How to Paint Basement Steps + Pros & Cons (Video)

Painting your basement stairs results in a beautiful, dependable surface that requires minimal maintenance. When I moved into my current house, I had to paint the whole staircase to the basement before using the lower levels. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot from it.

Sand the steps, prepare and apply the paint, then add an anti-skid additive, and you’re done. Paint steps with porch and floor paint, designed to withstand foot usage. Use light-colored paint to reflect the available light and increase visibility and safety if your basement is dark or dimly lit.

You can paint a stenciled or original multicolored pattern to add flair to your stairs. Decorate confidently, knowing today’s most robust, longest-lasting floor paints comply with EPA regulations. They have low odor, volatile compound content, lead and mercury-free composition, and soap, offering water tool cleanup.

Basement Steps

How to paint basement steps

First, you’ll need a dust mask, protective eyewear, fine-grit sandpaper, tack cloth, bucket, cleaning rags, a household cleaner, paint-preparation solution, porch and floor paint, stir-stick, additive for mildew prevention, a paintbrush or applicator, anti-skid additive, and a fan.

Follow these steps:

1. Sand the steps

Lightly sand new or bare wood steps to prepare them. Wear a dust mask with safety glasses to avoid breathing in dust or other particles. 

Starting with medium grit sandpaper and working your way down to fine grit, sand the steps toward the wood grain. Using a tack cloth, wipe away the sanding dust.

Clean the stairs with a household cleaner or a paint-prep solution if you plan to refinish them. Use rags to dry the steps, or let them air dry completely. 

If the steps were already painted with non-lead paint, consider lightly sanding them with fine-grit sandpaper and wiping them with a tack cloth to etch the existing finish. New wood paint for stairs adheres better with etching.

2. Prepare the paint

Open the paint can and evenly stir it with a stick. Add a mildew preventative and mix if you reside in an area with mildew and mold issues.

You should also consider a French drain around your house or a sump pump system for your basement.

3. Apply the paint

Use a brush or a painting pad first to paint the stringers; these are the outside surfaces of open steps. Next, paint the step’s vertical fronts or risers. Paint the area you walk on, and the treads last.

Start painting from the top of the stairs and work down if you have another route out of the basement. If the steps are the only access, paint other treads and let them dry for at least 8 hours or overnight. The painted treads can then be used for walking while you work on the unpainted treads. 

Use two coats of paint for a longer-lasting finish, especially on the treads.

4. Add an anti-skid ingredient

Combine an anti-skid ingredient with the paint for the final coat of paint on the treads. This safety measure reduces the possibility of someone slipping on the stairs. As an alternative, purchase specialized textured paint for this use.

Open any basement windows to increase airflow and hasten to dry even if new paint formulations have a minimal odor. If required, use a fan for better air circulation. Place the fan away from the painting area so it does not blow directly on it.

To make cleaning more straightforward and to brighten the space, mainly if you use the basement as storage, paint the underside of the stairs.

Advantages of painting basement steps

Some of the pros of painting basement steps include the following:

  1. Your wooden basement steps will be much simpler to clean if you paint them instead of varnishing them, and painting is typically easier. 
  2. Painting is also less expensive than carpet installation, which can damage wood due to the usage of staples and tack strips. 
  3. Depending on how you want to use the area, painting can even provide a fun splash of color. You can discover many ideas for designs you can paint on your steps and limitless combinations of ways to paint your steps.
  4. DIY-friendly: Painting your stairs is a DIY job you can complete, even though it takes some time.

In my experience painting the steps in a basement in a barndominium, the result was excellent and prevented water and termite damage to the whole stairway.

Disadvantages of painting basement steps

The cons of painting basement steps include the following:

  1. It takes a lot of time, involves numerous processes, and frequently necessitates waiting for things to dry for 24 hours.
  2. If you’re not a professional painter, it’s challenging to get it correct. DIY projects frequently appear shoddy if adequate care is not given.
  3. Paint does not last as long as staining does.
  4. Sometimes, it is not the best option for resale value.
  5. If you’re worried, adding a carpet runner might help. Stained or painted hardwood is more slippery than carpet.


Painting basement steps is relatively easy and straightforward. In most cases, it can be done over the weekend for a long-lasting result. It can keep your steps in great shape for a long time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of paint do you use on indoor stairs?

The best paints for indoor stairs are satin or semi-gloss finishes, as they’re durable, look good, and can even be used on outdoor stairs.

Should I paint or stain my basement stairs?

The best option is painting the risers and staining the treads. The stainer protects the heavily-used treads as the paint brings out the best look for the risers.

Should I sand my stairs before painting?

Sand the stairs with fine-grit sandpaper (200-grit) with the focus on the handrails, handles, and other wood surfaces. Vacuum away the dust, then wipe the sanded surfaces with a damp cloth before painting them.

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