Open-backed stairs

Q: My home is split level with open-backed stairs (treads but no risers). The treads are 2x Douglas Fir and are presently wrapped by carpeting. The stringers are also Douglas Fir and have been painted dark brown. Whoever painted the stringers got paint on the top of the treads where they intersect the stringers. I am re-flooring the home with Santos Mahogany and need to get the carpeting off the treads for aesthetic reasons.

What is my best course of action – sand the paint off the stringers and treads and then stain them; or just paint the treads to match the stringers; or veneer the treads with Santos Mahogany? I’m having a heck of a time figuring out what to do on a limited budget.

A: I would not even consider installing the flooring on a tread such as this. Painting is easier and less expensive. If there is not a lot of paint already on the treads and you like the look of the natural wood, you could sand them off and stain them as you like. Otherwise paint everything.

Follow-up Q: The Doug Fir stair stringers are completely covered in dark brown paint. Can I sand the stringers down and then stain them or I am setting myself up for failure?

A: You can certainly remove the paint, but I would use a chemical stripper to remove the bulk of the paint first. Then use a random orbital sander to clean up the rest. You are in for quite a job.