The Staircase Situation: Railing Revamp

Since we ripped apart our stairway railing last week, we’ve been in rebuilding mode. I first tackled rebuilding the newel posts (around the existing newel posts), and this past week we worked on the railings. The plan? To reuse the existing railings (they’re in great condition and are quite substantial!).

However, the existing railings used a runner system for the old balusters that wouldn’t work with the new balusters we plan on using, so first I filled in that track.


Then I tackled the color. Down with orange-y oak (at least in our home)! I purchased a quart of General Finishes Java Gel Stain and guys, that stuff is LIFE CHANGING. Three coats of that stuff (plus a topcoat that I still have to add) and the railings are just the color I want them to be–and I sanded only minimally beforehand. Pics to come later in the post.

On Saturday Kenny and I began the process of reattaching the railings. It was not the most fun we’ve ever had DIYing, but we made it happen. The hardest part for us was getting a tight joint between the railing and newel post at the bottom of the stairs, but after a few tries, we eventually succeeded.


Then I could finally finish building the newel posts–almost. I was SO CLOSE but then I ran out of trim by about 2 inches…it was heartbreaking.


I’ll have to pick up another 8′ length of trim from Lowe’s just to finish this little 6″ section…but I kept going anyway and filled the nail holes and began staining.

I first used my regular go-to stain, Minwax’s Dark Walnut. It went on okay, but I knew I’d need more coats.


So for the second coat, I switched to using the GF Java Gel Stain, and gave me the exact finish color I was looking for.


Now I just have to put on a coat or two to protect it (I’ll probably use Polyurethane, since I have a bit in the basement). You’ll see below that I tried staining not just the top of the newel posts but all of the wood trim–and I think I love it. The rest of the newel posts will be painted white.


Here’s how the railings are looking with the newel posts! It’s quite striking and fits our decor a bit more than the orange oak did.


Next up: balusters! I have no idea what I’m doing…we’ll see how this goes. ;)

1 Comment

  • Thank you! I found this post days before we were hiring someone to attempt to change our orange-y oak banisters and stair treads. Instead of stripping, sanding, and making a mess, he used the gel stain you suggested, and the results are wonderful! The whole process was MUCH easier than expected.

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