How to Stain/Paint an Oak Banister (the shortcut method…no sanding needed!)

Our house was built in 2000.  I’m pretty sure that was right at the height of using orange oak for trim work, kitchen cupboards, and banisters…..because this house was FULL of it when we moved in.  (Remember the kitchen we overhauled??  And the window trimming we changed? Oh, and the fireplace mantel and hearth we built? Yep lots of orange oak.)  I actually like using natural wood pieces in my decor and have nothing against exposed wood.  However, the orange-y stain that this house was saturated with, just really made my eyeballs hurt.  And you know, some people can create magic and make it work, but for me…..decorating with orange-y oak is such a bugger.  Grrrrrr.

So, right after we moved in, we started transforming and/or replacing anything orange.  We replaced doors, trim, hardwood floors, window trim, blinds, etc.  The last thing to get hacked, was the banister.  Mostly because we considered for a long time tearing the whole thing out and building new chunky Cratfsman style Newel Posts, maybe adding iron spindles, possibly tearing out the carpet and installing wood steps, etc.  But to really overhaul it, was going to get really expensive and take a lot of time.  (We even had 2 different woodworkers come in and give us a quote for overhauling the whole banister/posts, so we could work on other things.  One quoted us $10,000 and the other $14,000.  Uhhhh……yeah, no.  I mean, really?!?!)  And the more I thought about wood steps, the more I realized that UN-cushioned steps are just not for my family.  The kids fall down the stairs all the time.  And heck, so do I.  Steve has even fallen down them a time or two.  So, I realized that wood steps would sure be beautiful…but totally not practical for us.

So, we decided to stain the banister and newel posts (and the wood that runs along the base of the spindles) and to paint each of the spindles a creamy white color.  And let me tell you…….for about $50, it turned out beautifully!!!!

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

And just so you can see what it looked like before we began, in all its orange-y glory —

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

The stain we used is a really deep Java brown color that I absolutely love.  Not quite black but a really rich tone that pulls in the darker colors in the walnut flooring.  And in case you’re worried??  The stain was the easiest part.  And no, we DIDN’T sand for hours and hours and hours.  In fact, we spent about 20 minutes sanding rough spots and gouges in the wood from the previous owners.  But no need to sand off the old stain and polyurethane.  Nope, you don’t need to! (More info about that below.)

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

If your spindles are already white, jump on this PRONTO!  This really won’t be a terribly time-consuming project (except taping will take some time).  Or if you don’t care for the two-toned look and want to stain everything the same color — this would be a relatively quick project!  But if you have to paint your spindles like we did…..that takes a little more time.  Okay, a lot more time.  But for a savings of thousands of dollars??  Worth it!

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

And now, my friends, all of the orange in our home is gone (okay, not the basement….shhhh!!)  And everything ties together and makes me so happy!

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

***The “Home State” Scrap Wood Art hanging on the wall in the background…is another tutorial.

Oh wait — some of you have seen little snippets of the finished banister and even saw me writing about it a little bit on Instagram over a year ago.  Aaaaaaand, here’s why:

We started the banister process right before Thanksgiving of 2013.  Yes, over a year ago.  However, once the staining was done, I was pregnant with little Oliver.  So this project halted right then and there.  Because, well, pregnancy is a pukey time for me. ;)  So we lived with a dark stained banister and orange spindles for a looooong time.  (Yep, really ugly…but with a head in the toilet, I didn’t care At. All.)  But once Oliver was born (this past summer), we jumped on it and painted those spindles.  It took about a week of painting 10-20 spindles each night, after the kids were in bed.

And then, I still couldn’t stomach sharing a photo here of the finished banister because we hadn’t replaced the carpet yet.  You’ll see down below that we cut along the sides of the old carpet to get it away from the wood while staining and were careless with the carpet since we knew we were replacing it.  So it was ugly.  But, we didn’t want to replace the carpet until we finished all the baseboards upstairs in the all the bedroom closets and painting all the door frames.  Anyway, blah, blah, blah….this house has been a process!  But, we just had our carpets replaced a few days ago and HALLELUJAH — new carpet!!!!

So, I can safely say that even after a year, the stain on the banister and posts has been fantastic!!  And most of that time, it didn’t even have the protective clear coat on it……and it still held up so well!  But now that the clear coat has been applied, it’s even more protected and slightly shiny.  (We opted for a satin finish, which is still plenty shiny, but not a super high gloss.)

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

I think spindles are typically installed right down into the steps of your stairs.  Ours, however, are attached to some wood that runs along both sides of the steps.  So, beneath the stained wood, we added a bit of painted trim, that really makes the stained wood pop. And I absolutely love this detail all the way around the stairs!

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

Up at the top of the stairs, there’s a little lookout onto the family room down below, with more spindles and banister.  We stained and painted that too.

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

I know you either love or hate the two-toned banister/spindle look……but I really love it!  It just gives the eye so much to look at — and is such a cool contrast.

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

***The “Home State” Scrap Wood Art hanging on the wall in the background…is another tutorial.

Okay, and since I’m a sucker for a good before/after shot……here’s another (even though the angle is slightly different).

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

***Oh, and do you see those light fixtures that I re-painted so long ago?  I love seeing the before/after of those too!  Painting Light Fixture tutorial HERE.

Okay, I know I took a trillion pictures of this ol’ banister, but I’m just so happy the carpet’s installed.  And that I can finally say the banisters are DONE!  And for very little cost and several shortcuts……this project was very VERY worth it!!!

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

Want me to show you how to transform your banister??

Okay, you’ve got this! ((fist bump))


  • Gel Stain, General Finishes Brand, Color: Java (I have used a variety of stain over the years and this brand worked really well to cover the orange.  It really soaks in and wears really well.)
  • Polyacrylic Top Coat, General Finishes Brand (we used a water based top coat so that it would dry faster and was less smelly. we also opted for a satin finish…so it wasn’t overly glossy.)
  • sponge brush (for applying stain and top coat)
  • soft cloths (for wiping off excess stain)
  • rubber gloves (the stain will stain your skin and doesn’t come off with soap and water.  because it’s oil based, you’ll need a paint thinner to remove this…so USE GLOVES!)
  • Primer Paint (if you’re painting spindles, a coat of primer helps to seal everything and give yourself a nice base coat before adding your tinted paint)
  • Semi-Gloss Paint (if you’re painting spindles.  if yours are already white, then you don’t need this.  and in case you’re wondering, I painted mine with Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore but color matched at Home Depot, just like all the trim/doors/baseboards in my home)
  • Paint brush (if you’re painting spindles)
  • Face mask (the stain is strong and since we stained ours in the winter and couldn’t leave the doors/windows open, we bought a respirator mask for about $25
  • Painters tape (for taping around edges that touch the wall, floor, and/or spindles)

Okay, I know I told you that sanding wasn’t necessary.  And it’s not.  But the banister on our stairs was so beat up in some areas.  So, we sanded in several areas, just to even out the nicks and bumps.  But you don’t need to sand down to the un-stained wood.  There’s no need. :)


And your stairs may not have the wood along the base like ours does, but if you do, we found this sponge sander that got into cracks a little better than the mouse sander.


And again, we only sanded down here to even out the nicks and scrapes in the wood.


If you sanded anything at all, just be sure to wipe off the dust with a wet cloth.


For all the staining that I did, I only needed a quart plus about half of a pint of the stain.  That was it. :)  (I bought this at a local woodworking store. But I’ve also seen it HERE  on Amazon.)


To apply the stain, we used a wide sponge brush and completely covered the banister in a coat of the stain.  Be sure to apply even and smooth coats, without any globbing.  We let the stain sit for about 5-10 minutes (yours may take longer or shorter…’ll need to experiment) and kinda soak in….


…and would then wipe off the excess with a soft cloth.  Only work a section at a time so that the stain doesn’t dry in globs.  Once you wipe the stain, you’ll see some of the orange peeking through, and that’s okay.


Oh, and if you’re painting your spindles anyway, don’t worry if you get some of the stain onto them.  Just be sure to smooth out any globs, or it will look bumpy after you paint.  (However, if your spindles are already white, make sure and tape around each one so that your stain doesn’t get onto them.)



Oh, and if you are getting rid of your carpet, consider cutting some of the old carpet so you can really get the stain down where it needs to go.  Otherwise, you’ll need to tape of your carpet too.


Repeat applying the stain, letting it set, and then wiping it off, until everything has been coated.


Then repeat with a second coat, and possibly a 3rd coat.  We waited a day between coats and always looked carefully at the stain in direct sunlight, to see if some areas needed another coat.

Once you’re happy with the stain, paint a coat of your primer onto your spindles.  Use a fine paintbrush around the edges that meet with the stain and be extra careful to not get any paint on the stain.  Then apply 1-2 coats of your semi-gloss paint to each of your spindles.  (We would paint in sections.  I would paint 10 or so spindles and then take a break and work on something else.  It gets a little monotonous…so break it up!)


We opted for this water based top-coat because we knew it would dry faster and not smell as strong.  It worked really well and gave a nice satin shiny finish. However, the lady at the woodworking store where we bought it, said that the more layers you apply, the glossier it will appear. Just an FYI.  (I also found it HERE on Amazon.)


We applied 2 layers with a clean sponge brush (making sure to keep it really smooth with no bubbles or smears) and were happy with the finish. Also, all brands are a little different, so be sure to read the instructions on your particular can. :)


And that’s it!  A complete transformation!

DIY: How to Stain and Paint an OAK Banister, Spindles, and Newel Posts (the shortcut sanding needed!) |via Make It and Love It

Now go on, be brave, and turn your banister into something you LOVE!


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Looking for more house projects???

Check out how I used the same method to Stain Our Oak Bathroom Cabinets


DIY Board and Batten……ahhhh, I love this stuff!

board and batten

Turn a naked window into a beautiful one…… Trimming Out Your Windows.


. . . . .

Something else a little fun for you……check out this quick video!!



Hi Ashley, admiring your home and hard work. Very nice! I was wondering if you still have the formula for the paint on the walls and trim. It would be a lot easier to go to home depot with the formula of each color. Thank you Ashley

I love this. All of the houses around here that we have been looking at have the same orangy wood! It’s hard to get past it, but now that i know this is possible it is encouraging!!

Well done! If my finish is in perfect condition and glossy, and I have no need to sand it down, do I need a primer under the stain or only under the paint?

Have you ever tried the gel stain on doors? I would LOVE to redo our doors and have only seen people do trim on this. We also have a home built in 2000 and have orange wood work EVERYWHERE!

Ooh, I can’t wait to see the pictures of that :) We recently moved to an area that seems to love the orange-y oak, too. So if we stay here and buy, it’s a relief to know it can be an easy fix!

I just restained my bathroom cabinets with the General Finishes Gel Stain in Java. I worked great. I am going to stain the door also, just haven’t done it yet. With the ease of this stain, my whole house might end up Java!!!!

Have you done this on other projects and does it hold up? I just don’t want to do it and have to re-do it regularly due to peeling?

I explained in the post a little bit that we stained the banister over a year ago and painted the spindles over the summer. Both have held up remarkably well. No bubbling, peeling, etc.

Good luck!

Angie, I did my kitchen cupboards 3 years ago and just starting to think that I should have done 3 or 4 coats of a poly top coat instead of two. I am just starting to see a tiny bit of wear where the cupboard gets the most touch if that makes sense. I plan to do my banisters – thanks Ashley for the great idea, and I will do more top coats on them as well where the kids play the most. I am also doing bathroom cabinets and will do more top coats is directly above a heat register so will dry more easily.

Your home is gorgeous! The banister railing turned out beautifully. What an amazing transformation you’ve made to your home. It so fun to see the before and after pictures. I’m so impressed with your vision and what you’ve done.

Gorgeous! Love it! I don’t have stairs in my home. Or a banister. But i do have the ugly builder’s grade orangey wood cabinets all over my house. Hate them! Considering THIS same color for all of my cabinets (2 baths and a kitchen) not a small project at all, but I think I’m gonna do it! Thank you for the inspiration!

You can totally do this! I really think that staining is easier than painting. And believe me, we’ve done a lot of painting….haha! With paining you have to be sure the paint stays wet while you make smooth lines but with stain, just rub it on, wipe it off. Repeat and done. :)

We’re doing our bathroom cabinets this week too. Good luck!

I fall down the stairs in my house all the time! I’m glad we have soft padded carpet too. :)
Your banister looks great!

I’ve never refinished a floor. I would definitely do a little research first because floors get walked on and gouged a lot more than other items that we might refinish……so I’m thinking sanding would be really important. And good luck!!

Hi Ashley,
Love your blog! I was wondering if you have a product line that sells at Jo Ann’s. I was in there today and saw a bunch of chalk boards and wedding type decor with a tag wit Make It Love It and a heart.

Really?!?! No, it’s not me……but that kinda stinks that someone ripped off my name and logo. And that Joann’s bought it. Sad. I’ll have to look into it a little more. Thanks for letting me know!

Love this! The color is prefect! Brings the banister to life. Love your paint color on the walls! What color is it? Thanks for putting this project out there for us!

Looks wonderful! How do you get away with not sanding? Does the gel stain somehow adhere to polyurethane?

I’m not sure why it adheres so well but I found this particular brand online, saw others used it with success, and gave it a try. I think the reason it works so well is partly due to it being a gel. So, it doesn’t run off….it sticks to the old stain/poly while it’s soaking in. And this particular brand just really applies well and gives such a nice color.

Anyway, it’s been a year and the stain looks as good as the day we applied it. So pleased!

Oh I am so happy you posted this today! My husband and I are looking at houses and there is one I love in a great neighborhood but it is all orange oak like yours was. I keep telling my husband that I could just paint it or we could get it replaced but he seems to think we are better off just buying a different house. Basically, this post will help me win the argument hehe! So, I would want to change everything you did from the floors to the window trim and everything in between. I think other than the floors we could do it all ourselves and I am really curious about how much I could expect to spend on a orange oak to white transformation? I realize there is a range because of material costs, and I totally understand if you don’t want to go out bragging about how much this all cost, but it would help determine whether or not we could afford this house because unless we can change all the orange to white-I don’t want to buy it either. Thanks for any thoughts!

OH MY GOSH! I’m dealing with the same exact issue. I’ve looking at home improvement websites, dreaming of new bannisters, but the cost! This is perfect. I can’t wait to start!

Also, our houses are so similar, I’m a wee bit freaked out. ;)

We did this same process to our kitchen cabinets (same color!) and I am soooo happy with how they turned out! Love them so much more. One door has a little orangey color peeking through right behind the handle, but it’s small and the most used cabinet of all! Out of 22 doors/drawers, this is the only one showing wear, so I am pleased. Shamelessly covered the spot with permanent marker :D no one notices but me, haha!

This is gorgeous! I love your blog! Some really cool stuff!! Where did you get (or did you make?) your wood pallet state outline wall hangings? And what is the cabinet at the bottom of the stairway? (I’m sorry if these were previous posts that I may have missed)

Beautiful! You’ve done a beautiful job with your home. I’m amazed with all you’ve done while being pregnant. I live in a home with cherry wood stained kitchen cabinets. The finish is starting to come off and I would like to restain them but with a more “brown” and less “red” color. Do you think that would be possible using the process you used on the orange oak? Thank you!

Yes the process should be the same. If you have nicks or scratches definitely sand them out prior to applying the gel stain to get a more even and smooth surface. Good luck!

I’ve used General Finishes Java Gel stain before and I LOVE it! It’s so easy to work with. I call it stupid proof. :) So much better that traditional stain. My neighbor re-did her kitchen cabinet with gel stain. You’re banister looks great! That orange really was awful.

It looks amazing! We were in a RS presidency together at ricks, then in the same married ward. How are you!?!

Yes you could definitely do it. The doors may be a little trickier to avoid brush strokes so you may want to lightly sand any major brush strokes ( but not the entire surface of the door) with 400 grit sandpaper between each coat of gel stain and then with the clear coat too. Have fun and good luck!

I wonder if this would work on hardwood floors? I just hate the orange finish the builder put on our oak floors! I loved the way the wood looked before he stained it.

Your banister looks amazing! Did you use the clear topcoat on the painted spindles too? Or just on the stained parts?

What kind of white paint did you use for the spindles. I know you can’t use latex over oil but latex is sometimes hard to keep clean.

Wondering where you found you picture of the Idaho Falls Temple. It can be hard to find a good one and I don’t think I’ve seen that one before.

Hey Ashley! These look AMAZING!!! You have inspired us and we are almost done with our guest bathroom cabinets! :) THANK YOU!!! We’re also in the market for new carpet and I instantly fell in love with yours! Is there any way you could tell me the brand and info on it and also where you got it? That’s the perfect color I’m looking for! Thanks so much!!!

Hey Ashley, we have the same house floor Plan I think we might live in the same neighborhood. I still have the Golden Oak Finish but not for long……… I love the Dark stain and White……… Just need to get the courage to change it all, did you change all the baseboards too.

Great job!!! I too did the same thing to my banister and cabinets for that matter. We have the same builder grade oak and we decided to turn it all black. We actually found a produce by Rustoleum (cabinet or you can use furniture transformations) that is a kit and does the same thing. You can pick from lots of colors and no sanding is required either. The kit comes with a de-glosser, so that take a bit of time, but once that is done, you start painting and then clear it and cheaply re-do and have a major transformation!

Thank you! Thank you! Your tutorial and words of encouragement just jumpstarted our kitchen re-do to get rid of the awful builder’s-orange-oak cabinets. I had no idea we could accomplish re-staining our cabinets without sanding. I tested it out in our guest bathroom and hallway cabinets and it looks great. I’m excited to start the kitchen work next week. Thanks again! Best wishes on your move.

Fantastic instructions!
We will be starting this project next month.
Where did you get your state pictures? I would love an Idaho one. :)

So, our banister has been painted. When we bought the house, the previous owners had already started sanding it (I assume to stain), but we didn’t want to deal with sanding the rest of it and staining in the winter, so we just repainted it white. Would this gel stain work over the white paint, or would we have to sand down to the wood?

It looks beautiful. I’m very tempted to try this with our kitchen also. But, we have red mahogany cabinets. Do you think it would be possible to go from the dark to a lighter color without having to sand it all down?

Thanks for your help!

I love it! My house is exactly the same with all the Orange oak. I want to repaint my walls too. What paint color did you use?

If you check out comment #3 above she says this, “The walls are painted with Miners Dust by Dunn Edwards and color matched at Home Depot with Behr paint. :) “

If you check out comment #3 above she says this, “The walls are painted with Miners Dust by Dunn Edwards and color matched at Home Depot with Behr paint. :) “

How do go difficult would it be to use the same stain on the spindles instead of painting them white. Would I need to sand the spindles?

It would be even easier to just stain everything. The painting of the spindles took the longest time. And no, no need to sand, unless you need to smooth out nicks or scratches. Good luck!

I know I am about a year too late but I am doing this to our staircase. Can you tell me what kind of white paint you used? Also how long after you stained did you put painters tape on the stain? Your stair case looks awesome! Thanks for the tips, only doing this because I saw your work.

I painted my orange cabinets black, but it just peels off….I can’t wait to try this stain on my banister!! Do you think it’s ok to stain the spindles as well? I want it all the same color…

Hi Ashley!

So we are buying a house and it has the honey oak colored raining with white spindles. Ugh. My question: did your railings have the polyurethane on it — the shiny coat on the orangy-oak color? Ours does and I’m wondering if this will still work.

Great job, it looks really nice. I am in the middle of the same project on my banister and spindles. Did you put poly over the spindles, or just the gel stained areas?

Your banister is AMAZING! I am glad you took so many pictures. You’ve inspired me to do mine (same orangey oak). Can’t wait for the transformation! I may do the spindles white, not sure. Nonetheless, white spindles or not, it will be a huge improvement.

Ashley – this is AMAZING! I’m so doing this after we finish up the kitchen remodel. My house is exactly as yours is – all that orangey wood! I have to ask you one question though that’s off-topic….

What did you do to the light fixtures? Did you take them down and detail them black? How did you do that? I have the gold too and love what you did there also!

Hey! Your carpet looks different in the second picture. I love the spottiness to it! Where did you find it? Do you remember what it was called. I love it! Nice job on the railing as well!

From farther back, the carpet kinda blends in together as color. But up close, it’s definitely a bunch of different colors. It’s perfect with children. (And if you happen to drip a drop of paint on it, just wipe it off, and you’ll never see it.)

We bought it at home depot. It was some of their 72 hour carpet, meaning they have it in stock and will install it within 72 hours. So, it was also very affordable. It wasn’t skimpy either….it had plenty of fibers per inch and was much better than the builders grade carpet. Anyway, hope that helps and good luck! -Ashley

Im excited to try this in our new house! We are painting a ton right now but wondering if you know the name of the carpet or other info? or a closer pic please?! Thanks for your time!

Love the look, I was ready to go buy the paint when I looked at mine again and I have the orangy oak stairs. The spindles go right into the stair risers, any suggestions?

I just finished staining my bannister. THANK YOU! If I hadn’t run across you’re article I never would have tried it. I love how it turned out – funny too b/c my before and afters look a lot like yours (paint color, carpet color – the works). Also, I did this in the opposite of the ideal order: carpet then paint then staining the bannister. (Life) I used a carpet protector I bought at Sherwin Williams and am so glad I did. It was a roll of sticky plastic and I cut it out to fit the spaces between the spindles – that plus some blue tape and a drop cloth saved my carpet. Also, I discovered that the “Goo Gone” I had on hand cleaned the stain of hands like a charm. Thanks again, really.

Cute! I have a comment about oil based paint/stain. You don’t need paint thinner to get it off your hands. Water takes off water based paint… well oil takes off oil based stuff. Veggie oil, coconut oil, olive oil, baby oil take your pick it works like a charm and no crazy paint thinner needed.

I really like your wall color also with the Swiss Coffee mouldings. Do you mind sharing your wall paint color name also?

im going to start this project soon! Thanks for the tips! Did you put top coat on the spindles too?

Hello there! I love the look! I have the same issue with my oak stairs. I waswas wondering….if I was to stain railing and paint spindles white, what would I do with the steps and floor if they are also honey oak. Can I just use stain on steps too and leave floors as they are?

Our home and all oak cabinets and woodwork were custom built in 1994….of course it is all “that” colour…..and there is lots of it! I actually like the warmth of the colour and it goes very well with the style of our decorating but we are thinking of selling our home and know that for resale, it would be better with a different wood colour. Can you tell me if this process you used will work on our oak which was stained and spray lacquered (not a water based polyurethane). Thank you for your help. I hope we can create a miracle transformation like you have. Great job!

Wonderful job!! I too am redoing our stairway. The spindles are already white and I don’t need to repainted them. My concern is how to protect the white spindles from the dark stain where the spindles meet the oak on the bottom. Stain often seems to seep under the tape, and there are areas of slanting that make taping more difficult. Any ideas???!!!

Hi! This was just what I needed when doing research about painting the oak trim and staircase in my 100 year old 4 square home. You have done a beautiful job. I wondered if you could offer some advice? We have colonnades – they are beautiful and I want to keep them. Would you match the colonnades to the staircase if you had them? I’m trying to picture if the whole thing would be white or if I would want to somehow bring the java stain into it somewhere. Planning to paint all the window casing, trim and jams white but thinking of staining the oak doors in the java. Thanks!

How does the stain get under the laquor finish? The finish is there as a sealer so how does it penetrate? This seems to go against everything I’ve ever read on refinishing wood furniture! I would love if this actually worked!

I love your banister. It is beautiful!!! Are you sure no sanding is needed? My banister has a high gloss finish on it. I don’t understand how it would penetrate but I’ve never used gel stain before. Anxious for your reply! I want to get started…..tonight!!!

Come to Mama! This would change my life! I am stuck in and orange oak war zone! Are there stains that would be in a gray color? Perhaps I could do my Cabinets this same way! I would much rather stain than paint! How are they holding up? Do you have to reapply the top poly coat???

Love this! Totally inspired to do the same in my house!! Thank you for all of the info. I hope to tackle this project this summer. Be gone orange! Lol!

The banisters turned out fantastic! My wife and I have taken on this project but I’m afraid we didn’t do enough research. We are using semi gloss paint on white banisters. Would using gel stain on white have worked better? Thank you.

Did you sand your spindles before priming them? I have liquid sander to use on them first. The I have a white paint with primer. I am worried about them turning yellowish if I don’t use the liquid sander first.

The banister looks amazing!! I love General Finishes!! I’ve used it to stain all of our bathroom cabinets! The next project is our banister!! Bye-bye orangey oak!!

This is awesome! Thank you so much. We moved into a foreclosure about 3 years ago and it needs some work. Our main staircase has been staring me down. I’ve been avoiding it because I thought all the sanding and priming and staining would be such a big project—but if you’re telling me I can just go ahead and stain my ugly orange wood then I’m having at these stairs!!

So after reading your blog, I decided to take this project on! Bought the stain and top coat at my local wood furniture store. I sanded a few spots that were nicked up and wiped them off with a wet cloth. I stained both my bannisters and spindles in the Java. I have only applied one coat and it wiped off the excess. My problem is that it has been almost 24 hours and some spots on the bannister is sticky to the touch. I am not sure why. I have fans blowing on them. I read the directions on the can and your blog and there is nothing about it being sticky after 24 hours. Hoping that it will dry soon so I can apply the second coat!

So far, I am happy with how they look. Hoping that 2nd coat will dry sooner so I can apply top coat!

Thanks for sharing your step by step directions, it really helped !

Facing the same issue with the sticky cabinets. I have not put the finish on them yet, but it has been over 24 hours and some are still sticky. I read that this is due to not sanding. Can you provide any insight or suggestions?

Truly, an amazing job! It shows a right combination of wood stains and dyeing techniques. Changes the whole of attire with state-of-the-art appearance projected.

Hi!!! Ok so I just started my bathroom cabinet. The hard part is how long to let the stain sit until wiping. What is the point of wiping again? Also, so I wipe each coat, or just the first???

Thank you so much!!!!

Absolutely love this. You did a beautiful job. My banister was the same orange color as your before and I painted it with white chalk paint a couple years ago. Turns out I want it dark and now you have inspired me. Bought my Java gel stain yesterday :) Thank you!!

I love how it turned out. What do you think the difference would be in using a “java”-colored paint as opposed to using the gel stain? From your pictures there doesn’t seem to be much of the grain of the wood showing through, that I thought it would cost less to get a quart of paint/primer in one and use that instead. Less mess and less cost. Does yours look like paint in person?

Thank you for this fabulous tutorial. My home is full of oak and those outdated Brassy Gold light fixtures. I am going to paint those black before I toss them out. What a great idea! Also, I can’t wait to attempt to paint the stairs. I have been thinking about it, but too nervous to make a mistake. I appreciate the post!

This looks so great! I was lucky that the only orangy wood in my house was my cabinets which I of course refinished to be more modern. Great job!

Why don’t you have to sand the wood? As well any thoughts on if anyone has also done this to cabinetry? Love the look

My banister is stained Java and now I need to repaint my spindels. I think the previous owners used some kind of latex white paint but not sure.
My question is: is Berh premium plus ultra pure white satin good to use on the spindels? Also do I use a 2″ i ch brush or what?

Thank you
T krieger

Great job. Just wondering how you painted the spindles without messing up the dark stain where the spindles meet the banister and the base? Did you tape or just do it by eye with a brush?

It would be really difficult to tape around the round spindles and really time consuming… we just free-handed it, REALLY carefully! I sometimes tell friends that if they’re worried about it, just stain the spindles too. It will look nice as well!

I’m attempting to plan this size of project. Did you keep track of the time (hrs or days) for each phase.
– Handrails, spindles…
– cleaning, sanding, staining, protective poly coats…

I would appreciate estimates or actuals


love love love it! Looks elegant and very expensive! I admire your hard work ! The carpet looks very comfy too! What color is that carpet and where is it from?
I’m starting on mine just need to gather all the material first ! Thanks for showing me how.

Great job – in the middle of transforming ours and concerned at wait time for the gel wax. 24hours in and still tacky. I’m hoping time will let it dry and I don’t have the horror of having to remove the gel stain that doesn’t seem to dry in other blogs.

We are transforming our orange house and on the white wood, we deglazed first, then 2 coats of oil based primer and then two top coats of semi gloss – all from Behr. You put the top coats on the glazed spindles – has the paint lasted. We tried a test spindle and the paint just chipped off.

I hope you realized it was fine! We just finished staining ours, but did not wipe of because we liked the color of the stain we used way better when it was dark and it took several days to dry on the first coat. We touched up with a second coat which dried a lot faster and are now on to polyurethane! Gel Stain is the best!!

Beautiful work, I’m so inspired! Really want to tackle both my kitchen and bathroom cabinets but am concerned about the smell as I’m pretty sensitive in that area, do you remember how long it took to clear the smell out? Or how bad it was on a scale of 1-10?

Thank you so much!

Oh gosh, it’s been a while… I’m trying to remember from memory. When we first started the very first step of staining the banister, I was pregnant and throwing up every day. And yep, it made me really sick to smell it. So I had to stay in my room with the windows open doors closed and a towel under the door. I was also worried about the fumes, so it was best for me to stay away anyway. I had a nice filtered mask and helped with the second layer so I couldn’t smell a thing……but we also had windows and doors open during that too. However, when we stained our bathroom cabinets about a year later, I remember it was semi strong while applying it…..but it seemed to really dissipate 24 hours later. But I think having windows open was what helped clear it out. I’m not sure how long it would take if we weren’t able to have air flow to carry away the scent.

Anyway, I can’t remember much more than that and I guess that wasn’t all that helpful because I can’t remember exact details

Hi – Just wondering about painting your spindles white…did you not tape off the underneath part of the bannister around each spindle so you wouldn’t get white on the stain? Did you just paint carefully with a fine brush around that top part? Thanks!!

The reason I didn’t do that is because the spindles are round so to tape up there would have been a PAIN! So, I just painted REALLY carefully! I know that some may feel uncomfortable painting freehand like that….and if so, maybe it would best to stain the spindles too and skin the 2-tone look? I think that would look nice too!

Anyway, hope that helps!

I too have just moved into a horrifying oak everything home. I actually cried all the way home after making the offer!! I’m curious to hear more about changing out your doors and trim. Did you replace them or stain/paint them like you did with the banister (I love the two tone and dark dark color). Any ideas or pictures you could share would be so appreciated!! I can see you have excellent taste. Thank you for posting.

Awwwww, I totally understand your tears! I felt overwhelmed when we bought this house too! But, take a deep breath because as long as it’s a good home, in a location you like, the oak is just a minor detail! :)

We ended up replacing the doors all together and then trimmed them out:

However, it would save a lot of money (and some time), to just stain your doors like we did with our banister and then you could trim them out with the white. I have seen that two tone and it’s beautiful.

Oh, and if you have oak cabinets in the bathrooms, I stained the bathroom cabinets and they turned out AWESOME!

Here’s a post about that:

Anyway, hope that helps! And good luck!


Hello Ashley,

Very impressed with the refinished stair railing, thanks for sharing. As I’m looking at various options to refinish my yellow oak railings, just wanted to check one more time about the ‘no sanding’ part. This is really big, because as you know wood prep. is the most time consuming part of a wood project. How is the gel stain holding up? Any signs of wear or other issues so far?

Hi Serv,

We have actually moved from the house and so I’m unable to see it currently. We did live with the finished railing for about a year before moving and really held up well…..even with 3 kids (at the time) running around! I would just be sure to add several layers of polyurethane to be sure and seal it all in and protect the stain and wood. But just like wood floors or a wood dresser, things can still get scratched down to the raw wood… yes, that is possible. But the great thing is that the gel stain works great to add a little dab on any scratches and it sits there and soaks in, rather than drip off like standard stain. Then you would wipe off any excess and it’s gone!

But yes, you can tell the sanding goodbye. Like I mentioned in the tutorial, I did sand out some gouges and scratches just to even out the wood….but that was all.

Anyway, hope that helps!

Hi there. As many have expressed, the java gel seems the way to go to cut down on prep work. I am no different I bought the supplies and am ready to start. However, I have been kind agonizing over if the java gel is better than just painting. At the end of the day, the java kind of looks like paint, so what’s the difference? It seems there is still work involved with Java gel steps vs just painting. Can you provide input on this? Did you consider painting and if so, what made you decide on using the java gel?

I would say that it’s hands down much easier than painting. There are no paint likes, you don’t have to hurry to finish a coat while the paint is still wet, there’s no clumpiness that sometimes happens when you brush over semi-dry wet paint, etc. The gel stain is much faster to apply and if you get some streaking or weird lines that you didn’t notice while applying, you just rub it out with a cloth before it’s completely dry. And if you happened to miss it and it does dry completely, you would just lightly sand it to even it out, where as with paint, you would have to scrape it off and try again. It also is such a thin medium that depending on how much you add, you can still see wood grain.

But yes, it kind of seems like paint and the application seems similar but as long as the stain color is one that I want, I would choose it again and again. Just be sure that you use a polyurethane on top to seal it all in to protect against scratches and dings. But again, polyurethane is a very easy application too and you don’t have to worry about paint brush lines or anything. It’s a very quick application.

If you’re unsure, maybe try it out on some test wood or the inside of a cupboard door that you could sand off if you hate it.

Hope that helps and best of luck!

Did you topcoat everything ? I noticed in your step-by-step you did it last, but didn’t specify if it was just the rails and posts or if you top coated the spindles as well ?

Hi- I love your work. I was told you need to remove the glaze polish from the oak before staining, but it seems you didn’t need to? I know sanding takes off the finish but you said sanding isn’t necessary. Please let me know!

My general finishes, after one coat did not really dry. When I went to put on the second coat it literally took off the first. I don’t know what I did wrong. I used a Deglosser desander liquid and also sanded some areas prior to application. Suggestions?

Just did my banisters and LOVE it!! Just wondering if this would work on a dining room table too?
Would love to change to darker colour.

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