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Stairway Painting Cost

Stairway Painting Cost

National average
(minimal prep 63.5 sq. ft, primed and painted)
Low: $224

(minimal prep, single color paint, 52 sq. ft)

High: $642

(minimal prep, 1 landing, 74.5 sq. ft. primed and painted)

Cost to paint a stairway varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from painters in your city.

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Stairway Painting Cost

National average
(minimal prep 63.5 sq. ft, primed and painted)
Low: $224

(minimal prep, single color paint, 52 sq. ft)

High: $642

(minimal prep, 1 landing, 74.5 sq. ft. primed and painted)

Cost to paint a stairway varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from painters in your city.

The average cost of painting a stairway is $548.

How Much Does It Cost to Paint a Stairway?

Painting a stairway refreshes a room with a new look. It can turn boring stairs into a focal point in any decor and create a more personalized space. Stairways may seem simple and even basic, however, in reality, they are complex with numerous risers and treads. The intricate angles of a stairway benefit from having a professional painter handle the project to ensure it looks ideal when complete.

The multi-angled nature of a stairway design and build can quickly create mounting 1 costs when painting the structure. The average cost to paint stairway ranges from $400-$500, with the average homeowner spending around $548 on minimal prep 63.5 sq. ft, primed and painted.

Paint a Stairway

Stairway painting costs
National average cost$548
Average range$400 - $500
Minimum cost$224
Maximum cost$642

Painting vs. Staining a Stairway Costs

Both painting and staining are good options when it comes to giving your stairway a fresh look. Stain is undoubtedly more forgiving than paint and dries more quickly. A stairway in an older home, particularly, could be given new life with a refinish and combination of paint and stain. Give this particular consideration if the stairwell is a focal point of your foyer or entryway. Your decision will depend on the style of staircase, its usage, and how quickly you would like the job completed.

Surface optionsProsCons



You can pick your own colors

Provides a clean appearance

May chip over time



Reveals the wood’s natural beauty

Dries quickly

Can easily scratch or scuff

Labor Cost Per Hour to Paint Stairway

Typically, when hiring a professional painter the cost of materials such as primer 2, paint, stains, tape, brushes, rollers, drop clothes, and trays are factored into the painter’s estimate and account for approximately 15 percent of the price charged by the painter.

A professional painter will generally complete the job from start to finish by doing all the necessary prep work such as taping and sanding5. The painter will then paint and clean up when complete. Professional painters typically charge around $50 per hour and an average 12 ft. high, straight stairway would cost $250.

Paint Costs by Type

There are also water-based and oil-based paints. An oil-based paint offers excellent adhesion and a water-based paint dries quickly. Paint typically runs from $10-$50 per gallon depending on the finish and brand. One gallon is normally sufficient to cover a 12 ft. tall stairway when used in combination with primer 2.

Paint typeProsCons

Water-based paints


Dries quicklyLess durable



Superior adhesionRequires mineral spirits for clean-up

Stain Prices by Type

Wood stain can be used in place of primer 2 and paint. It helps bring out the wood’s natural beauty while protecting the surface. Oil based stains tend to be less expensive than gel stain.


Oil based stains


Penetrates well


Covers blemishes

Emits an odor

Fades over time

Gel stains


Requires no rubbing to penetrate the wood

Can be sprayed on

Takes 48 hours or more to dry

Does not adhere well

Primer Costs by Type

Prior to painting, a surface must have a coat of primer 2 applied. A primer 2 helps ensure superior paint coverage and durability. Primer 2 types tend to fall into three categories. There are oil-based, shellac-based, and latex-based. One gallon will normally cover a 12 ft. stairway. Primer 2 costs $17-$50 per gallon depending on brand and type.

Primer 2CharacteristicsCost
Latex-basedStays flexible even after drying$10-$32/gallon
Oil-basedPenetrates the wood surface deeply. Covers damage.$17-$35/gallon
Shellac-basedProvides odor and mildew control$36-$50/gallon

The process of staining stairs may or may not require a primer 2. If the surface of the wood is unmarked then no primer 2 is generally required. However, if there are scuff marks, discolorations, or stains that cannot be sanded 3 out then applying an oil-based primer 2 will prevent the imperfections from marring the stained surface of the wood.

Stairway Painting Cost Factors

  • Complexity. A simpler configuration of the stairwell will cost less to paint or refinish. If you have 14 steps leading 4 from your front entryway to your second story, with a simple bannister, without architectural or decorative elements, and all painted or stained one color, it will be on the low end of estimates. However, a job may also include highly decorated wooden bannisters or stairways with multiple finishes; these of course take longer and will cost more.
  • Condition of the staircase. Stairs that need carpeting removed, have been neglected, or are worn or rotted will also require more labor. These, and other damage repairs can increase the cost of painting or refinishing a stairway. Depending your home’s age or your changing tastes, you might consider reconfiguring a stairway or adjusting the rise. For this you will need to hire a carpenter ($70 per hour).
  • Surface area. As discussed in the measurements section, there is a formula for figuring out the exact surface area to be painted. The greater the surface area, the higher the cost of materials and labor.
  • Number of coats. On average, one can of paint covers 400 square feet. Multiple coats will require more paint, as well as more labor hours, and the price goes up accordingly.
  • Paint quality. When considering paint quality for a stairwell, it should be assumed that stairs are a high traffic area. Particularly, the risers are subject to more abuse. High-quality paint for stairs is a smart investment. The better quality of paint, the higher the cost. However, the lifespan increases exponentially.
  • Combination of colors. If you want to add interest and contrast to your stairway, you may consider a combination of paints, or some paint and some stained and finished surfaces. This will take more time and more materials, costing more, but also offer more in terms of style.

Cleaning and Preparation Work Before Painting a Stairway

A professional painter usually includes the cost of prep work materials in his job cost estimate. However, a homeowner can discuss providing the prep work materials for the painter to receive a possible discount.

Whether staining or painting, the surface of most stairways will require sanding 3 prep work to remove old paint or soften the surface of any blemishes. Sandpaper averages $4-$11 per pack for general purpose sandpaper.

Painting can be messy work. The area must be prepared prior to priming and painting all surfaces. The edges of the stairs, walls, and other surfaces will need to be lined with painter’s tape to prevent smudges. The cost of painter’s tape generally runs from $5-$7 per 60 yards. Nail holes or blemishes may need to be repaired with spackle 5. A quart of spackle 5 costs $5-$10. Lightly sandthe spackle 5 after it dries to create a smooth surface.

The entire area will need to be dusted and vacuumed to remove any cobwebs or dirt particles prior to painting.

Parts of a Stairway That Can Be Painted

Many parts of a stairway can be painted and must be factored in when determining the final cost. Walls, treads, risers, posts, balusters 6, ceiling, spindles 7, and handrails 8 may or may not be present on the stairway. Each item can be painted separately at a future date or factored in as one complete job. Generally, a painter will do the entire paint job at one time to make the stairway look its best when finished. Remember that most painters charge by the hour, so the more things that require painting the longer the painter will need to complete the job. It is advised that a professional painter determine the size of the job and figure in all aspects such as the walls, treads, risers, posts, balusters 6, spindles 7, handrails 8, and ceilings that may or may not need to be painted to give an estimate of the job’s cost. Painters charge around $50 per hour.

How to Measure Your Stairway Before Painting It

In order to properly estimate the cost of painting a stairway, the surface size must be calculated. The length of the stairway treads and risers need to be measured to determine the surface area. This is achieved by multiplying the length by width. To determine the tread length the tread nosing, the run, and the rise must all be added together. Then measure the width of the tread. Multiply the total of the tread length and the width together to achieve the surface area. If the stringers 9 are being included in the paint job then add an additional 2’ to the tread width before multiplying. The stairway hand railing 8 is measured by starting at the top of the landing and measuring to the floor and then adding 2’ to determine the linear length of the hand rail 8.

Pros and Cons of Stairway Paint Finishes

There are several types of paint finishes such as flat, semi-gloss, and high-gloss.

FlatImperfections are less noticeableLacks durability
Semi-glossLong lastingSheen shows imperfections
High-glossExceptionally durableRequires a fully prepped surface prior to application as it shows even slight imperfections

Stairway Painting Styles​

Painting styles for a stairway are diverse. A stairway can be completely painted one shade or a variety of colors to create a color-coordinated decor. Paint generally provides a light, airy feeling. A combination of painted and stained surfaces are another option to create warmth and depth. A popular painting style is to stain all components of the stairway and paint just the balusters 6. A dark stain combined with a light paint creates an elegant appearance. Staining the stairway and all parts such as the railing 8 and spindles 7 provides a warm feeling. Light paint creates a spacious ambience.

Interior stairway painted in red​​

Enhancement and Improvement Costs


While having a stairway painted, you might want to consider having a stairlift installed. A stairlift helps transport someone who cannot walk easily up and down the stairway. The average cost of installing a stairlift is between $3,000-$5,000.

Stair Repairs

Prior to having the stairway painted, any carpentry repairs should be performed to make the stairway safe and structurally sound. Loose boards or broken spindles 7 need to be repaired or replaced. The railing 8 should be secure and not wobble. The average cost of a carpenter to repair a stairway is $70 per hour.


If you are going with a natural wood stain on your stairs, you must then apply multiple coats of poly to protect them from constant foot 10 traffic. Whether you poly coat over painted stairs is a personal choice. While the poly will certainly add life to your painted stairs, it will also add significant labor hours and drying time. Polyurethane comes in water-based ($50 per gallon) and oil-based ($30 per gallon).


There are a variety of grit products that can be added to the final coat of paint to make stairs slip-resistant, however, a polymeric grit ($7 per gallon of paint) is one of the best options, since it’s opaque and will not appear as dark spots in your finish.

Decorative Features

Not all painters offer decorative painting service. Those that do charge, on average, $70 per hour or a set price for a project. Instead of looking at a stairway as just a stairway, it can be a focal point. The rise of your stairway can be the canvas for an artist. Each rise can be a panel of a continuous painting, home to a line of an ascending poem, or even replicas of the spine of your favorite books. Whatever your imagination can conjur, a talented painter can deliver.

Handrail Painting

Handrails 8 can be as simple as a 1.75” round that can be painted in mere minutes, to elaborately detailed millwork which requires much more time and more patience. More ornate banisters 8 will cost significantly more to have refinished. Depending on the detail of the millwork, the amount of stripping and finishing materials, an ornate handrail 8 and spindles 7 will cost between $7 and $15 per linear foot 10.


Corking stair treads is costly ($50 per tread), but not only is it a beautiful look, it also dampens the sound of footfalls on the stairs. Corking the stairs is something that should only be done by a flooring pro. Cork flooring materials come in tiles and planks ($3 to $8 per square foot 10 for materials only); in either case, it will need to be cut to fit your stair treads.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • Carpet removal if existing on stairway averages $2.50 per sq ft. for removal and discarding.
  • Practice ladder safety by never placing a ladder on unsure footing 10 or in any awkward positions that may not be stable.
  • Painting a stairway can be a DIY project, however, it tends to take much longer than having a professional undertake the job. Also, the quality is not the same.
  • A professional painter generally offers a warranty on their workmanship that averages from 1 to 3 years.
  • Purchasing the supplies separately and having them on hand for the painter may reduce the cost of the overall job. Re-usable rollers, brushes, and trays cost $15-$25 for a complete set. However, high-end, reusable brushes may cost up to $20 a piece.
  • If you are simply having your stairway painted or otherwise refinished, you will not need a permit. For making changes or redesigning the stairwell in a way that would affect a load-bearing structure, you’ll need a permit.
  • You should ask for proof of liability insurance before hiring any tradesman.
  • Every element of your stairway is going to be priced separately. A professional painter will look at the amount of labor and materials required before giving you a quote. For instance, if your spindles 7 are elaborately milled, and have multiple layers of paint, it will cost a significant amount to have them stripped, cleaned, stained, and finished.


  • How do you paint a stairwell?

Fill in any nail holes or blemishes with spackle 5 or caulk 11 to create a smooth surface. Prime the wall using a primer 2 and then apply either a latex or oil-based paint with a brush or roller.

  • What kind of paint to use on stairs?

Either oil-based or water-based paint. Oil-based tends to be more durable than water-based.

A baker’s scaffold 12, also known as baker’s staging 12, is a rolling scaffold 12. It usually measures 6 ft. long by 6 ft. high and can be stacked to attain more height.

Use a combination of lumber and plywood 13 to build a makeshift scaffold 12. Build two triangles from 2”x4” and plywood 13 to affix to the side of a wall. Run a combination of two 2”x6” boards between to the two triangles to form a platform against the wall.

  • How much do painters charge per square foot 10?

Painters typically charge $4 per sq.ft. for an interior paint job. However, the complexity of the paint project may increase the price.

  • How much should I pay a painter?

Most painters charge $50 per hour. Intricate paint jobs may cost more.

  • How much does it cost to paint a deck?

Prices to paint a deck range from $850-$1,000 depending on the area of the country. Usually, the cost averages $2 per sq. ft.

  • How much does it cost to refinish wood steps?

A painter typically charges between $50 per hour. The overall cost will need to be determined by figuring out the surface size of the wood steps that require refinishing. The cost of staining/refinishing wood steps averages $6per sq.ft. for materials and labor.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Mounting: A support on which something is attached or hung
glossary term picture Primer 2 Primer: Preparatory coat applied to materials (drywall, wood, metal, etc.) before painting to ensure paint adhesion, extend paint durability, and help seal and protect the surface to be painted
glossary term picture Sanding 3 Sanded: Process of removing the top surface of a material, such as wood, using sandpaper and/or a specialized sanding machine (for large surface areas)
glossary term picture Lead 4 Leading: A naturally occurring heavy metal that is highly toxic to humans, and has been used in paint, gasoline, piping, and other applications
glossary term picture Spackle 5 Spackle: A paste, composed of gypsum plaster, glue, and water, used to repair holes and cracks in plaster before painting or wallpapering
glossary term picture Baluster 6 Balusters: Small pillars that are used to support a railing, such as on a staircase.
7 Spindles: One of a series of identical vertical supports, typically decorative, used between railing posts on decks and stairs
8 Railing: (Also known as Banisters, Handrails) A long bar designed for a person to hold onto, giving them support. They are usually found on the sides of staircases, and can also be found in bathrooms, for example, to help persons with disabilities
9 Stringers: An inclined structure used to support the treads and risers in a staircase
glossary term picture Footing 10 Foot: A support for the foundation of a house that also helps prevent settling. It is typically made of concrete reinforced with rebar, but can also be made of masonry or brick. It is usually built under a heavier part of the house like a wall or column, to distribute the weight of the house over a larger area.
glossary term picture Caulking 11 Caulk: A chemical sealant used to fill in and seal gaps where two materials join, for example, the tub and tile, to create a watertight and airtight seal. The term "caulking" is also used to refer to the process of applying this type of sealant
glossary term picture Scaffolding 12 Staging: (Also known as Scaffold) A temporary structure used during construction/maintenance/painting projects to raise and support workers (or one worker), required materials, and equipment
glossary term picture Plywood 13 Plywood: An engineered construction material manufactured from thin slices of wood glued together in alternating grain patterns for strength

Cost to paint a stairway varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Blue carpeted stairway with red handrails


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