Please help us with our stairs!

paucieMay 14, 2009

We originally thought we wanted to refinish the treads and risers on our 112-year old staircase, and "clean up" all the surrounding woodwork. I've learned that what I've been calling "baseboards" are referred to as "stringers" in staircase lingo. Whatever you call them, they're horribly spattered with paint from over the years, and I'd like them to be refreshed. Problem is, no one wants to deal with that much refinishing. I've been told it would easily be around $3,000 to complete the entire staircase, which is more than we want to spend. This is not our forever home.

One of the guys we had over here told us that a big part of the discoloration on our treads is from 112 years of good ol' dirt. He recommended that DH get something called "Goof Off" and try working on the stairs with that. Here's the spot he worked on -- it doesn't seem like a good overall solution, though. Is it removing too much?

Bottom line -- how can we even out the colors and remove the paint stains/splatters? We just want to pretty things up enough so that we can install a runner. Help!

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Haven't done much refinishing in a very, very long time, but we use to use Formbys. Don't know if it is still made, but it just kind of mixed/smoothed the desolved finish. At least that's what I remember of it.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 6:52PM
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I don't think you're going to get the sort of results you'd like without stripping and refinishing -- the treads and risers at the very least. What you've got there is not just dirt on top of the finish, it's dirt ground into the finish, and probably some areas where the finish is worn away entirely. There's no shortcut for those areas.

The stringers and banister look to be in better shape. For them, you might find a solvent / cleaner that can remove the paint spatter without hurting the underlying finish... but it's a long shot.

If you can't swing the cost to have a pro do it, there's always DIY. The materials are relatively cheap.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 9:33AM
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Worked many of those things here in a borough of NYC. In your case I would recommend that you leave the finish as is and clean those areas that will show. I have used solutions of various cleaning agents on them and essentially washed and 'picked' the offending paint off the finish (don't mix the that could give you a dangerous chemical soup). I simply experimented until I found stuff that works. Armstrong New Beginnings floor stripper works well; it is not recommended for painted surfaces...and that is why it worked for me many times; helps to soften the paint somewhat.

Some cleaning solution and a nylon pad, such as that called a "dobie", may be what you may want to try. That and plenty of "elbow grease"...and patience.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 4:03PM
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I would clean it with denatured alcohol and apply several coats of de-waxed shellac as a finish.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 2:43PM
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