Help! How to darken stained wood stair posts/railings?

gardenergwenOctober 24, 2008

We have a boring carpeted staircase with the railing and posts stained a golden oak and the rails in-between painted white - very 80's and boring. Our flooring on the 1st floor is similiar in tone - "gunstock" oak flooring. We have lots of darker toned woods in our house and I've been inspired by some of the stairways posted on here where the stairway woodwork in a darker shade. I think the contrast between the stairs, the floor, and the paint in our house would really pop and could envigorate our now drab stairway with minimal material cost.

My question is - Is there an easy way I can bring the color a shade or two darker without dismantling the entire stairway or doing lots and lots of sanding? I have no idea the finish on there now but it appears to be the standard builder applied polyurethane. Help?!?


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Try checking over in the Paint Forum. Lots of posts about staining over there with how-tos and tips.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 4:59PM
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Bumping this up because I know there are people here who've had great success with gel stains - just can't remember who.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 10:10AM
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Lena M

Check out Celticmoon's advice on Gel Stain.

And projectsneverend's beautiful kitchen revamp.

they both inspired me!

(reposted from an earlier thread)

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 2:53PM
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This was a photo I posted on another thread here recently. It shows the difference made to my counter stools using Minwax Polyshades (Golden colored 'before' stool and Bombay Mahogany 'after' stool in foreground.) We are very happy with the results.

I must admit the results from using gel stain on other projects were not so good!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 4:53PM
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sis3, was there anything you did differently this time or did you just get lucky? Is that one coat or several? Did you wipe it off? Just curious because I'm considering doing my banister which currently looks like your 'before' stool.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 7:11PM
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metromom the difference was the product I used. The gel stain I had been using looked OK until direct sunlight or bright light hit it and then every brush mark showed - horrible! The finish chips very easily. The gel stain is somewhat opaque so the grain of the wood tends to disappear too!

Polyshades is not at all like a gel stain. It is a stain/poly product and is more transparent than gel stain. I was concerned that it wouldn't provide enough of a color change but it did! The stool in the photo has had only one coat, no rubbing off. The instructions say to apply only a very thin coat and repeat if necessary. I think this is essential for a good result, especially on vertical surfaces, as Polyshades is quite thin and runs easily. If you trust that the color WILL change and make sure you apply a very thin coat only at a time I think it is pretty easy to have great results.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 9:04PM
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sis3 - Your stool looks amazing!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 9:36PM
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Thank you newhomebuilder! The stools came out better than I had hoped. To date not one visitor has noticed that the stools have been restained!

I will definitely use this stain for the remaining projects I have to complete. It is so much quicker and easier to use than the old strip/sand/stain/poly method (which I would probably still use if the furniture was antique or more valuable or if I had loads of time on my hands).

    Bookmark   October 25, 2008 at 11:13PM
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Thanks all for the links and advice!

Sis3 - So you didn't do any sanding on the old finish before you applied the Minwax Polyshades? I just love the "Bombay Mahogany" color you chose!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 9:04AM
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gardenergwen the directions on the can state that old finishes should be lightly sanded to aid adhesion. That was what I did - a very light sanding just to scratch the slick surfaces. It was so much easier than having to be sure that every last bit of finish is removed when you are re-staining the conventional way!

"Bombay Mahogany" was a great color to blend with our dark cherry and mahogany cabinets, furniture and floors. Before they arrived I had been foolishly hoping that the stools would not be too gold, so I was very disappointed when they were delivered! They really looked bad, especially next to our kitchen island. Now they work perfectly with our decor!

Good luck with your stairs and please post before and after photos. Whatever method you choose I hope that you are as pleased with the results as I am with mine.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 11:22AM
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I was just wondering if you had any luck with your banister. I am in a similar situation - builder grade UGLY finish. We've added gunstock oak flooring and I feel the need to update our stairway.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 9:59AM
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