Matching Railings to Floor

briankortJuly 5, 2011

We are having hardwood floors installed, replacing carpets. The floor coloring will not match the existing stair railing and our floor guy does not have a stair specialist and does not want the responsibility. He feels that sanding the current poly off the rails may not return acceptable results as the stain won't take properly if everything is not stripped.

I was wondering wht my options were, other than replacing the railing, including: sanding and restaining, painting the handrails with a mohogany toned paint, adding new darker tone polyurethane, other thoughts.

I was looking for some thoughts on what options I may have available.

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A. There is not rule that says all woodwork much match in tone (or species).

B. Sanding is an extremely poor way to strip a finish unless you are removing lots of wood (such as floor sanding). You will to through a lot of sandpaper as it gums up, you will lose the crisp details, and unless you go pretty deep, your old finish will interfere with the stain. If you are planning to strip, use a chemical stripper and be prepared to mask off a lot.

C. "All in one finishes," those combining a stain and polyurethane are junk. Unless you use extremely light coats and are meticulous in your applications they will streak and look like poo-poo.

And the ever-popular choice # 0 : Do nothing.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 6:27PM
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My guess is the finish on your railing is lacquer. Test a small part and determine if lacquer thinner will remove the finish. If so, then open all the doors and windows and turn on some fans or blowers. Then protect any surfaces around the railing with plastic or cloth drop cloths. Use the thinner, some ooo steel wood, old cloth and anything else you can think of to remove the finish. Do small areas at a time. After the finish is off, sand it with differend grit sandpaper (150, 220, 320). Now you need to get a large piece of board or railing to pratice on. Needs to be the same species as your rail. Now order some NGR dye like Solar Lux, or Mohawwk Ultra Penetrating Stain. Use your practice board. Follow the application directions. Work fast but you can even out streaks with a damp rag. When you're through with the dye, the stain on the rail should look smooth and even. Finally, if you don't own a spray gun, you can use an aerosol spray like Deft, for your clear finish. Remember, do all this on the practice board so you have everything down perfectly before you try it on your rail.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 1:53PM
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Lacquer thinner is essentially a substitute for ATM (acetone, toluene, methanol) stripper. If the railing is oak, I would also use synthetic steel wool (non-woven abrasive pads such as Scotch-Brite or Norton's). Steel and oak do not get along well -- add any moisture and you can have black spots developing from the chemical reaction between the iron and oak's tannins. Besides, they seem to last longer and are easy to rinse in a dish of ATM / lacquer thinner.

And yes, most neophytes seem to think that any clear finish is polyurethane. Unless it's on a floor or finished non-professionally, it's probably not. I would classify a some painters into the 'non-professional' category. Some are excellent wood finishers and some can't apply a clear finish worth a hoot (I've had to fix a few of these).

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 5:52PM
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If the paint colour on the railings is also used elsewhere, the contrast between floor and railings will look deliberate. Most important question first is, do you like the colour?

If you do, use it again on maybe the stair risers or some trim. If you don't, then painting the railings to match the floor is an option, but I see nothing wrong with a contrasting colour that you like, again used in more than one place.

Be aware that striping railings will be a long job, not for the faint of heart, and if the finish is on the floor, I wouldn't back myself not to get any stripper on it.

A final question is, is this railing special? I've heard of people stripping heritage railings in old houses, but if is newer and can be replaced fairly easily, stripping really might not be a good use of your time.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 3:02AM
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If you want the railing to be darker, Mohawk Ultra Classic Toner might be an option. Try to find a finished piece of wood to practice on. Mist on very lightly. Very easy to over apply.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 2:02AM
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Stain the hardwood floors to match the railing?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 4:09PM
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