Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chalk Paint Makeover: The Stair Rail

So, let's take a vote: Stain or paint? I repeat, stain or paint? Hmmm...? Well, if the post title didn't give it away, you guessed it! It's paint! Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, to be exact. 

For about a year, our stair rail and our banister rail did not match. One still possessed its original golden oak stain while the other had a new dark walnut stain. I knew we needed to make the two match, but I absolutely dreaded stripping and re-staining the massive rail that led upstairs. The mismatched railing bugged me everyday, but the project loomed before me. 

Then, Mark suggested painting it. At first, I balked at the idea. I knew I didn't want to paint it solid white or black-- the craftsmanship of the piece was too good and the wood grain too pretty. But then the idea struck us... 

Maybe there was a way to chalkpaint the piece in such a way that it would mimic stain. 

Here's a glimpse of the original railing before we began our Chalk Paint makeover. Not bad-- it just didn't match. Also, please pardon our carpeted stairs. Ugh. I sincerely wish we could rip out the carpet and replace it with lovely stained risers. But since we haven't won the lottery... that's not happening anytime soon. 

Anyway, back to the rail.

As Annie Sloan Chalk Paint has continued to prove time and again... anything is possible! This project took about an hour to complete and was mind-bogglingly easy. Today, I want to share how we achieved this "stain look" without stripping, sanding, or staining.

What You'll Need:

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Graphite
Stirring sticks
Paint brushes
Annie Sloan Soft Dark Wax
paper towels
clean buffing rag

What You'll Do:

1. Make sure the rail is clean and free of dust

2. Mix the Graphite Chalk Paint with a few tablespoons of water. Some people recommend doing a 50/50 mix, but I felt that this was a bit too runny for the amount of coverage I wanted. Mine was probably more like 60/40 or 70/30. You do want it to be a bit drippy, however. 

3. Dip your brush into the water-paint mixture. With a spare paper towel, dab some of the paint off so that only a little remains on your brush. Then, paint onto the railing with quick, even strokes. Work a small section. I probably did about a foot or two of railing at a time. 

4. Go back with a clean paper towel and wipe away the excess paint. This will behind leave a "whitewash" affect. You can even work the paint into the wood grain somewhat.

5. Continue down the length of the rail, repeating steps 3 and 4. If your opened can of paint begins to thicken, just add a little more water. 

6. Allow the first coat to dry, then repeat with a second coat. 

7. Once the paint has dried, apply a coat of Annie Sloan Soft Dark Wax using a clean rag or paper towel. Remember that a little bit goes along way with the wax. Tip: you may want to wear gloves when using dark wax so your finger nails don't look gunky. 

8. Allow the wax to dry, then buff the rail to a high sheen using a clean rag. It make take the wax about a week to fully "cure." 

You would not believe how easy this was and how closely it matches the walnut stain on the rest of the railing. As you can see in the above picture, the rail's brackets were outdated brass, complete with paint chips. After these photos were taken, we ended up removing the brackets and spray painting them black to match the wrought iron balusters upstairs. Much cheaper than paying $6 a bracket to replace them all. 

What do you think? Feel brave enough to try out a Chalk Paint wash over staining? The best part: zero prep work. I just wiped off the dust and got to work. It cut down on time, money, and yucky stain smells. Finally no more mismatched railing! 

What's your favorite Chalk Paint project? 


  1. Love it, exactly what I want to do but I have a dark chocolate brown stain already on my rails. I might try this and see what happens. Any suggestions with a darker rail?

    1. Hi Amanda! Thanks for reading! I guess it depends on the look you're going for. I wanted a "dark walnut" type look-- so I used Graphite and dark wax. If you want a lighter look, you could do a wash with lighter paint (Paris Gray, Old White, Pure White, etc) on top of the dark stain and come out with a weathered wood look.

  2. Hi Abigail, would this technique work on the same type of oak cabinets? If I do the railings I would want to do the cabinets also. The oak is everywhere in my home so I would want it all to match. It stands to reason that it would, but I wanted to get your opinion. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jenny! Thanks for stopping by! I have not tried this exact method on cabinets yet, but I have done numerous cabinet refinishes using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint products. So in my opinion, yes it would work. If your cabinets have any kind of heavy topcoat or lacquer on them, I might would lightly stand them first, just to help the wash adhere a little better. Hope this helps!

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  4. Hi there! My question is similar to the previous questions in that I am also looking to refinish my golden oak cabinets. Do you have to do the chalk paint white wash before using the dark wax? Or can the wax be applied directly to the cabinet to achieve a darker tone? I have not used Annie Sloan paints/waxes yet, so I'm not sure if you need the chalk paint "base" before you can apply any wax. Thanks!

    1. Hi Amy! I would suggest using a chalk paint "base" first as the wax is made specifically to go on top of paint. It soaks into the porous chalk paint and hardens. Also, just a free tip: a little bit of wax goes a long way. Its kind of like shoe polish-- you don't want to seriously smear it on the cabinets. As you apply it, you'll be able to tell by touch what areas seem to need more or less. Annie Sloan's website has a lot of helpful tips regarding using the wax as well-- its easy to use for sure! But it does help to watch a video or read a description your first time using it!

  5. Hello! I'm just curious if your stair rail has finger joints on it?

  6. so you did not sand or do any prep work on your handrails?? How have they held up with the use? Did you put clear wax down before the dark wax??

  7. I love this idea because our banisters and handrails do not match our floors. I didn't want to deal with sanding down and staining. I followed your instructions but when I wiped back the wash it all just came off. So then I tried dry brushing a really watered down version (but put it on dry) and that was an exact match to my floors! I couldn't' believe it! But when I went to put on the wax, the paint just came off. I do a lot of chalk painting and that has never happened to me before. So I figured the surface was just too slick. So I washed off all the chalk paint and scuffed everything with 150grit along the grain. Then I applied a light coat of shellac. I went back over and did the same thing with the paint...and again the wax removed the chalk paint! So frustrating! I decided to re do the chalk paint and then brush on a water based poly and see if that does the trick. Thanks for t his post

  8. nice article, using great equipment to renovate a house will fasten your work, besides it will produce you with smooth result!


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