Painting banisters: this is how you handle this well with the right paint

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 10, 2022
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A stair railing is widely used. You want to have it well painted.


You paint an already treated banister differently than a new banister.

I will tell you how best to paint a wooden stair railing.

What do you need to paint a stair railing?

  • Bucket
  • all-purpose cleaner
  • Cloth
  • Sandpaper 180 and 240
  • Brush
  • tack cloth
  • Patent point brush
  • Paint felt roller
  • stirring stick
  • paint scraper
  • stripper
  • primer
  • Acrylic: primer and (clear) lacquer

Suitable paint to paint a stair railing

Before you paint a stair railing, you need to know what kind of paint to use.

The right paint also depends on whether the banister is new or has already been treated.

To get a good bond with the bare wood of a new banister, you need to use a water-based primer.

This primer adheres very well to hardwood, which is very important here.

It is also better for yourself. Water-based paint is less harmful to the mind. Make sure you ventilate well.

When the primer has cured well, you then have to take a topcoat that adheres well to the primer. This is essential for a beautiful end result.

You then have to take acrylic paint based on acrylic. Acrylic paint also has the advantage of not yellowing.

Do you also want to paint the stairs? Read my blog about painting the stairs

Painting a stair railing: step-by-step plan

Quickly, here are the steps you take when painting a stair railing.

I will explain each step further in a moment.

  1. Apply stripper and let it soak
  2. Scrape paint with paint scraper
  3. degrease
  4. Sanding with grit 180 and 240
  5. Remove dust with a brush and tack cloth
  6. Apply primer or primer
  7. Light sanding and dust removal
  8. Treated: 1-2 coats of lacquer; untreated wood: 2-3 layers of lacquer

Painting a new (untreated) banister

If you have bought a new wooden banister, you want to treat it well before you hang it.

Often a handrail is made of hardwood.

Take a cloth and all-purpose cleaner and clean the handrail well.

When the railing has dried, lightly sand it with 240 sandpaper or a Scotch Brite. Then remove dust.

You can also choose to wet sand the banisters to prevent dust. Then let it dry well.

Sand until the railing is completely smooth for best results.

Do you want to keep seeing the wood color? Then paint three coats of clear coat on the railing. I would recommend a satin gloss like Rambo’s armor paint.


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Don’t forget to sand lightly between coats.

You can also opt for a clear coat with some color in it. This is a semi transparent lacquer.

Do you want to paint the railing covered? Then first apply an acrylic primer. Let the primer dry and sand it lightly and make the railing dust-free.

Then apply a lacquer paint acrylic. Use a water-based paint that is wear-resistant and scratch-resistant. It is also called a PU lacquer.

Painting an already treated banister

Painting an existing banister is a bit more work than painting a new one.

First, it is useful to remove the banister from the wall. Make sure you have enough space to work with it.

For example, put an old sheet on the floor in the workshop.

If it is not possible to remove the banister, tape the space around it well with painter’s tape and cover foil.

Existing paintwork sometimes has several layers of paint. You will have to remove these layers first.

Use a stripper for this. Apply this stripper with a brush and let it soak for some time.

Then take a paint scraper and scrape off the loose paint.

Do this carefully so that you don’t make cuts in the wood.

Here you can read more about removing paint from different surfaces

When painting a banister, it is also important that you degrease with an all-purpose cleaner.

Then you will sand until the surface is completely smooth.

After this you take a primer to prime with. Then apply two top coats.

Make sure that you do not paint the holes closed before mounting!

It is especially difficult to paint a round banister. Make sure you have enough space to walk around the banister and that you have a good grip.

Get a patent-tipped brush for the small corners and a lacquer felt roller for the larger pieces.

Don’t forget to sand between coats and make sure everything is free of dust.

Then let the paint dry thoroughly.

Finally, hang the banister back into place.

You can also choose to renovate the stairs. You can outsource this or you can choose to renovate the stairs yourself.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.