DIY Staircase Makeover In 2 Days: Tutorial & Reveal

Last Updated on August 2, 2022

Removing carpet from stairs and replacing it with wood stair treads is a very doable do-it-yourself project. This DIY staircase makeover took less than 2 full days and looks like a professional job!

DIY staircase makeover

A lot of people wonder, “How do you renovate stairs on a budget?” Well, this is how! We did not like our dated staircase covered in beige carpet. It was boring and uninspiring. So we modernized the staircase by ripping out the carpet and installing wood stair treads. And y'all, we did it ourselves in 1 1/2 days.

I thought installing wood stair treads would be so hard. It was NOT. We have done a lot of DIY projects and home improvement projects over the years, including installing new laminate flooring throughout our home. Installing these new stair treads was FAR easier than installing flooring, which really surprised me. And it was also much more affordable than hiring it out to the pros (which we did in a previous house and I am still a bit shocked by how much we had to pay for it)!

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How to Install Wood Stairs

Materials Needed for this Staircase Makeover

There are LOTS of stair retread options out there y'all. Sometimes you can even find them inside an actual home improvement store like Home Depot (though usually you have to order them since they don't always stock them).

In the end, we chose theNuStair system because it's 1) high-quality and 2) all of the materials you need, even the adhesive, are shipped directly to you and that really appealed ot us since it would save us lots of time. And I have to tell you, this DIY staircase makeover project moved smoother than ANY of our projects in recent history. I believed the system would work well and would be beautiful, but I honestly did not expect that it would be as simple as it was.  We had 95% work done in one weekend. ONE WEEKEND. Really, in 1 1/2 days. It was awesome.

Installation Video

I am not even going to attempt to provide a detailed tutorial on how to install new stair treads with the NuStair system because for once, I DON'T HAVE TO! The NuStair instructions and videos cannot be improved upon. Even if you go with a differentstair retread product, the installation should be very similar so I HIGHLY recommend watching this video. I'll share a brief recap of how the project unfolded for us below the video.

YouTube video

Our DIY Staircase Makeover Step-by-Step

Removing the Carpet & Prep Work

We started by ripping out the old carpet and carpet pad. That part wasn't bad. Removing the tack strips and staples was a lot less fun, but it moved relatively quickly. The entire “demo” step took about 4 man-hours.

DIY stair installation

Staining/Painting

Next up was a whole lot of staining. You can order prefinished treads, but we chose unfinished Red Oak so that we can stain it ourselves to match the laminate flooring we have been replacing the carpeting with. So, after custom mixing a stain to match our laminate floors, we stained, and stained, and stained. Fortunately, we only had to apply one coat of stain. It dried quickly and we were able to put a coat of water-based polyurethane on before we went to bed that same night.

staining wood stair treads

We also painted the stair risers. They come primed, which is awesome! We opted for black stair risers, which required 2 necessary coats for good coverage, but it moved really quickly.  It took about 4 hours to do all the staining/top coating and painting, with both Joe and me working on it.

Painting wood stair risers black

We let the stain/poly and paint dry overnight and got to work installing the stair treads and risers the next day. It really could not be more simple. NuStair provides something called a “NuScribe,” which acts like a slide ruler and can be positioned on top of each step, with the edges fitting tightly against the the stair stringers.  Once you have a snug fit, you lock down the arms and then remove it from the stair. Then you position it on the NuStair tread, make your marks and your cuts and install it.

Installing the Treads & Risers

The basic installation process is this:

Trim all stair parts to size.

trimming DIY wood stair treads to size

Install the 1st stair tread using a urethane-based adhesive. Secure your 1st prefinished stair tread by nailing the back edge so that it will be disguised by the riser.

Then install 1st set of shims using adhesive and nails.

how to install wood stairs

Install the 1st riser with the cut edge facing up and the factory edge against the stair tread that it sits on.

Repeat steps 1 through 5 until you are done! If you have a small landing like we do, you will install regular hardwood planks on the landing.

how to install wood stairs

Once we were totally done installing the new wood treads, we caulked along the edges and touched up the paint on the baseboards and banister/handrail and then we were DONE!

The Reveal

We decided to add a bit of a decorative touch to our new stairs by numbering them. When we were thinking about what to do in the stairwell, I considered a fun stair runner, but I really wanted to enjoy the clean new look and all of our hard work! So instead I used durable vinyl numbers on the stairs (you could also use a little paint and a stencil)! These decals easily peel off. It was a fun and simple DIY. We love how the white numbers really pop off the black risers.

We are so happy with the finished look. Once I added home decor touches to go with the new stairs, I felt like the foyer really came together for the wow factor I wanted. I now LOVE the view from above when I am looking down from our upstairs hall. Such a dramatic difference!

DIY staircase makeover reveal

The Cost

Now, let's talk about cost of this DIY staircase makeover. The price will vary from project to project, obviously, depending on whether you have a short set of stairs or a longer staircase. Also whether you have a landing, balusters, and open or closed railings factors into the complexity. It's easy to obtain a quote–just fill in the details of your project here and NuStair will provide you with a free quote. That said, the cost for everything we needed was just over $2,000 for all the wood treads, risers, wood for the landing, adhesive, shims and the NuScribe. One of the best purchases we have made for our home to date!

You may be thinking that $2,000 sounds like a lot, and there is no doubt it is an investment. But, I promise you that you will pay a lot more to hire this job out and using stair retreads makes this a doable DIY job, which was super important to us.

What do you think? Are you now convinced that you can tackle your own staircase makeover on your own? Seriously, you can do it! If you aren't convinced, go back and read my post on the DIY staircase installation process again!

Update

2020 Update: It has been 4 years since we tackled this staircase makeover and since then we have given our foyer and stairs even more of a makeover. We added a modern plank wall, updated our stairway gallery wall, and replaced the beige tile on the floor in the entryway with the laminate flooring in the rest of the house. The stair treads still look PERFECT. Very happy with the quality and durability of them!

modernized staircase after DIY install of wood stair treads
DIY staircase makeover reveal

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80 Comments

  1. What does the very top stair look like? How was the wood stairs transitioned to the flooring in the second level?

    1. I used the stair landing tread and it meets up directly with the laminate in the hall. It matches because I custom mixed the stain for the stair treads.

  2. What wood species and color did you use for your reno?? We are looking to use NuStair also for this DIY job!

  3. Love the stairs. What color is the paint on your walls? They compliment each other great and I have been looking for something similar.

  4. Such a beautiful job, I’m looking to tackle my stairs in a couple weeks! I couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous blue on the walls, what shade is it? Thanks!

  5. Hi Tasha: these are amazing! Our house seems to be the same set up as yours: nice big bright foyer with horrible carpeted stairs. I am dying to rip it out and go with wood, but we have three dogs! How does your guy handle the bare stairs? Does he slip/scramble on them a lot? Mine are prone to come bounding down when someone comes over, it’s dinner time, etc, so I’m just wondering what your experience has been with your pup! Great job. :)

  6. How did you transition at the top? Is it carpet or wood up there too. I would love to do this but don’t know how to transition at top. I would like to leave the carpet upstairs with the bedrooms.

  7. Before you stress about how much money it cost, remember that to carpet them would cost at least $15 per step before you count the carpet and pad. That is what I am considering. It wouldn’t be a lot more to just make them wood and it’s so much more beautiful and easy to keep clean. Maybe. I still have carpet, you tell me.

  8. I’m am so thrilled that you were featured on Better After! We have stairs that were carpeted and we removed the carpet because I was so tired of taking care of grey shag. Underneath was builder grade stairs with particle board treads. We’re going to replace/resurface the treads so in the meantime I painted the pine risers white ’cause I like the look. Bad idea . . . hubby somehow manages to leave black scuff marks on the risers from his shoes. I never thought of painting them black . . .brilliant idea! As soon as a few more projects are completed, the floor and stairs are ready for a make over.

    1. Thanks Darlene! Good luck on your stairs makeover. I think black may be the answer to your scuff mark issue!

    1. Hi Rachel! No, we replaced the carpet with laminate flooring upstairs, so we have a wood landing strip at the top that meets up with the laminate. I hope to blog about it soon!

  9. Hi I was wondering what the stain color and black color are on the stairs… Its stunning and want to have the same look

    1. Thanks so much Mary Beth! The stain on the stairs is Mahogany gel stain by General Finishes and the black risers are Kettle Black by Valspar.

  10. The stairs look great! We are going to do this to ours as well. I love the paint color on the walls. Do you mind to tell me what it is? Thank you!

  11. Love the finished look. My husband is also a firefighter and I love the prints you framed. Can you tell me where you got them? Thanks!

  12. Can you post a pic or send me a pic of what the very top of the stairs looks like after you finished and removed carpet? Did you take the carpet out from the 2nd floor? Add an edge to join and seam the carpet on the top floor?

    1. Hi Gina! I haven’t had a chance to write this post yet, but we added a wood landing strip at the top and then installed laminate floors in our hallway after ripping the carpet out. I hope that helps!

  13. We redid the bulk of our house in laminate flooring and planned to do it on the stairs. However when we removed the carpet we found hardwood underneath and just refinished that. It looks like you had hardwood under your carpet also. Just wondering why you didn’t work with that instead? The new stairs are beautiful but just curious because working with what was there would have been so much cheaper.

    1. Hi Melissa! We had builder grade, poor quality pine wood under the carpet which was not the look we were going for. If it had been a hardwood like oak, we definitely would have refinished it :)

  14. Hi again! OK… now that I have seen the cost comparison for ordering the Select Surfaces Stair Bull-Nose, which butts up against a single board of Select Surfaces 14mm thick planking from Sam’s (exact Select Surfaces flooring that you purchased (don’t you LOVE it?!)).

    I can share with you and your readers that it is actually about 1/4 the cost to use the Select Surfaces Stair “nosing”, which is specially designed to wrap around the front of the tread and click into a cut to measure plank of the flooring. Unlike when lying the principal flooring, it is glued and brad nailed to the stair treads, per manufacturer instructions.

    It was shipped from Canada to Indianapolis, IN, and the shipping cost more than the product did – (which made my heart sick). The outcome looks identical to your gorgeous stairwell… but it’s not made in the USA, nor is it hardwood… but it is an exact match to the rest of the flooring, as it is the same planking used on the floor, but with the special-order bullnose from the manufacturer to complete the finished look.

    I cannot stop raving over this flooring, and I’ve had it down for almost four years! People ALWAYS mistake it for hardwood. You are so right when you say that laminate flooring has come so far in the past few years.

    Best,
    Lisa

  15. We have ugly beige carpet on our stairs and have considered tearing it out since we believe there is hardwood underneath…but I am so worried about the slipping and falling issues. My kids are always going way too fast up and down the stairs and I can only imagine how terrible the falls will be when we combine socks, speed, and hardwood stairs. Any feedback on slipperiness yet?

    1. Hi Heather! Slipping has not be a problem for our girls, but most of their socks have non-slip grip on them (not really deliberate on our part–Old Navy just seems to put it on the bottom of all their toddler socks). My husband and haven’t had any trouble either. I hope that helps!

  16. I love this! Question – I have carpeting in my upstairs hallway. How did you finish the top step? I apologize if I missed it.

  17. Absolutely stunning!! I’ll definitely be checking out the NuStair system for our basement stairs. By the way, I love the numbers painted on the front of each step – I’m weird and count in my head every time I go up & down the stairs. LOL! (Too much Sesame Street as a kid or something…) Beautiful job girl! Love it!

    1. Thanks so much, Kirsten! I actually was super lazy and used vinyl for the numbers on the stairs–so much easier than painting. That tutorial will be coming soon :) PS- I am glad I am not the only one who counts stairs!

  18. So beautiful!!! Y’all did a fabulous job. Your stair base looks amazing (the part after you pulled up the carpet). My stairs were so horrible with huge knot holes, uneven treads and texture overspray that wouldn’t scrape up or sand down. I’m still wishing I would have known about this before I did our stairs. I love the hardwood treads. But my stairwell is really dark, so I can get away with how we did our stairs. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to your next project. ;-)

    1. Hi Laura! Thank you! Our 90-pound Boxer’s nails are not scratching the treads, but they have made some marks on the landing, despite the polyurethane. I think the stair treads must just be harder wood than the wood on the landing. Unfortunately, it’s just the reality of wood :( That is why we have been putting laminate in the rest of the house–I just did not care for the laminate options for stairs. I hope that helps!

  19. Love it! How is the dog handling the wood vs carpet? Do you know if puppy nails will scratch up stairs? And if so what would you do to protect?

    1. Hi Diane! Our 90-pound Boxer’s nails are not scratching the treads, but they have made some marks on the landing, despite the polyurethane. I think the stair treads must just be harder wood than the wood on the landing. Unfortunately, it’s just the reality of wood :( That is why we have been putting laminate in the rest of the house–I just did not care for the laminate options for stairs. I hope that helps!

  20. I would love to know the name and make of the color you used in your stairwell. I absolutely love it!

  21. I’m swooning – the stairs are GORGEOUS! The fire blueprints are dear to my heart as my hubs is a chief here. Then the boxer (we have one too) I LOVE it all!!!!

  22. I love all the diffents fonts of the “a”. I have been wanting to do this with “g”. Any idea on where to get the different ones?
    Thanks,
    J

  23. Wow, wow, wow! Your stairs look amazing, Tasha! I love how you guys went with black risers and the numbers are the perfect touch. It looks so much better. Man, you’re making me wish I had stairs, haha! Great job!

  24. Love your work, been following you on Facebook and love love love the before and after blogs…..brilliant. Keep it up. @niudesigner.com

  25. This turned out just beautiful. I am a little disappointed that you didn’t post a picture of what the stairs looked like after you removed the carpet.

    1. Toward the top of the post, there are 3 side-by-side pictures which do show some of the stairs bare after carpet removal, during the staple removing stage.

  26. Those are some fine stairs. I love the grain on the wood – it really stands out. The black is also a welcome surprise. Is that black chalkboard paint? A really great makeover! And now that you have added the art it makes all the difference. But most of all it is the wood that has caught my eye, makes a world of difference. Also your wall color stands out more and looks fresher with the darkness of the stairs. Bravo!!!

    1. I agree that the stair makeover really lets your wall color shine. What paint did you use for the walls?

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