How to Sand Hardwood Stairs

If you have hardwood stairs in your home they most likely get a lot of traffic. Over time the varnish that protects them can wear away in places and the steps can become scratched and damaged. This is when you will need to sand them to protect and preserve the wood.

You Will Need

  • Belt sander or hand sander
  • Various grades of sandpaper
  • Shop Vacuum
  • Work gloves
  • Mask
  • Drop cloth
  • Masking or duct tape
  • Hammer
  • Countersink tool

Step 1: Prepare the Area

Sanding wood floors and steps can be a messy, dusty job. Seal the area off from the rest of the house using drop cloths and tape. This will eliminate a lot of cleaning and dusting later. Also, shut off your furnace or air conditioning so any dust created will not be sucked into it and your duct work.

Step 2: Preparing the Sander

You will want to start with a coarse grit sandpaper to remove all the old varnish. If you rent a sander ask for their advice on the size and type to use for the job you are doing. It is generally for sale where you rent the sander. Some belt sanders come with a vacuum feature that captures the dust, so spending the money to rent this equipment is a good idea.

Step 3: Sanding

Before you sand, remove any carpet treads from the steps and check all steps for loose nails. Be sure to hammer them down and countersink them before you start to sand or they can rip your sandpaper and ruin it. Sweep the steps well.

Put the coarsest grit sandpaper you have on the sander and start at the top step of the staircase. Put on your gloves and your mask. Sand with the grain of the wood. Get as close to the edge of the steps as you can, both front to back and side to side. Check your sandpaper often for wear. If your sander doesn't remove dust, you may have to stop and vacuum occasionally. When the varnish is removed, move to the next step.

When you have coarse sanded all steps, change the sandpaper to a medium grit and re-sand all of the steps. This will help to remove any small bits of varnish that may be left and start to smooth the wood and refine it. Remove all dust after you have finished.

The final sanding is with a fine grit sandpaper. This is called finish sanding. This is the process that smooths the wood and makes it like new wood. You won't need to press as hard with the sander when you are finish sanding.

If any varnish remains around the edges or against the riser of the step, you will have to hand sand it using a sanding block and sandpaper to get it all off. Don't be tempted to leave it, as the old varnish will ruin the look of all your hard work. This removal can be tedious, but it is worth it. If you are lucky enough to have a hand sander with a pointed end, it will work perfectly for this job.