An original wooden staircase can provide a lot of charm and character to a period home. However, over time most will experience a significant amount of wear and tear and start to show their age. In this article, we will be giving you some guidance on how you can restore your wooden staircase sensitively.

How to Restore a Wooden Staircase

Identify Repairs

With original features, such as staircases, it is preferable to repair rather than replace. An old staircase will rarely have any structural issues, so fixing should be quite straightforward.

The most common problems are worn treads, broken or loose railings and spindles, creaking boards, missing parts or updates that have not maintained the integrity of the original staircase.

Worn Treads

A lot of old staircases had separate treads (the part you step on) and risers (the part the tread is on top of). Which means they are relatively straightforward to disassemble. If possible, it is a good idea to remove the tread that needs repairing to work on it.

Carefully cut away the damaged area of the stair tread and splice in a new piece of softwood. Putting little timber bearers under the patched area will provide extra support. Shape and sand the new tread and countersink screws to enable filling.

The front edge of the tread, nosing, will quite often become so worn over time that it splits. This can be removed by sawing or chiselling across the width of the stair. You will probably need a specialist to make a new section. To reshape the new tread before re-fitting the ideal tool is a sharp spokeshave. A close perimeter fit will enable effective glueing.

Creaking Staircase

If there is an apparent gap between the timbers, then you may only need to screw them back together.Restoring a Wooden Staircase

If the creek originates from the junction between the tread and riser, use a thin strip of wood, tapered at one end, glue and hammer to fill the gap. Do not use the staircase until the glue is dry.

Balusters and Spindles

It should be reasonably easy to remove a spindle as most were either nailed or slotted into the handrail and base rail.

Repair spindles with small cracks or splits with strong adhesive and clamp together until fully set. Replace broken or badly split spindles.

An off the shelf baluster will more than likely need to be trimmed to fit in your staircase. Ensure that the carved sections of the design match up with the existing spindles before trimming and setting in place.

Handrails and newel posts tend to become loose over time. If structurally sound, it may be a case of merely tightening or adding new fixings.

Preparing the Surface

Your staircase may be covered in layers of paint, and this will need stripping before anything else can be done. Please be aware that paint used before the 1960s may well contain lead and if this is the case, you will need to use a respirator and wear disposable coveralls to protect yourself during the process.

You can paint over the existing coats, but more layers mean fewer design features are visible. There are different products available to strip the paint, as well as using a heat gun. If you are unsure which to use, one of our specialists will be happy to help you.

When the stripping is complete, ensure you cover your work area with drop cloths and sand the wood with 100-grit sanding pads. Sand with the grain of the wood removing imperfections creating a smooth surface. Prominent flaws can be filled with wood putty. Wipe clean when finished.

Staining and Protecting

If the bannisters are unable to be removed for this process, you will want to cover areas that are not going to be stained with masking tape. After thoroughly mixing the solution, liberally brush into the wood-grain, ensuring any excess stain is removed before it dries. Oak and Mahogany stains should be applied with a bristle brush to ensure the stain gets worked in. Allow to dry overnight.

Applying a layer of clear coat with a clean paintbrush will help to protect against wear and tear. Make sure the clear coat is thoroughly dry before continuing with any more work.

Painting Your Wooden Staircase

Always use a wood primer suitable for your specific wood as it allows better adhesion and prevents stains from seeping through. Once this is dry, sand it down and wipe clean with a tack cloth.

Large staircases can be spray painted. Ensure that you have protected all nearby walls and furniture from any overspray. Wear a breathing mask to protect yourself from harmful chemicals.

Smaller staircases, a standard paintbrush is probably the best option. Start at the top of the staircase and work your way down, applying 2-3 coats of paint evenly.

French Polishing

To truly appreciate the wood’s graining in your staircase, you may choose to use French Polishing. This is probably the best way to restore your wooden staircase to its original glory and truly appreciate the beauty of the wood.

Our team of specialist French Polishers will be able to give your wooden staircase a new lease of life. When we have finished, you will have a genuinely magnificent staircase to enjoy for years to come.

The experts at Major Oak Polishing can also repair and prepare your wooden staircase to ensure the best finish possible. If you would like to speak to one of our advisors, then please get in touch.