Best Paint for Stairs in a Basement

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What is the best paint for stairs and floors?

There are many floor paints on the market there but the best paint for stairs I can speak to is the Rust-Oleum Interior Floor Coating kit. This is a two-step process consisting of a tinted base coat and a top coat. The pre-tint colors come in limited color options. I went with a black base and semi-gloss top coat. This floor paint has excellent coverage and can be used with a wide range of flooring surfaces – tile, concrete, hardwood, laminate, vinyl, and more.

Rust-Oleum floor coating, two step paint kit

Why did we decide on painted stairs for the basement?

When we finished our basement, we went for a moody and modern design, LVP flooring, and an all-black media room. One prominent issue with using LVP for flooring is that it is impossible to find an exact match for hardwood stair treads. You can cover the treads with LVP planks and add a bullnose trim piece but that creates a lot of seams and is not an elegant solution.

best paint for basement stairs, black stairs, black interior door

What I decided to do instead is to paint the basement stairs black. Rather than trying to match the floor stain and failing, painting them also provides a transition between the upstairs hardwood floors and the basement LVP floors. In addition, it ties in the black accent color that I repeated throughout the basement design – in the media room, Tricorn Black painted doors, and black wet bar cabinets.

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Our basement had those typical unfinished stairs – low-quality wood that is not meant for staining. Fortunately, the treads had a bullnose edge which lead me to the decision to paint them. A full replacement would have been way more expensive. I found the best paint for stairs and other flooring surfaces to withstand foot traffic.

basement stairs, treads, and risers

Stairway terminology

But first, here are some helpful stairway terms and their meaning:

  • Treads – the horizontal surface that you step on
  • Risers – the vertical surface between each riser
  • Banister or handrail – the part you hold for support
  • Balusters or spindles – the vertical supports that go in the treads and support the handrail
  • Newel post – the big post that sits on the floor. The handrail terminates in it. My newel post.
painting basement stairs black, DIY

How do you prep the stair surface for paint?

I didn’t prime the stair treads however they were very dirty and rough from years of heavy use. I used wood filler to fill all the big knots and then sanded the treads with my sander. You can start with 120 grit and finish smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. Vacuum and clean the surface. I used green painter’s tape to tape all around the treads to protect the walls around them.

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A brush or roller to paint stairs?

I used a good-quality low-nap mini roller. If you have a steady hand and are good at cutting in, you can probably use a brush and skip painting. The hardest part of this job is being bent over a staircase while trying not to step on the paint so I opted for taping out the stair treads so I could quickly roll with the roller.

Logistics of painting stairs

Something to think about ahead of time is whether you will be using this staircase while the paint is drying. If you start from the top tread and work your way down, do you need to go back upstairs, and do you have an alternative way of doing that? Once painted, you’ll need to wait a few hours before you can walk on the stairs. My recommendation is to paint every other step so you can still use the staircase to go up and down. Once those are dry, paint the remainder treads. You will need to wait 24 hours before you apply the top coat. As you can guess, the whole process will take a few days because of the wait time required.

painting basement stairs black

Do you paint the risers too?

You can absolutely paint the risers as well. I would use regular wall paint as those vertical surfaces don’t get any foot traffic. Our risers were made from different wood than the treads and were extremely poor, non-salvageable quality. There were huge holes in the risers and instead of painting them, I covered them with a thin MDF board which was already painted white. I used construction adhesive to attach the boards to the risers.

Does the best paint for stairs hold up?

This is the best paint for stairs that I have seen and even though I was prepared to see scuffs and peeling, I haven’t seen any signs of that. We have had guests over who walked on the stairs with shoes on and I am yet to see any signs of wear or scuffing, two years later. The paint is really thick and penetrates the wood deeply. The top coat provides an excellent protective finish.

What paint did you use for the railing?

Because the handrail doesn’t get the same wear as the floor, I used the same trim paint that we used on the basement doors. It is Sherwin Williams Tricorn black in semi-gloss. It is a great match to the Rust-Oleum floor paint and many people assume it’s the same paint. The white spindles are painted with Sherwin Williams Pure White.

best paint for basement stairs

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