A wooden staircase may be an original feature within a domestic space or a listed office building. In both circumstances restoration will one day become an issue. Restoring wooden banisters and balustrades is a careful and sympathetic job. The result has the potential to give a staircase a new lease of life for the next twenty years. However it can be a huge job to take on unless you have professional experience.
It’s easy to neglect a wooden staircase. This part of a building experiences heavy traffic and handling but is also time consuming to maintain. For this reason, the banisters of many staircases accumulate multiple layers of gloss paint. This hides aesthetic detail but highlights any defects that have built up over the years. It also means that the prospect of restoring wooden banisters becomes more and more daunting!
Before the restoration must come the preparation. A large part of this is stripping back layers of paint and varnish. This is likely to have built up over many years and under many residents. Remember that if your building is old or listed you may encounter paint that contains lead, so a face mask is essential.
To speed up the process, many people consider removing the spindles and using a chemical dip removal technique. Although very strong stripping solutions are restricted to tradespeople, they are not always appropriate. A good decorator will asses the age and condition of the wood, as chemical dipping may damage the shape and colour of the wood. It may therefore be more prudent to leave spindles in place while restoring wooden banisters.
To sand out imperfections in the banister wood, a medium coarseness sandpaper or sanding pads are best. Ensure that you follow the wood grain to build the foundation for an extremely smooth finish.
After a lengthy preparation comes the process of building up of layers of the chosen finish. With many options to consider here, we look at the benefits of each when restoring wooden banisters.
Apply with a brush along the wood-grain, removing any excess before it dries. Make sure to remove any stain stuck in holes or cracks with a dry brush. Layer the woodstain until you achieve your desired shade and allow it to dry overnight. Staining will not protect the wood of your banisters so it is prudent to apply a layer of clear sealer to the surface.
Don’t start painting without priming! Wood primers protect the wood from staining and enable the paint layers to adhere better to the wood. If a staircase is very large, spray painting may be an option. However, it is vital (and tricky!) to protect the surrounding area flawlessly. Expect two or even three coats of paint for a durable and attractive finish.
If you want a natural wood finish, waxes, stains and oils may be relatively easy to use but they don’t offer much durability. Standard varnishes can look artificial, especially when incorrectly applied. This is why many people opt to finish their staircase with french polishing. This is the build up of shellac polish coats to restore a staircase to be in keeping with existing period features. This makes french polishing the best way to achieve a fully matched finish for old and historic buildings.
Is it worth it?
The value of a property can really benefit from restoring wooden banisters to their original splendour. For older buildings under commercial use, the maintenance of original features may also form part of your commitments as a landlord. It’s amazing to rediscover original mouldings and details through restoration. Unless the wood is fundamentally damaged or rotting, it is always worth maintaining this part of a building.
When to go Professional
The process of restoration is a lengthy one, and to achieve it will take a considerable time investment. Especially if the staircase is experiencing any structural issues, the hands of a professional carry huge value. Here at HL Decorating, we achieve a lustrous french polish finish with accurate historical matching. We’re also able to work within your time constraints to bring unbeatable results.