Staircases, no matter what size, serve an important purpose—yet you might overlook yours when decorating. An appealing staircase can tie together your home’s aesthetic and make your trips up and down safer and more comfortable. The following upgrades are simple and affordable, and can be completed in an afternoon or over a weekend.

Hardwood staircases

Gorgeous hardwood staircases can be a statement by themselves, but there are a few steps you can take to make your staircase stand out.

Paint or stain your treads and risers
There are two parts to every stair: the top tread and the riser underneath. Depending on the look you want, consider adding a fresh coat of paint to one or both parts. For a classic and elegant look, leave the treads unpainted and paint the risers a neutral, clean color. If you prefer a bold, playful look, paint the treads and risers a bright color that matches your home’s decor.

If you’re not planning to paint, wood refinishing is a tried-and-true way to give your stairs a new look. Be sure to test the stain on one tread first to make sure it dries in a way you like. You can always add another coat of stain, so start with one coat, then layer as needed. Be sure to add an appropriate finish atop the stain. Typically, a clear, water-based polyurethane varnish is best for stairs.

Add a stair runner
Stair runners or rugs can elevate the look of your staircase and provide a layer of comfort for your feet. To find the right stair-runner length, measure the depth of the stair tread and the height of the riser, add those together, and then multiply the total by the number of stairs. When you place a runner, use a sticky back, like a pad or stair-safe glue, to prevent slippage or damage to your stairs.

Carpeted staircases

Carpeted stairs can add warmth to a home. However, if your carpet hasn’t been tended to in a while, it can make your stairs look dull and dated rather than cozy.

Remove the carpet
If your carpet isn’t your style anymore, you can easily replace it with hardwood! With most hardwood overlay systems, you can measure, cut away the carpet, and install custom hardwood overlays. There is typically no sanding, staining, or finishing required, which makes this a weekend project you can complete in no time.

Steam and clean the carpet
Alternatively, if you love your carpet, you should consider refreshing it with a professional steaming and cleaning—especially if your carpet is a light color. A deep clean will lift dirt, stains, and other imperfections to make it look as new as the day you moved in.


In addition to your stair treads, handrails can have a big impact on the look of your staircase. If you decide to keep your existing handrails, you should still give them a good cleaning since they are prime spots for grime buildup.

Change the posts
Elegant or bold railing posts at the top and bottom of your staircase help mark your style. Change your wood posts to iron ones for an industrial look or to a different shape and size of wood post if you prefer something more traditional.

Swap the spindles
In between your posts, spindles—or balusters if you have no railing footing—keep the railing in place, so sturdy spindles or balusters are an important safety measure. There are several spindle and baluster options, including wood, iron, and cable. Find ones that are the same size as your current ones for an easy replacement if you’re not changing the railing above.

Upgrading your staircase is a worthwhile step up for your home’s value, comfort, and style.