The last time you saw our enormous railing it was bare naked. As you probably remember, while Titus removed the linoleum, I was hard at work sanding the railing and stairs. The plan was to stain the large posts, and the top railing and bottom baluster holder piece that is parallel to the floor.
I wanted to match the railing and stair stain to the color of the laminate as closely as possible. For the railing, I decided to use Minwax Polyshades in Mission Oak, which is a polyurethane and stain combination. I chose the satin finish since I don't like anything too shiny.
The only thing I did to prepare for the railing staining process was push some frog tape down into the carpet as far as possible. Then, I began brushing on the Polyshades with a brush Home Depot labeled as "better;" I don't remember the brand, but if you look at the brushes at Home Depot, you will know what I'm talking about. This Polyshades stuff was pretty terrible to apply. It didn't go on evenly, and I had to do a lot of spot touch ups. After the first coat I was certain I had made a terrible mistake, but the second spot touch up coat helped significantly. I also ended up going back and applying a layer of semi-gloss poly because the satin finish made it look like there was no poly at all -- just gross, dull stain. After just one coat of semi-gloss poly the railing was looking acceptable.
I should note that the Polyshades doesn't really blend with the wood grain like normal stain, it mostly just covers it up and lets a little of it show through. Below you will see the verticle lines, which are not wood grain, but are mostly just brush strokes. It doesn't look completely terrible, but the darker you go in color, the less wood grain you will see.
For the stairs I planned to use a mixture of Minwax Provincial, Dark Walnut, and English Chestnut covered with a top coat of Minwax polyurethane in a semi-gloss. Yes, I thought it was necessary to mix three different stain colors together to get the correct color.
Before applying the stain to the stairs, I first cleaned them with Minwax Pre-Stain which I had on a rag. This is supposed to prevent unevenness and clean of any other random dirtiness the stairs have left. It also prevents the wood from getting those little raised splinter-like spots that sometimes happen when staining.
To apply the stain to the stairs, I used some disposable rags from home depot. I did two coats of stain. For each coat I slapped on a bunch of stain, waited ten minutes, and wiped off the excess. As you wipe the excess off you can even out any blotches by not taking as much stain of in those areas, and taking more stain off in the darker areas. Just make sure you don't leave extra stain sitting to dry on the wood.
My stairs ended up having a few spots of blotchiness, but nothing too devastating. Luckily, we actually have quarter round that goes on the edges of each tread and riser, so I didn't need to sand or stain the edges of our stairs, which is why they look hideous in this picture.
The color is also terribly off in this picture since the flash was used and my camera hates me.
After one full weekend, I completed staining and polyurethaning the stairs, and applied approximately one coat (give or take some touch ups) of Polyshades and one coat of semi-gloss poly to the railing. The railing included the large posts, and the parts parallel to the floor.
I am actually pretty happy with how the railing color matches up with the floor color.
During this entire process we were not able to climb the stairs, therefore we set up Titus' enormous ladder over the railing. We wanted the poly to cure as long as possible before we used the stairs at all. The poly can says it takes one week to fully cure but can take some light use in 48 hours. Since our dog doesn't know the meaning of light use, he would not be traveling the stairs until they had fully cured.
This meant Jacque would need to stay downstairs for a full week. Since I couldn't possibly make Jacque sleep all alone, Titus and I set up camp in the family room with Jacque for the whole week the stairs cured. It was like camping!
After camping for a week, we walked upstairs to view our beautiful before and after:
Now, I just need to prime and paint the balusters white and throw up some board and batten on the yellow part of the wall!