DIY Stair Renovation- Part 3

They say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, right? Does it count if you made the steps yourself? 

Well this is how I got my DIY stair remodel closer to finished. I anticipate this project being a 4 parter, meaning we are almost done! I could go on and on with this renovation, but I am already ready for the next one! If you are visiting this project for the first time, be sure to stop in over at my previous posts to get caught up on the full process.

So let’s get started!


For this part of the project, you will need the following-

Sandpaper– the most important thing! I used mostly 100 grit, but I had a pack of 60 grit on hand for those tough spots.

Optional- sanding board or grip of some sort. 

A mask– there will be dust, and you don’t want to breathe it in.

Broom and dust pan/shop vac- the aforementioned dust will be everywhere if you are not careful. The shop vac is most likely going to be the best option, but be warned, they can cause an even worse mess if you are not careful. (That’s foreshadowing for my story to come.)

A junky old towel- I used an old towel to minimize the spreading of dust as I sanded stair by stair. I would recommend using an old one that you aren’t too fond of.

Measuring tape- You will want to measure each and every riser because despite looking the same, they are most likely ALL different. 

A sheet of plywood- super thin and paintable, like this one. I made the mistake of getting the wrong kind on my first try and I had to borrow a vehicle to exchange them.

Pro-tip: if they don’t SAY “paintable,” google it before buying.

A saw of some sort- I would recommend a table saw if you have one available, but a circular saw and some skill will come in handy. I would advise against a hand saw if at all possible. My first cut with the hand saw took way too long, I’m fairly certain that I pulled something in my shoulder, and it was so crooked that it was beyond repair.


Okay, so now that you know what I used- I’ll give you the rundown! Here are some “pre-sanding” pictures.

Splatter, splatter everywhere.

What a mess.


The Process: Sanding

I actually had a lot of fun sanding. I took a few days doing it and alternated between a nice upbeat playlist on Spotify (highly recommend Lizzo) and Beyonce’s Homecoming Documentary on Netflix. There was a great “woman empowerment” vibe in my house when this was going on.

Per my father-in-law’s request for removing old paint, I took every precaution to minimize dust. While I love dusting normally, lead paint dust is not nearly as enjoyable (something like impending doom lingers in the air).
Below are all of the steps that I took to keep a (mostly) dust-free DIY environment.

  • No windows open. Don’t worry, it gets worse.
  • No fans. Double whammy.
  • No air conditioner running. Yes I really do mean it.
  • Hand sand only. Unfortunately for me, orbital sanders kick up too much dust and I would rather be safe than sorry.
  • Wearing a mask. The cheap masks that I used made my glasses fog up, but I kept it on anyways, all for my lungs.
  • Wiping the treads after each step with a wet junky old towel (I mentioned in the supplies list). This leads me to my foreshadowed story.

-Story Time-
You can also use a shop vac if you have one available to you. I did not, so I borrowed one from a friend. Unfortunate, I ended up not using it, except for what could be considered my biggest screw up (hopefully) of the year. I merrily vacuumed away, not a care in the world, actually really enjoying the process because it was very visually satisfying to watch the thickly settled dust be sucked into the hose. That is, until the exact moment when I realized I had made a terrible mistake.
I turned around to see that my house was basically floor to ceiling in a dense fog. My husband walked in the door just in time to see my pre-meltdown face and hear me say “something is very wrong” while I move quickly to get us both masks. (I do actually feel great that my immediate instinct was to get masks, before even screaming profanities.)
Did you know that apparently Shop Vacs have to have filters inside otherwise the densely layered dust you are happily sucking up in the vacuum will just disperse equally densely into the air? I just learned that this past week.
I recovered from this by leaving the house, opening the windows, and allowing the literal and figurative dust to settle so that I could start the lengthy dusting job ahead. It actually ended up not being THAT bad, just more dusting than I was planning on doing.

Results: Sanding

Here are the results after the multiple day equivalent of about 12 hours worth of sanding.


The Process: Riser Facades

I have been calling these parts “riser facades” because I am cutting a very thin piece of wood to cover the more rugged looking wood of the current riser. The wood was structurally in good shape, but wasn’t very uniform at all. Multiple stairs had pieces where seams came together and some even had scratches and bumps.

My dad deserves a huge “thank you” and a hug for his part in this. He brought over his table saw and measuring tape to help me tackle this accurately and quickly. I cannot fathom how long this part would have taken me if I was attempting to cut by hand. I probably wouldn’t have measured as precisely on my own either.

Here are the steps for this-

  1. Measure the risers. We measured to the edge of each tread for our length and to the bottom of the tread for the height. I wanted to cover as much of the existing riser as possibly, so we measured with a tight fit. Also, remember the scary gap from Part 2? We are going to cover that as much as possible!
  2. Measure again. That old adage of “measure twice, cut once” is a real thing, DIY projects need just as much precision as the carpenter who once said this.
  3. Make your first cuts. We actually found the plywood to be far more maneuverable by cutting it in half first. It was a bit unwieldy as an 8×4 foot sheet. We only made this first cut after ensuring that the majority of the pieces would need to be smaller than the length of the board cut in half so we didn’t have any wasted board.
  4. Continue cutting until you have a board for each stair. This section of the project took about 2 hours from start to finish.
My dad, cutting away.

Results: Riser Facades

DIY Stair Riser "facade" to cover up the older abused risers.
This was the first of 11 total risers cut.

Stay tuned for Part 4 for painting the riser facades and staining the treads.

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