Staining pine stairs

bjandtomMarch 14, 2010

In our new construction we will have natural oak flooring and stairway landing (a little bit rustic - seconds which we love). Walls there will be SW Indian White with trim SW Peristyle Brass (warm neutrals).

Now what to stain the all pine stairs? Our builder uses Minwax. Is it likely that we will be able to match the stain on the pine to the natural oak? I'm thinking if we try to match and don't get it right, it will look like we tried but didn't get it right. I'm wondering if we should go a little darker or what? Any recommendations or PIX would be appreciated?

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Most places that sell Minwax have a display with each of their stains shown on oak and pine. If you can find one that matches your oak flooring (bring a piece with you) you'll be able to see how it looks on pine. Hopefully you'll find one that looks very similar on both.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 3:05PM
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I know you didn't ask this, but are you talking about the stair treads being pine? I would strongly discourage this because of pine being such a soft wood. We have pine treads on the stairs leading to the loft in our weekend log cabin and they're riddled with dents. And, we seldom go up there. We also figured since we wanted a rustic look, the pine would be fine, but nearly every stair has dents in it. Scratches I'm fine with but not dents. If I were you, I'd go with oak treads, then finish naturally, like your floors.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 3:33PM
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Pine is notoriously hard to stain and make it look good. It splotches real bad. To correct that, you should apply a wash coat first. A good recipe from Teri Massaschi's book Foolproof Wood Finishing. That is sand to 220. Shellac wash coat, Minwax red mahogany stain, shellac wash coat. burnt umber glaze, wash coat, then top coat. This will get you close to the color of your floor. You can buy her book on the web or at most bookstores, if you want. The main thing you need to do is get two or three pine boards, about 4" wide and 3ft long, and use these to pratice. The pratice boards are very important.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 3:37PM
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A couple of years ago we pulled up the carpeting on our pine stairs. I was told it would be near impossible to match the stain between the oak and the pine. We painted the treads black and the risers white. The banister railing is black and the spindles are white. I haven't really noticed any denting in the treads. This is staircase from the main floor to upstairs, so it gets used ALOT!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 3:52PM
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    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 4:11PM
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We also pulled the carpet from our stairs a few years ago. The portion of the tread that was originally exposed was oak but the rest of the tread was pine since it was meant to be carpeted. ( How cheap of the builder, but that's another story)

After many excruciating days of sanding we stained the treads, and the oak and pine portions blended very nicely. They do look a wee bit rustic given the knot holes in pine, but I am very happy with the results. We coated with a satin polyurethane varnish and painted the risers white.

We have use these stairs multiple times everyday for 3 years and they have not dented, but I don't wear high heels. That being said, If I were building new construction I would definitely pay an upgr ade to get hardwood. In my case it was making a silk purse out of a sows ear.

1 Like    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 4:26PM
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Thanks for all the responses, tips, and link. To clarify, the stairs are in a hallway (not too visable to visitors), they access my second floor fiber art studio. They will be used primarily by me, likely a few times a day. The stairs are in, so I can't upgrade the wood, but I have plans in the future to stencil words on the risers or to wallpaper them.

The upgrade to paint the risers was $450, probably not too bad a price but with everything else going on I decided to just have them stained. This small house is costing a small fortune.

So, first I'm going to try sampling some stains on pine. Sounds like some of you have had some success.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 6:58PM
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I've got oak treads (still dented and scratched from the builders) and pine risers/skirt. The oak I just used boiled linseed oil and beeswax on - not a good idea since it doesn't hold up well. I'll be refinishing them with a varnish (probably Waterlox) this summer. Anyway, the color is very Natural - in fact, I used Minwax Natural oilbased stain on the newels and railing, followed by 2 coats of Sealcoat (uncut) shellac and then 2 coats of Minwax Wipeon oilbased poly in satin.

The pine was preconditioned with Minwax preconditioner (red can) though you could use a thinned coat of shellac, then stained lightly with Minwax Honey Maple gel stain - some of the trim pieces capping off the skirt board didn't take the stain too well, I've seem this happen before with the shoemold too even though the pine baseboards were OK. Then just applied the satin poly. HTH

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 8:25AM
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I'm glad this thread came up because it's something I'm going to have to deal with someday when we take out carpet.

Sorry to hijack but I'm curious. How are everyone's stair treads attached? I don't see any honkin screws in the tops like my lovely builder did (at least on the attic stairs). I can imagine that's the same under the carpeted ones.

Bj - You'll have to keep us posted!!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 9:39AM
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Thanks ajsmama for the pix, if we could get that close, we'd be happy.

I see mention about a shellac wash, I gather that acts as a sealer before staining, I'm going to do a web search as I'm not familiar with that step. I'm sure we'll have to complete as that's not in our contract.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 9:41AM
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That's as close as I could get, sometimes I think it would look better with more contrast b/t the risers and the treads since the grain is so different, why even "pretend" it's the same wood by staining it the same color? But all my baseboards, trim are pine, the Minwax Honey Maple was the best I could do to get pine to match waxed oak treads and Cider oak cabinets in kitchen.

Preconditioner may be easier for you to work with than shellac. If builder has contract to stain the stairs, then ask him if it includes using preconditioner to minimize blotchiness. Also, I would recommend a really tough finish on the treads - I've heard Minwax Fast Drying Poly for Floors isn't bad, though I haven't used it. They took the high-VOC good stuff off the market (at least here in CT). Faron recommended Zar Ultra oilbased Poly (if you can find it) for my windows - I got a can of it thinking I'd try it on treads before they stopped shipping it this winter but maybe you can find a can on local Ace shelf, if builder will use instead of his preferred Minwax products.

If you ask here and on Flooring forum, you'll get a whole lot of recommendations on what to use for finish - I'm tending toward Waterlox varnish now that I've seen my cousin's floors. But it all depends on what your builder is willing to use.

Shee - my treads are wedged in tightly to the skirtboard, attached to risers with finish nails (you can see the holes, at least they're sunk). Since the stairs were preassembled and not built on site, they may also be screwed in from the sides/back but I have no way of telling.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 10:31AM
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Oh, if you plain to stencil the risers maybe you just want to paint them now? If you still don't want to spend the $, then at least shellac (Zinsser Sealcoat) them, you can paint over the shellac and it will help seal any knotholes that may bleed, but don't poly them b/c it would be hard to paint over poly later. You can stain over (thinned) shellac, then put more shellac over it, and still paint the risers later. But you can't leave shellac as a topcoat on the treads b/c it won't hold up well.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 10:38AM
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I am interested in the comment by artlover13060--we have the same situation.....when we took up the stair carpet it was oak on the exposed sides of the carpet and pine underneath. Your post was in 2010---can you give me an update as to how your stairs have held up? what color stain did you use and did you seal before staining? Thanks---I cannot find anything on the internet about staining stairs made of both oak and pine!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2015 at 10:39AM
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