how-to-stain-an-oak-banister-dark Hello ladies {and gents}, I just wanted to take a second to tell you how grateful I am for YOU as a reader of All Things Thrifty! You have been on my mind lately. As you may {or may not have noticed} I haven’t posted a ton yet this year. We started off the year with a BANG. We woke up January 2nd to a flooded house, good times {sense the sarcasm}. But, luckily we are almost put back together again. We had a significant leak in our pex pipe in our wall. But luckily my hubby is well versed in pex.  So, he cut a hole in the wall and had it fixed in a jiffy.   Then, last week I got the worst cold ever. OK, maybe not EVER, but it kicked my butt. So, in a nutshell, I am glad to be finally posting for you today! I hope you like our tutorial today. Dan {my hubby} and I are super excited about this one! We tackled this project with a few of Dan’s co-workers and it was a BEAST. So, believe me when you read the “items needed” below when I say you need a huge dose of PERSEVERANCE because it is true. The end result of this project is absolutely breathtaking. You will see the before and after photos below. But, hopefully you can tell by the tone of my words today that YOU CAN DO THIS! I promise. If we can do this, then you can do this. First, let me give you a little disclaimer: I cannot vouch for any products other than the ones we used specifically. Stain products can be sooooo different. So, if you choose to stray from the products we used, you will have to report back on your results, but I do not recommend anything other than the specific items listed below. Alrighty lets get down to business! The items needed are: old socks {new will work too}, latex gloves, painter’s tape, General Finishes Java Gel Stain, General Finishes Satin Gel Topcoat, 220 grit sandpaper, and a LARGE dose of perseverance.   items-needed-to-stain-a-banister Step 1: Lightly sand all wood parts of your banister with 220 grit sand paper. When I say “lightly” sand, I mean it. You do not need to put your back into it. Just lightly rough up the surface with 220 grit. Step 2: Tape off your wood. Please take the time to tape off as perfectly as you possibly can. You are going to get really sick of taping off, I promise.  Grab your favorite drink and blast some music and get’er done. how-to-stain-an-oak-banister-dark (33) As you can see, the banister we tackled is HUGUNGOUS. how-to-stain-an-oak-banister-dark (36) Like most properties built in the 90’s oak was the IN choice for this building.  As you can see, the oak dates the property big time. how-to-stain-an-oak-banister-dark (35) Although we did not like the oak, we opted to keep the beautiful white spindles of the banister, so we taped off each spindle at the top and at the bottom… how-to-stain-an-oak-banister-dark (39) …all the way across the entire HUGE banister. Taping off took 4 people about 4 hours of work. how-to-stain-an-oak-banister-dark (38) how-to-stain-an-oak-banister-dark (37) Step 3: Put on your latex glove on one hand and keep the other one free and place the sock over the glove. As you can see from the picture below, the stain seeps through the socks and if you do not wear latex gloves, your fingers will soon be saturated with oil-based stain. {Yes, I am speaking from experience.} how-to-stain-an-oak-banister-dark (70) how-to-stain-an-oak-banister-dark (71) Step 4: Begin wiping on the stain in even light strokes. You do not need to cake on the stain, so be careful not to put too much on your wood. I have found that light coats work better or your wood will end up looking black. Watch the video below for a demonstration on how the stain looks as it goes on. Step 5:  Wait 24 hours between each coat and repeat as many coats as you choose. We did 3 coats. Step 6. Rub on the topcoat {yes we used a sock for this also}. Step 7. Take off the painters tape. You many need some magic erasers to remove the small amounts of stain that you got on your spindles. how-to-stain-an-oak-banister-dark (51) Just to remind you the before and afters of this project, check it out one. last. time. how-to-stain-an-oak-banister Yes, we are very very proud. xoxo, Brooke Linking to: Home Stories A to Z Linky Party 
Linked to:

TDC Before and After


  1. Beth @ Sawdust and Embryos says

    Whoa, what a big commitment… it turned out AMAZING! I’m so glad you left the white spindles. The contrast is beautiful!

      • Kathy says

        Hi Brooke…thank you for the amazing video and tutorial! You gave me the confidence to get the oak out of my home! Two quick questions..1) what is the best way to get in-between spindles to stay with the wood grain? On my first coat yesterday, I found that my hand could only get through the spindles one way and it was against the grain. 2) Do you use a new (used) sock for each new coat you add on?

        Thank you in advance for your guidance!

        • Brooke says

          Get a toothbrush or a small flat stir stick to get in to the small areas.

          And yes I used a deferent sock for each coat.

          Good luck! It’s going to look great!

  2. Liz says

    Wowie! What a beautiful staircase…like something out of Gone With the Wind! : ) Your hard work really paid off!! I have been planning to do something like this with ours but haven’t gone to get the gel stain yet. Ours is much much smaller so it won’t take as long…golden oak begone!

    • Brooke Ulrich says

      Oh my gosh! Gone with the Wind is a pure classic, what a great compliment! Good luck with making your oak disappear too! xoxo

  3. Mo says

    All I can say is…WOW. That is a HUGE difference! As someone going through a lot of DIY home repairs right now, I can totally appreciate how time-intensive and exhausting this project was, but the results are SPECTACULAR. Nice job!!

  4. Cindy says

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU….for doing a tutorial on this! I have been wanting to do my banisters since we moved in 3 years ago and felt intimidated by the process. My project will only be half as big as this, which reassures me that I can do it! I love how your project turned out! GREAT JOB!!

    • Brooke Ulrich says

      Thanks Cindy. You can do it! I promise! If you do, take before and after pictures and send it to me! I would love to see!

  5. Emily Gwartney Horrocks says

    This project was on my “to do” list for the house we currently have listed for sale. The banister was the last of the oak seen in this place. Anyways, I scratched it since we needed to get listed. I’m glad I didn’t do it, because seeing this tutorial makes me realize it would have been MUCH easier than what my plan was for tackling it. This really doesn’t look that bad. The worst part is the prep work, which is how it always goes. Thanks for the tutorial! Great info!

  6. Emily says

    Looks so great! I did this exact thing to my banister using the General Finishes stain last summer. LOVED the stain! It was so easy to use! Unfortunately I had to paint the spindles white myself which ended up being the biggest pain of the project. I didn’t love the way they turned out so I spent Christmas vacation touching them up and trying to fix them. They’re still not perfect, but much better…you just can’t look too closely! 😉

  7. Britt says

    I have used that stain many times and it… Is…awesome!!!! Seriously though, the amount of work you guys did here is mind boggling. It looks so beautiful but oh my word… The patience required is killer. Love it!

  8. Carla says

    BEAUTIFUL! What color are your floors? I have oak stained floors (not yet ready to have them refinished to a darker stain). I’m wondering if it would look odd to stain the hand rails and steps dark when my floors would still be oak (only the tops of the steps and handrails are oak on my steps)??? I would also like to replace my wooden spindles with metal ones (which if you do it yourself, are relatively inexpensive…though maybe not if you have as many as you have!!).

  9. DeDe Bailey says

    Very Beautiful! I am thankful mine are dark, but may want to go a shade darker when I tear up the carpentiung on the stairs!

  10. jill says

    Looks stunning! Just last night I started scuffing up our shiny oak banister to do this. Instead of sandpaper I used a pad of synthetic “steel wool”. It def took the sheen off. What I’m dreading the most if that I also have to paint the spindles white…our spindles are light oak match to the banister. I’m also going to paint the risers white but leave the treads lighter oak to match the rest of the floors in the house.

  11. Mindy Markley says

    So pretty! And thank you for posting the stain you used. I have the *awesome* oak banister too, and have been tempted to just paint it because I haven’t found a stain color I loved. I will definitely try the Java and see what results I get. I admire your perseverance. Mine isn’t that big, and it’s still daunting. I think I can use my teenage boys for cheap labor on the sanding though. :-)

  12. Cathy says

    I have been starting at my staircase and entry for awhile now wanting to do this. The transformation is incredible. Stain is as much of a game changer as paint!!

    One question…why did you choose gel stain over liquid? Mess factor or is it a better product?

    Again it looks awesome!

  13. Susan says

    Love the look! I have a much smaller oak banaster but with awful black wrought iron spindles. Yech. What would you suggest? Any thoughts?

  14. Tiffany says

    LOVE THIS!! Need to do this in my home home! Quick Question: I noticed that there is carpet on the actual stairs you did- Mine are all just wood- Do you think this will work on the actual stairs part that you walk on? Do you think it will hold up?

  15. says

    So, SO fabulous!!! I need to do this to my awful, ugly oak table!! I’ve been dreading sanding down to bare wood, so hopefully this will work on a table as well!!!

  16. says

    Yowza! What a transformation!! I have an oak cap on the railing of sorts that comes down the stairs into my dining room. I LOATHE oak! I am absolutely going to do this. Thanks so much for the tutorial and info!

  17. Mara Smith says

    Sometimes that hardest part is taking the first step. That looks very overwhelming, but it turned out so great! Welcome to 2014 oak banisters :)

  18. Ashley Calaway says

    Gorgeous! My sister and brother-in-law bought a house about a year ago and there is oak everywhere. Totally 90’s. They have a large banister, but not nearly as large as yours. They really want to paint it or stain it like this. I will have to show them this post so they can tackle that project! It looks fabulous!

  19. Carey says

    That looks fantastic! I’ve put off updating our ‘pickled’ banisters bc I thought it would be too much work but it’s probably 1/8 the amount of yours. I should just do it already…

  20. says

    We stained our bathroom cabinets and used a different kind of stain and it was a beast. I’ve heard this brand is great though. Want to do our banisters soooo bad. Have to keep working on convincing the hubs. Yours looks GREAT!

  21. Rachelle says

    The links lead to a pint each of product? Did you use a pint of stain and a pint of topcoat for the entire project? I’m trying to gauge how much I would need for my stair railings.

      • Ryan says

        Hey Brooke. I am about to do this to my banister. Quick question. After applying the last coat of stain, how long do I need to wait to put the top coat on? Also, any tips on preventing drips from underneath the balister? Thanks so much for your help!!

        • Brooke says

          The stain is so thick it will not drop as long as you apply it slowly. And you will need to wait 24 hours before applying the top coat. It needs to be completely dry first. Good luck! It’s going to look fantastic!

          • Ryan says

            Thanks for the speedy reply. Very helpful. This is my first DIY staining project. Any other last minute tips for this amateur stainer??

  22. TKTanner says

    Thank you! This was really helpful and encouraging. I’m working on refinishing my kitchen table and 8 chairs. It’s a big job! But if you can do this, I can do mine. I’m really glad that you didn’t make this project sound like it was a piece of cake. I realize from my own project that it’s not really hard, but it’s painstakingly tedious! You just have to keep working at it. Thanks again.

  23. Ryan says

    Hey Brooke. It’s Ryan again. So sorry for bothering you. Well… I just sanded my banisters with the 220 grit… but it didn’t seem to do anything. Did your oak banister have a finished, glossy stain? Mine does. Just trying to figure out what to do next. Thanks.

    • Brooke says

      Hi Ryan, no worries. Yes, ours had a glossy finish. You just need to sand it enough to rough up the banister. It doesn’t even hardly look like you did anything, but it makes the stain adhere better. Try it on one of the parts of the banister that will not be seen much just as a test. That will help you to see if it’s going to adhere well. Good Luck!

  24. says

    Wow this is an awesome transformation!!! Our oak banisters look so dated and are something I have been wanting to update since we moved in. I had no idea how the change them other than replacing which is a huge expense. Thank you so much for sharing your tutorial and the products you used. I think I may have just enough courage to attempt this diy project. It does look like a lot of work but so worth the effort for the finished result. I think I will just plan to take it slow. Have a great week!

  25. says

    Hi Brooke! Fellow SUU Alumnus here :). I have natural stained maple all throughout my house. Will this process work on maple as it does on oak?

    • Brooke says

      Hi Erin! I think it totally would work. I would try it in a place that you cannot see. Maybe there is a place underneath the banister or on the back of a cabinet door that you could test.

      SUU rocks! :) xoxo, Brooke

  26. Bernice says

    Love it!! I would love to know what color of stain that you used, it’s exactly the color that I would like to use!! Thank you for the awesome info!!

  27. vila says

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! It has given me some courage to start my banister. Quick question: After you sanded the banister with 220 grit, how did you wipe off the dust? Some people say tack cloth, but it left my banister sticky…some sites say damp cloth, but i read that water might make the wood swell. I’m just trying to figure out how to get rid of the dust after sanding. Thanks!

    • Brooke says

      I cut up an old T-shirt and wiped it off with that. Just use it dry don’t get it wet. You can do it!

      • vila says

        Thank you so much! This tutorial has moved me to take the first steps, and I know you’ve helped more people than you’ll ever know!

  28. Marlene Meyer says

    Just a word of caution to others…..The staircase is absolutely knock dead gorgeous!! I LOVE IT, however, I have a staircase that is 1/100th that size and I cannot stay ahead of the dust on the dark wood. It ALWAYS looks dirty from the dust. Dark wood is fabulous but I would need a full-time maid to keep it looking clean around the spindles. I wish I liked light wood, but I hate it so I deal with the dust. Good Luck and hope you have a good housekeeper! :)

  29. Jamaris Vargas says

    Hi, wanted to know how long actual drying time is? Not before i out on second and third coat, but try time before one can walk on it? I have Thing 1 and Thing 2 leaving for school in the morning and returning back around 4pm so drying time is essential so they don’t get anything on their feet. Was thinking about doing every other stair, but i would need to take a week off from work to do that and i just want to have few days with weekend to finish job. Thank you so much for your time and cooperation and have a good day.


  30. catherine says

    Hi there Brooke,

    I am following your directions to transform my own staircase which is much smaller than yours thank goodness! This morning I began to apply the stain using the latex glove/sock technique you recommended. The one thing I noticed is that I am getting some smudgy looking marks where I make a stroke and come back on it. Did you have trouble with these darker smudges and/or did you remove the excess stain with a separate rag?

    Thanks for the stain recommendation – it really is a great product.


    • Brooke says

      It sounds like you may be putting it on a little too thick. Maybe try and reduce the amount of stain you put on your sock. You don’t need much of it at a time. Let me know if this helped. I definitely had some smudge marks too especially on my first coat, so don’t stress, after a few coats it all comes together!

  31. Kimberly says

    Hi Brooke,
    I’m from Canada and most likely will have to use the Minwax gel stain and would like to know the color of stain that you used so i can do some comparing.

  32. Rachel says

    Did you have any problems with unevenness? We sanded our oak banister and then applied a coat of gel stain, but it’s REALLY blotchy. Some parts of the banister seemed to have absorbed the stain, while other parts did not. Not sure what would be a good next-step. If I apply another coat, will the unstained parts just stand out even more? Argh.

    • Brooke says

      The first coat is pretty blotchy. Don’t put it on too thick or it will heighten that problem. But yes, the other coats will fix the problem.

  33. kevin says

    Someone had suggested sanding in between top coats. What grit sandpaper should be used or is steel wool a better choice to get a deeper lustre.

  34. Connie says

    Hi Brooke, thank you so much for your pictures and how to instructions. Your staircase is amazing. Well done! My problem? same as yours, that dated honey oak look with white balasters. I was inspired by your work, carefully followed your instructions and voila! Looks wonderful. Worse part? The prep. Sanding and taping, took forever. Best part? The results, what a difference. I just increase the value of my home for less than $60 . So proud and thank you so so much!!

  35. LuckySchwartz says

    We decided to tackle our staircase ourselves but we had our floors redone. We pulled up all the birch laminate and had these beautiful kona hardwood floors put in. The guy who put in our floors insisted that we would need to take the entire banister apart to stain and then put back together (a daunting task I wanted no part of) so it’s wonderful to see this post.

  36. Jackie Hoover says

    Oh, how I want to redo my staircase! But what if there is a poly/shiny coating? How should the steps be modified and will it work?

  37. Kellie says

    Brooke, I am so impressed with you! I love how you take the time to answer everyone’s questions. How about two more? Lol! We just bought an older home and the staircase is medium oak color. Do you think I could still get those results with the same color stain? Additionally, we were thrilled to remove the ugly carpet and discover solid oak on the steps and risers! Do you think this product would hold up to foot traffic? Thank you for your time!

    • Brooke says

      Thanks Kellie! Ok, so yes it would absolutely work on the the staircase. I would use a more durable topcoat on the steps and risers though. You definitely need to use a product that is specifically for floors on that one. But, in my opinion you can just put it right over the top of this product. Good luck! Send me pictures. I want to see the before and afters!! xoxo


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