Give A Tired Staircase A Budget-Friendly Refresh

When Ed O’Riley and his wife, Joanne bought their Plumstead just over 2 years ago, they set about renovating the 60-year old property bit by bit. The kitchen and bathroom were first on the list, but the staircase soon became an eyesore they couldn’t live with. Here’s how they gave their old staircase a budget-friendly refresh.

You will need:

  • 19mm shutter ply
  • Wall paint in the colour of your choice
  • Genkem contact adhesive
  • Flexible Wood Sealant (we used Alcolin Flexible Wood Sealant in pine)
  • Foam flooring underlay
  • Wood sealer (we used Woodoc Water-Borne Clear)


You Will Also Need:

  • Jigsaw or Bandsaw
  • Router
  • Sander


The first task was to lift the tired old carpet. When the carpet fixings were removed, it damaged the cement structure underneath, so Ed repaired the cement and painted it with universal undercoat.

Using paper, he made templates of all the treads and carefully cut the 19mm shutter ply to size. Shutter ply is a compressed wood made up of several layers of pine sheets. It is much more affordable than solid wood and gives a beautiful linear pattern on the edges. 

The edges were routered to a bullnose and then the treads were sealed using Woodoc Water-Borne sealer. It’s a clear sealer that doesn’t affect the colour of the wood too much, so it’s great to use on light wood. Each tread received 3 coats of sealer with a light sanding between coats.

Next, every tread got a piece of foam underlay fixed with contact adhesive. This ensures a soft landing on each step.

The wood pieces are then fixed on top of the underlay with contact adhesive. The gaps between the wood and the walls were filled in with Alcolin flexible wood filler. It’s applied using a caulking gun which gives great control over the amount of filler being dispensed and the exact position. It’s also very important to use a flexible filler to allow for slight movement or expansion/contraction of the wood.

Next, they painted the risers with a soft neutral grey after which Joanne added some patterns in a deeper grey with a stencil. The patterns add a fun personal touch to this neutral and light-filled staircase.

I love that this is such a clever idea that is super cost-effective while looking great. The risers can easily be repainted when they scuff, and the treads can be sanded and refinished if necessary. Here are a few things that Ed learned during this project:


  1. Remember that the wood will need to overlap the front of the stair by at least 15mm. So when you make your templates, add 20mm to the front. This will also allow for the wastage when cutting and routering.
  2. Be prepared for A LOT of dust if you remove a carpet – especially if it’s an older house.
  3. As always with any wood project: MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE!

Happy DIY-ing!


Have you tried this yet? Please share your experience!

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