How to Paint an Oak Stair Railing

Back in the beginning of the year one of my goals was to paint the stair rail. With the help of my friends at Ace Hardware, I used paint to update the oak railing and couldn’t be happier with the results! It is the first thing guests see when they walk in, and with just a little bit of paint our entry looks like a totally different space.

How to paint an oak stair railing black and white

I started off giving the wood a light sand with 220 grit sand paper, then moved onto using a good primer – Zinnser Bulls Eye 1-2-3.  I did two light coats of primer, sanding between coats. I could have gotten away with one coat, but I could still see some of the oak under the primer, and I think it’s easier to get a smooth finish with the final paint if I’m not also trying to cover color of the wood underneath.

Zinnser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer for covering stained oak wood before painting

Next I did a couple of light coats using the Ace Cabinet, Door & Trim Semi-Gloss Alkyd Enamel Paint, letting it dry between coats and sanding between.

Ace Hardware Cabinet, Door, & Trim Alkyd Enamel Water Based Paint for painting oak wood stair railing


The colors I used are Natural Cotton for the white and Black Chiffon  for the rail. I wanted the rail to contrast, but didn’t want a pitch black. I’m really happy with how the colors turned out. The Natural Cotton is a creamy white, which I tend to prefer for trim and cabinets. The Black Chiffon is a dark charcoal color which I think could look great for a lot of projects including doors and furniture.

This paint is a water based alkyd acrylic, so it self levels and dries very smoothly. It’s great for furniture, cabinets, trim, doors, or any application where an oil based paint would be good, but you don’t want to deal with the fumes and cleanup of oil based paint.

How to paint an oak stair railing black and white

The trick to using this type of paint is use light coats. You don’t want to keep going back over your brush strokes because once it starts drying, it starts leveling out. Over brushing this paint will show the brush marks. I brushed on once then went back over it once to get it smooth, and that’s it. I try not to go back over the areas I have already painted. Let it dry completely, give it a very light sand, then do your next coat. I find this paint to be a slower drying paint, which makes sense since  that helps it smooth and level out. If you do your coats too thick, you’ll come back 30 minutes later to drips.

This paint doesn’t need a top coat – it looks great and performs well as is. But, I really wanted a rock hard, super smooth, professional looking job here, and I think a clear top coat always adds a nice dimension and professional look. I also really like the super smooth feel of a top coat. I went with Minwax Polycrylic in Satin which is water based, so it’s easy to use and cleanup, and it doesn’t have a strong smell. It doesn’t yellow, and it adds another layer of protection for something that will get a lot of wear and tear (especially with our little one on the way).

How to paint an oak stair railing black and white

I’ve read some people have problems with Polycrylic bubbling, and I haven’t noticed that. Just make sure you don’t shake or stir the can too vigorously, use a high quality, smooth brush, and be gentle when filling your brush. Use very thin coats because it is runny, letting it dry completely between coats.

How to paint oak stair railing black and white

Products used:

PS – I posted a nursery update on Involving Home plus a new bump pic!

A Giveaway!

As a treat for you, I’m giving away a $100 gift card to Ace Hardware!

All you have to do to enter is visit Ace Hardware and leave a comment below telling me what you would do with your winnings. That’s it! 

A winner will be chosen at random. The giveaway closes at 11:59 pm on Thursday, November 13.

Check out the rest of the Ace Bloggers !


I am a member of the Ace Hardware Blogger Panel and was provided the product and supplies for this project. I was also compensated for my time, however all opinions are my own.


  1. Christine says

    I’d love to buy a ladder and some cabinet paint so I could freshen up my dated kitchen. (That’s what I’d use the gift card for if I won the giveaway.)

  2. Ruth says

    We want so badly to paint our kitchen cabinets and would love to be able to do them before our son comes home with his new bride. This would help us so much!

  3. David says

    There is a product called Wet and Forget that is only sold at Ace(in my area at least). I have heard great things aboiut it and want to try it out. That is what I would use the gift card for. That, and lawn and leaf bags.

  4. INEZ LINTZ says

    Ace is my place for keys. I got Texas Tech keys made for our front door.
    I have always been able to find weed killer and gaskets as well as replacement
    filter for the lawn mower. Garden soil, hoses and gloves are always in stock.

  5. Nancy Klich says

    Just used a gallon of Ace’s Kenzington and Clark paint plus primer. Love it! I have several other painting projects and would love to have $100 to spend at Ace getting more of this fabulous paint.

  6. Dandi D says

    We our moving to a new house soon, so there are lots of things I could use this for–light bulbs, paint, cabinet hardware, even Christmas lights!

  7. Pam says

    I enjoyed reading your post. My question is….what is the name of the paint color or your walls in the AFTER picture? This color looks so nice with the white railings. I am struggling with finding a foyer color. Thank you.

  8. Tracey Wolf says

    My son and his fiance are going to have a baby and I would use the $100 to purchase paint for the new babies room. Would love to try the one step chalk paint on some old furniture.

  9. Vicki Voigt says

    I love the oak stair railing you did!! I am heading to Ace to pick up the paint right now!!
    I am also needing to redo my kitchen cabinets. So inspired!! I sure could use the $100.00 gift card to help me buy the supplies for those. Great job and thanks for the help!!

  10. Saneybi says

    Hi I found this post to be very helpful. If I were to win I would use it to buy paint to transform my new home. I just bought a new home and the colors on it are not me at all. I want to make my home come alive again.

  11. Claudia Rosario says

    Thank you for the blog, I learned a lot. I have own this home since 2011; my first home ever, and now its when I am slowly starting to make changes to it. I would love to buy paint, brushes, and rollers to update the stairs. I want to remove the white from the top and gel stain it so I need to buy everything that goes with that.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>