paint on exposed stairs

sycamore_guySeptember 3, 2006

Our front porch is covered, but the wooden steps leading to it are fully exposed to rain and snow. I have scraped, sanded, primed and painted the stairs twice in the last three years and cannot get paint to stay on them.

I THINK what is happening is the ground below the stairs is damp and water condenses on the undersides of the stairs in the winter and works its way up until it works the paint loose. Both sides of the stairs are open with lattice, so there is good air circulation, but I cannot think of any other reason why good paint just won't stay on the stairs.

I can get under the stairs, but could not do a good job painting the undersides because there is not much room and there is stuff in the way.

So, my choices are:

- get under the stairs and do as good a job as I can painting the undersides, then scrape, sand, prime and paint the top and cross my fingers and hope for the best.

- cover the stairs completely with something (not sure what - I don't like the look of outdoor carpet, but I don't like constantly flaking paint either).

- live with flaking paint.

Any ideas?


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Prime with an oil base stain like Cabot's Problem Solver then recoat with a solid stain as opposed to using paint.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 11:38PM
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Thanks pressurepros.

Will there be any problem if I don't get 100 percent of the old paint off? Even though it is flaking and peeling, not all of it is coming off. A complete strip to bare wood would be a fair amount of work.

Thanks for your advice.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 11:43PM
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Was this new construction when you started this journey?
Did the wood get a chance to dry out before it was primed?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 4:41AM
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srercrcr - We've been in the house for four years. The stairs had been painted, and were peeling, when we moved in. I am not really sure how old they were when we moved in, but I would guess at least a year or two and maybe much more.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 10:50AM
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Sycamore guy,

The topcoat of any seal/paint job is only going to be as durable as the weakest part underneath it. In a perfect world you should strip the steps. At the very least wash them with bleach and TSP and use the most binding primer you can get (thus the oil based recommendation)

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 11:22AM
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Thanks again. For the last paint job I scaped and sanded as much as I could, in many places down to bare wood. Then I primed with Zinsser exterior water-based primer and the topcoat was whatever Sherwin Williams recommended (I cannot recall exactly which line of paint it was, but they said it was the best they had for exposed wood).

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 11:40AM
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Switch to solid stain. It breathes a little better than paint. An oil based primer (again I would use the Cabot's Problem Solver line) is also going to prevent evaporating moisture from getting underneath your topcoat.

In my opinion, solid stains and paints are lousy for exterior wood but unless you get into the whole strip process you are more or less married to it.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 12:43PM
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We recently repainted our front porch. I was going to use Zinsser oil based primer, who SW, Ace and Menards all recommended. Talked to a carpenter friend and he told me to read the can. It says right on it not to use on porch or deck floors. It's not made for a surface that water can sit on. You need a porch floor primer. Then either a porch floor paint or a solid stain made for porch or deck floors will work. Zinsser will bubble and the paint will peel off because it's not made for floors.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 7:33PM
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Terry you are right.. which is why I recommended the Cabot's Oil based primer.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 4:01PM
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Cabot's Oil Based Problem Solver Deck Primer. Any other Cabot oil based problem solver primer is not made for floors, it's made for siding and other vertical surfaces.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 5:07PM
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