Staining and varnishing stairs

Q: We are in the process of remodeling. Our stairs have plywood on them now. We have decided to use red oak on them. Do you know the proper staining and varnishing stairs process?

A: Do I know the proper staining and varnishing process? Yes, I have been doing this more than 33 years. Enough time to know it is usually not a do it yourself project. Voc laws are different in the U.S. than Canada, so many products you have and I have may not be exactly the same. There are all sorts of issues involved in this work and so many finishes to choose from. some are better in some situations than others. I still prefer an oil based poly to water borne, but it has to be lightly buffed between each coat and generally takes longer to dry. Staining stairs should not be a big issue. If it is a dark colour especially, wet the wood after thoroughly sanding to a smooth surface to open the grain. When the water (not soaked) is dry wipe the stain on with a cloth. Allow to penetrate a couple of minutes and wipe off. Allow the stain to dry at least overnight before attempting to coat. If using a water borne urethane, it is safer to allow a couple of days at least. There are numerous other issues in the “what if” department, but I won’t even go there.

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