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How to Paint Your Ugly Oak Banisters

Something about oak banisters just screams outdated in our more modern home. I wanted to do something easy to bring them back to life! Follow this tutorial for an easy staircase update that doesn’t require sanding!

Things You Will Need:

Step 1: Clean and prep

Make sure you clean the surface really well. Because you are using a gel stain which goes on more like a paint sanding isn’t necessary but you can always lightly sand if you prefer. It will give the stain something to stick to better. I did not sand and had no issues. Once the area is clean take your painters tape and make sure you tape off the walls and the stair treads. I HIGHLY recommend putting paper on your stairs. No matter how careful you are, you are bound to get it on the carpet like I did in a few places and you’ll regret spending a few extra minutes to cover them. Don’t worry about taping your spindles. Because you will be painting them white, its not worth the extra time spending to tape them off individually.

Step 2: Apply the gel stain

I used a foam brush to apply the stain. You can use a rag to wipe some of it off to get your desired color but you do not have to wipe it like you do with a traditional stain. It will take up to 48 hours to dry but you can leave it thicker if you’d like. Make sure you apply thin even coats.

This is what it looked like before I wiped any of the color off.

Step 3: Paint the spindles

Use a combination of your foam brush and regular paint brush to paint the spindles. I found the foam brush to have the best coverage but do what works best for you. Foam brushes also help avoid brush strokes. Make sure you do thin even coats and avoid any dripping. Use the fine detail paint brush to get close to the edge. This part requires patience. I was afraid if I taped off the spindles after staining it would pull up the stain so I would either wait until its completely dry or just be cautious. Mine took about 3 coats to get them to my liking.

Step 4: Let dry

My stain took about 48 hours to dry but was still a tad wet in some places. Depending on how thick you left your gel stain you may have to wait longer. Make sure you run a fan or open the windows to get good ventilation.

Step 5: Apply a polyurethane top coat

This is important so that it stays nice for the years to come. Purchase any kind of polyurethane (wipe on is easiest with a rag) and apply a nice even coat.

Come Stay Awhile by Amanda Vernaci | Modern Farmhouse DIY + Home Renovation




  • Veronica

    Hi Amanda!
    Your staircase looks great. I have a question, you said you used the Java stain in Black, on the first picture (step 2) it does look pretty dark, but it looks like after you wipe it leaves a brown color, correct?
    I love the final color, it just I would have never considered black, thinking it would be too dark!

    • Amanda

      Hi! Yes, if you wipe it you get more of that deep brown! Even if I wouldn’t if wiped it, I still wouldn’t consider the color true black! I tried a lighter brown color and it was way too light! Seems silly but for that brown color, use black stain!

  • Kaili Opp

    How soon after staining did you wipe it down?

    • Amanda

      Right away. If you don’t gel stain will get a bit tacky. Get it looking the way you want and then let it dry. It could take a couple days to completely dry!

  • Michelle Dennett

    This is amazing, thank you for sharing! I love the color of your flooring in the after picture. Do you know what color of flooring that is?

    • Amanda

      • Amanda

        Here you go!

  • Sarah

    Did your banister have a gloss on it at all before your started?

    • Amanda

      It did have a little bit of a shine!

    • Julie

      Could this be done on an antique piece of furniture ?

      • Amanda


  • Nancy Marquez

    Hey Amanda, so I finally gave in and took on my first project which I followed every step here in your blog for railing make over. However going up my stairs I don’t have railing but I do have a trim at the bottom would you stain it too? Just curious

    • Amanda

      I did stain my trim too!