cabinets too. Prep now to avoid lots of messy clean-up later. I used painters tape for walls/carpet trim and around spindles

Step 2: Clean all wood surfaces.
I used the Lysol dual action wipes because one side is scrubby and the other side is smooth. Basically you want to make sure to get any grime, dust, gooey stuff, dirt, etc. off the rails and stairs. Once you’re done cleaning, make sure they’re dry before 

Step 3: Lightly sand rails, spindles etc and remove dust with a tack cloth.

You should not spend a ton of time sanding. I would say 1 minute per area  You’re just wanting to break up some of the shine on wood, not completely strip them. I used an sanding block with a fine (not medium or coarse) finish to get in the bevels. Once you sand, make sure to thoroughly wipe off all dust with a tack cloth. Do this twice.

Step 4: Stain. Dry. Stain. Dry. Stain. Dry. Dry. Dry. Poly. Dry. Poly. Dry. Dry. Dry.
This step doesn’t have many pictures because I had to use one hand to stain and another to make sure I wasn’t getting gel stain all over the place…but bear with me.

You’ll put on a (double)vinyl glove. I put it on my right hand since I am right handed. Then put your men’s sock over it. Why does it have to be a men’s sock? Well, generally men’s socks are white and tend to be LONG,  so it’ll protect your entire forearm from gel stain. The glove is meant to protect your hands from being stained an espresso color. You’ll leave your other hand free to wipe off any globs or stain that you might get in places you don’t want them.

I’ve read reports where people used a foam brush to apply the stain, but I prefer the sock method. Do whatever makes you happy. :) 

Now, how much stain to use? These aren’t exact figures, so don’t go whip out your measuring spoons, but my point is use a slightly generous amount, but do not go overboard.

Also, unlike other staining methods, DO NOT wipe it off. You want to put on a nice, thin coat. Make sure the stain doesn’t glob up on/in corners, that’s when cheesecloth/gauze is handy. Then you let coat 1 dry for 12 hours. Then you put the 2nd coat. Let it dry for 24 hours. Then put the last/third coat and let it dry for 5 days and then seal it with 2 coats of Satin Poly.

Drying time is so important, DO NOT rush this step or you will end up having to put on a billion coats of stain and it will not be good. Light, thin coats + ample drying time + topcoat= fantastic results.

Your first coat may result in panic… Go have a shot of tequila and keep the faith. It will look streaky and odd and ugly.

After 3 coats of stain + 2 coats of poly + lots of drying time, And you’re done! Ta-dah! For the coat of poly, follow the manufacturer's instruction (and good judgment) for the drying time. More drying time is always better than less.

                       Finished project

When you are done with the staining of the stairs, that is when you will paint the spindles.

This part is really quick and easy. I used painter tape to tape off around all spindles.
I then applied 3 colors of white semi-gloss paint. (any brand is fine for this part). The drying time in between colors was only a few hours.
Obviously if you spindles are already painted you can skip this part.

Some quick tips:
-Don’t over think this project. It is quite easy. 

-Please use General Finishes gel stainAmerican General Gel Stain Java and Poly Topcoat. You won’t regret it.
-Light coats=success
-Drying time=the longer the better
-Do not over apply or over wipe. Check for globs when you’re done and smooth out with pinky finger.
-Socks rock for applying stain. Socks for applying poly. Simply wipe it on.
-If you’re intimated by this project, try it on the back of a cabinet door first or buy a  spare cabinet door at REStore or Goodwill.
-Touch up any streaks in the finish BEFORE applying the poly.
-You can do this! 

Please leave me any  comments or questions below, or you can always e-mail me at