To get started, you need a small sanding block, the brand General Finishes stain in the color Java. I only needed a quart - and still have plenty left. Also, the same brand in a polyurethane for the top coat. I only ordered a pint, and have more than half a can left. I ordered the satin finish because I didn't want it super shiny. Foam brushes work the best - I tried out several and kept going back to the foam. In all the research I did for this project, one thing I discovered is everyone said not to use any other brand stain gel than this one - General Finishes is the brand to trust.
A good primer is a must for the white spindles.
The very first thing to do is to use a small sanding block and go over all the areas you are going to stain. I didn't sand my spindles since they would be primed and painted. I spent maybe an hour sanding, not much at all, just enough to take off a good amount of the existing old poly coat. There were a few spots I didn't sand, and looking back I regretted it. I highly suggest just a quick sanding over all surfaces to be stained. Be sure and use a damp rag and go over every rail and spindle to remove all the dust you created by sanding.
The next step is to tape off around the areas you are going to use the Java gel stain. I didn't worry about taping off the spindles because they are just going to be painted anyway. I would highly suggest doing the brown stain before the white spindles.
Be SURE you have some gloves to wear before you start staining. I found some at Lowe's for just a few dollars, several pairs in a package. This stain does not come off your hands very easily. I did have mineral spirits close by and it came in pretty handy at times. Using your foam brush, paint on the gel stain making sure to catch any drips or clumps. This stuff is really thick, but goes on smooth. The directions on the can say to paint a coat on, let dry a few minutes and then wipe off. I did that at first as you can see here in this picture above. It made a huge mess and I felt like it was counter productive. The rest of the project, I ignored the "wipe off" step and it worked so much better. I did the first layer of Java in just a few hours and then waited until the next day to do the second coat. After two coats, I felt pretty good about how it looked, and just did some touch ups here and there where I felt it was needed.
After I was happy with how the java looked, I started priming the spindles. This was the trickiest part of the project. I used a small art brush and free-handed all the edges where the spindles met the Java stained wood. I used a foam brush for the rest of the spindle. Any other brush I tried left tiny splatters of white on the freshly stained java. Um - NO. The foam brush was the best. I did 2-3 coats of primer, and then three coats of paint. Put on a great audio book or listen to some podcasts. It was a great time to catch up on some of my favorite homeschool podcasts! If you want to listen to some great ideas on education, have a listen to some audio recordings from the Circe Institute. My favorite was "A Contemplation of Nature" - WOWSA. Have a listen - and happy painting.
The paint color I used on the spindles is more of a cream than a white. The rest of the trim in our house is a cream color and I wanted it to match. The color is called Homestead Resort Cameo White from Lowes. It is the same color I used when I painted our kitchen cabinets also.
The final step was to do a simple poly coat again using a foam brush. The coats dried very quickly so we did two coats in one day. I only did poly on the java stained wood, not the spindles. You could certainly do the spindles as well, but since they are a semi-gloss, I didn't feel it was needed. They also don't get as much wear as the handrails and base boards do.
So that's it!! It was a pretty simple project, just a bit tedious. What a transformation though! It's a great way to update your home, for very little money and it makes a really big impact - especially if your stairs are the first thing guests see when they enter your home.