Prep ugly basement stairs for painting

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IamAllThumbs

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My wife has a quilting home business in our basement and while we don't want to spend a lot of $ to re-do the basement stairs, we'd like to make them look a little better now that she has customers coming down to her studio.

The house came with the basement unfinished, so the stairs were never a pretty job. From what I can tell from the bullnose of the treads, they are painted (or just primed) particle board, so it has some surface texture, and some wear and tear. That includes nail holes where the tack strips were nailed down for the carpet and scratches that I suspect were done when they cut the carpet or underlayment (see pic)

I'm not sure what the risers are made from, it looks like I can see wood grain under the paint, so I suspect not the same particle boards.

1663015970535.png

I have another thread about closing the gaps you see in the picture (maybe just calking) and stopping the stair squeaking, so let's ignore them for now.

My question is how do I prep the stairs to get a "good" paint job. I don't expect perfection, it's just a basement and we will put some of those individual step carpet rugs, something along the lines of:

1663017640152.png

but I would love to do a decent job.

I can fill in the nail holes with putty, and fix the gap. Should I try and sand each tread for example to remove the slash marks? I've never worked with particle board before, so I'm not sure if sanding it will make things worse. I suppose I need to use suction and wear a mask since I don't trust manufactured woods to be healthy for you. Can I improve the bullnose texture with sanding, or is it just a fact of life that it will have that glued wood chips look?

Are there tricks I can play with priming or painting? I don't know if there is such a thing as "thick" primer/paint that will hide some of the underlying texture?

Finally is there special "high-traffic" paint I should use that will withstand traffic better? (at least the rugs will help)
 

RedneckGrump

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Lots of questions there Buddy... I personally would give a step quicksand to see what you are dealing with, shouldn't have to sand them all... I would just sand the first one... Once I did that I would know more about what I am dealing with... I think you will find the whole step is done in the same wood... I be very surprised if it was particle board... I would not think that is the safest thing to be used... But I have been wrong 100 percent before...

Most stairs I have seen are done in pine... I would roughen them up, once I know what the product is... and then give them a good two coats of primer, and then a good coat of a semi-gloss or flat paint.

There's a GREAT magazine YOU can see online for free... That gives 100 different ideas for doing jobs around the house. I used to subscribe to it, but now I just read it online...


Family Handyman Magazine

Stairway Ideas

So, Buddy, there are two ideas for you... There is also a Pro edition every month you can look at also...

Cheers... God Bless!
 

IamAllThumbs

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Yup the treads are particle board. Not MDF but the coarser stuff, you can zoom in the pic and see the texture at the bullnose and spot where the paint wore off. I also sanded them partially as part of the prep below.

I filled the major holes with wood putty, like the nail holes where the carpet strips used to be.

I also rubbed spackling compound into the bullnose to smooth out the texture. It seems that half the internet says to do so and half of it says it'll eventually fall off. Since it's just a thin layer filling in the gap between the prices of sawdust that make up the wood, and I'll prime and paint, I'm going to take my chances. This is a bit of a learning project and not expecting perfection, especially with the landing between the two flights of stairs being OSB.

So far I've done more prep than I intended but I think it'll give me a chance at a better final result.

I need to finish sanding the second flight, calk the edges then I'll be priming and painting this weekend.

Still enjoying it, but I know myself, I get tired of projects that stretch over more than 2 weeks, and I have a busy job during the day. My wife is working this weekend so I should be able to spend quality time with the project.
 

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