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Removing Old Paint from Stairs: Different Elements and Various Materials

Removing Old Paint from Stairs: Different Elements and Various Materials

Are you looking for ways to change the old look of your stairs? If your answer is YES, then our article will give you all the answers you need concerning staircase parts, materials and the paint removal process for each. 

So, let’s get onto it. 

When it comes to staircase parts, they can be quite delicate with plenty of ornamented details, either on the railings or on the handrails. So, what makes staircase parts unique, also makes them quite complicated for stripping and renewal. And, sometimes to obtain that vintage look, people don’t like to replace them with some modern replicas on the market. On the contrary, they choose a more sustainable way to keep the uniqueness and history alive, stripping the staircase to obtain a fresh look. 

As a company operating more than 10 years on the market, we have stripped plenty of staircase parts, both metal and wood. So, we know all the ins and outs of stripping stair spindles, banisters and other staircase parts. 

But, before we share more about the paint removal process, let’s delve into each part of the staircase and their particularities. 

Run-Down Staircase Parts That Can be Renovated

  1. Banisters

Banisters or handrails are the part of the staircase that people use in order to hold onto to support themselves when going up or down the stairs. The function of banisters is to provide stability and they can be attached to a wall, be an extension from the side of the stair rail and be made of different materials. 

Banisters can either be removed from the staircase to get stripped or be stripped at the spot.

  1. Railings, consisting of Spindles 

Railings are the barrier which forms a barrier preventing people and especially kids from falling off the stairs. The simplest railings are vertical, while there are plenty of modern variations that come in different forms and shapes. 

Each vertical part of the railing is called a spindle and it connects the base rail and the handrail on the stairs. 

Spindles can be removed from the staircase and be stripped individually.

  1. Steps, consisting of Treads and Risers

While the staircase consists of a series of steps, the steps consist of a tread – the horizontal part where we actually step on, and a riser – the vertical part. In order to renovate and strip the steps, each tread and riser can be taken out of the staircase to be worked on, or stripping paint off stairs can be done at the spot as well. 

What Materials Can Staircases be Made of?

Since there are plenty of variations and different benefits and drawbacks of using each material type for a staircase, let’s explore each a bit more. 


Steel staircases can match plenty of interior designs. The most common types of handrails made of steel are powder coated or galvanized steel. There are also banisters made of stainless steel which prevents rusting. Steel banisters can be combined with glass railings to achieve a modern looking atmosphere. 

Steel comes with the following advantages and disadvantages: 


  • Steel is known for its durability and strength, especially effective when used for banisters or railings. 
  • Powder coating and liquid paint can be used on steel to give it a different look.
  • Stainless steel is easy to maintain and requires just soap and water for cleaning.
  • Steel can be used for both outdoor and indoor staircases. 


  • In extreme heat conditions, steel weakens. 
  • Steel is more expensive than other materials.
  • DIY projects with steel are difficult to accomplish due to steel’s weight and it requires special equipment.


The most traditional and classic material used for staircases is wood. Wood can be combined with other materials for some unique staircase looks. Wooden banisters are used in homes and also for decks, home entrance, garage stair, etc.


  • Natural look of the staircase, ideal for homes 
  • Can come in different colors to match your home and it stays fashionable for long 
  • Ideal for DIY projects because of its light weight 
  • Easy to maintain and clean.


  • With use wooden stairs can lose their color, looking old and torn. However, in such a case, stripping can be used to remove the paint off the banisters and make them look fresh and also be ready for a new paint.

Wrought Iron 

While wrought iron may immediately remind you of a gate, it is also a material used for banisters and railing. This material was popular in the 1800s’, especially used to produce a decorative effect. Nowadays it is not very common, but used for replication of historic looks.

Wrought iron staircase parts can be used for both indoor and outdoor stairs, for straight and curved stairs.

Here’s a pros and cons list to check before you use wrought iron banisters.


  • Versatility because it offers creation of different looks and also because it can be powder coated with plenty of different colours.
  • Provides strength and stability. 


  • More expensive than the other materials and custom made.
  • Difficult and time consuming installation.
  • Requires periodical recoating and repainting to protect it from rust. 


Even though people believe that glass is a safe material when it comes to staircase design, it can be quite tricky for installation. And, there are also different types of glass – clear, tinted, frosted, semi-transparent, or etched. 

Glass can be commonly used for the staircase, and the railings, and it is usually combined with wooden banisters or steel banisters.


  • Provides a modern look 
  • Matches different interiors 


  • Can be quite expensive
  • Safety can be negotiable 
  • Not a kid-friendly material
  • Difficult to keep clean 

The Ins and Outs of Stripping Paint off Wood Stairs 

Out of all these materials, wood is the most commonly used staircase material that can be changed with different coloured paint. However, since wooden staircases get numerous thick coats of paint throughout the years, they require stripping all those covers to get to the original wood. 

Since we have plenty of experience in this area, we’ll share some of the tricks of removing paint from stair rails that you should know. 

Removing Paint from Stair Spindles and Banisters – The Reasons Why You Should Let Professionals Do it

The process of stripping away old paint and varnish off stairs requires a lot of time and patience. This especially applied to fiddly spindles and newels. 

So, when stripping paint off stairs, it’s advisable to let professionals do the work because taking stripping as a DIY project would be expensive and maybe not effective. This is because for some of the paints applied on staircases, would require multiple treatments or treatment with harsh chemicals that are not available for regular use.

Also, rushing in the stripping process can result in failure due to an incorrect preparation of the stripping agents for the wood. Also, professionals know that some types of wood don’t stains well and over or underapplication of a certain chemical stripper can bring unsatisfactory results. The same goes with the choice of a correct finish. 

What do we recommend for spindles – getting them dipped to remove the paint or manual stripping?

Caustic stripping (dipping) is much faster than non caustic stripping or hand stripping. However, there are drawbacks in the dipping process as well. It can cause damage and splitting of certain types of wood. 

For instance, oak spindles and banisters should never be stripped with caustic soda because of the potential side effects. Also, when stripping the whole staircase, it should be stripped with the same method and tools in order to avoid differences in colour between the spindles and the banister. 

Also, dipping the spindles would require extra caution because they can also be damaged when removing and putting them back on.

Wrap Up

We hope that now you have a better understanding of the paint removal process and the different materials that can be used to achieve several indoor or outdoor staircase looks. For more information on the topic, we at Scotland Door Stripping are always available to answer your questions!


Use our form to estimate the initial cost of renovation or installation.

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