$60 Carpet to Hardwood Stair Remodel

 We love stairs! Something about the beauty of a nicely stained and painted staircase… or the satisfaction of ripping the carpet off the stairs! Our guest today has a lovely hardwood stair remodel to share with us:

Carpet To Wood Stairs, DIY Stair Remodel, By The Serene Swede Featured On @Remodelaholic

We LOVED our remodeled painted and stained wood staircase in our last house (See the reveal here and check out all the steps here.)


…but if you live a little more on the wild side, check out some of these creative ways you could add color and character to your remodeled wood stairs!

rainbow and wood stairs, La Bellette Rose on Remodelaholic
La Belette Rose on Remodelaholic // pin this


pink polka dot stairs, Dos Family on Remodelaholic
Dos Family // pin this


painted stair runner, Take The Side Street on Remodelaholic
Take The Side Street on Remodelaholic


painted numbered stairs, Bees Knees Bungalow on Remodelaholic
Bees Knees Bungalow on Remodelaholic // pin this


coral ombre stairs, Design Sponge on Remodelaholic
Design Sponge on Remodelaholic // pin this


chevron painted stairs, Simple Dwellings on Remodelaholic
Simple Dwellings


green staircase
via Houzz // pin this


wooden crate staircase remodel, Funky Junk Interiors on Remodelaholic
Funky Junk Interiors on Remodelaholic // pin this

plus check out our favorite featured staircases and then 25 Great Staircases and Entries. And now that you’ve got stair envy… Here’s Stacy to share her carpet-to-wood stair remodel (you might remember her $20 board and batten kitchen island — Stacy knows how to stretch a dollar!)

Staircase Remodel, Carpet To Wood Stairs Tutorial, By The Serene Swede Featured On @Remodelaholic

$60 Carpet to Hardwood Stair Remodel

by Stacy of The Serene Swede

Hi everyone!  I am so happy to guest blogging again on one of my favorite blogosphere stops.   My name is Stacy and I spill my guts about all things DIY over at The Serene Swede. Between working on my crazy home projects and hanging with the fam, I also run my own little shop on Etsy. Working with my hands keeps me sane…I think.  Last time I was a guest on Remodelaholic I was able to share with you how I transformed my ugly Kitchen Island into something beautiful on a REALLY tight budget. Like, $18.25 tight. It was so inspiring hearing all of the wonderful comments left by you fantastic readers!  I hope that you enjoy this post just as much!

I had been set on changing the look of my stairs for a while but to be honest, until I had seen what Justin and Cassity had done to their stairs, I figured that re-carpeting them was the ONLY option.  The beautiful work they had done on theirs really lit a fire under my…well you know.  I had a few issues that I wasn’t sure how to contend with, however.  The first one being, I truly didn’t know what I was up against.  Stair remodeling kind of freaks me out.  It looks incredibly complicated!  The second is that I didn’t have that beautiful white wood skirting on the sides of my staircase.  I had carpet.

Yup! Carpet.

Who designs a house like that? I should also point out that my home wasn’t built in the 70’s.  It was built in 2003.  There’s just no excuse for it…

carpeted stair remodel, The Serene Swede on Remodelaholic
Aren’t those little stair models precious? I think so!

The day that I ripped the carpeting out really wasn’t too planned out.  My husband was out of town for the night and I really can’t explain what happened to me but I’m pretty sure my kids thought I had gone crazy.  We were planning on doing this someday so I guess it wasn’t that crazy.  I just started pulling up the corner to see what was underneath and decided then and there the carpet was coming off no matter what I found anyway, so I might as well just keep pulling.

ripping up stair carpet, The Serene Swede on Remodelaholic
My daughter must have wanted proof that I had lost my marbles so she snapped this gem.

 Step 1: Preparation

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience.  Click here to read our full disclosure policy.

Here’s a nice little list of the materials we ended up using for our project:

  • 1″x12″ pine boards for treads (make sure they are not warped)
  • 1/4″ plywood for skirting ripped to the size you need, we chose 15 width
  • 1/4″ plywood for risers, ripped to the height of each space
  • Liquid nails
  • caulk
  • wood conditioner (always use this before staining wood!)
  • stain (we used Minwax Dark Walnut)
  • Polyurethane
  • cloth to wipe away stain
  • cheap paint brush 
  • wood filler
  • screws
  • drill
  • miter saw 
  • sand paper
  • palm sander
  • safety goggles!!
  • screw driver and needle nose pliers (to get those staples out)
Our grand total to complete this project ended up being around $60!  
Not to shabby for a complete makeover, eh?

We had planned on getting to this project eventually so we had already purchased our 1x12x12 pine boards for the stair treads and had them in the house to acclimate to the surroundings. Wood expands and contracts so we really didn’t want any surprises with how they fit once they got used to our house.  Why pine? Well, because I just love the look of old, dark wood and knew that every dent would show and give it character.  If that’s not your thing, you should probably go with a harder wood like oak.

Step 2: Removing the Carpet

I don’t really have a magic answer for you on how to remove it.  I just pulled and it came up.  Hopefully, you would be that lucky too!  Wear some goggles though!  Staples will go soaring, yo! My carpet itself didn’t have any staples but the padding underneath sure did!

removing carpet from the stairs, The Serene Swede on Remodelaholic

Once the carpet was removed, I spent a little bit of time removing the staples and tack strips  from the existing treads.  I knew it might be a while until we could replace the treads and I certainly didn’t want any little toes getting cut open. Once you think you have them all, check again.  I guarantee you missed one.  If you don’t find it, it WILL find you!

Sweep up all that nasty stuff that just came out of your carpet and be thankful that you no longer have to vacuum those steps!

bare stairs before wood stair makeover, The Serene Swede on Remodelaholic

Step 3: Building a Stair Skirt

I had mentioned earlier that I didn’t have a stair skirt on the edges but instead had carpet. We used 1/4″ plywood to create a skirting that could then be painted white.  We had ours ripped down at the store to 15″ W and only had to worry about using the miter saw to create the angle in the board for the top and bottom portion.   Once we had that cut, we jammed that sucker into the gap along the stair treads and pushed it up against the trim.  I wish I could say that it was an easy job but it totally wasn’t.  We used liquid nails to put it up and had to try and NOT get glue everywhere as we slid it into place.  A wet rag was SUPER helpful.

Step 4: Remove Old Treads

Using a pry-bar, pull up those crazy pressed board treads and get ready to add on your new beauties!  I had to have a little help in this department from the hubs.  Apparently, I need to work out more!

Step 5: Dry Fit the New Treads

Once you have all of your new tread pieces cut, you’ll want to dry fit them before attaching just to make sure that they all fit.  If they do, then you are golden and ready to permanently attach them. All of our measurements were different for each stair so make sure to mark which one goes where with a number or you can easily get messed up.

cut a stair skirt and fit the new stair treads, The Serene Swede on Remodelaholic

Step 6: Attaching the New Treads

Once we were sure our measurements were correct, we drilled a few pilots holes in the treads to make sure that the wood wouldn’t split from the force of the screw being drilled in.  You would really hate to see all that hard work go down the drain if your wood starts splitting.  Better safe, than sorry!! Remove the tread and apply some adhesive to the supports of the stairs and place your tread back on and start adding your screws.  We counter sunk ours to make sure that we had enough room over the top to add wood putty and cover up the unsightly screw heads.

Step 7: Wood Putty the Holes and Sand Away!

We filled each and every measly screw hole with wood putty and let it dry.  After one application, we noticed that it started to sink down so our holes required 2 fillings of putty.  Once everything had dried, I took the orbital sander and sanded each tread (in the direction of the grain) first with a courser grit and then with a really fine one to get the smoothest finish possible.

Step 8:  Conditioning and Staining

Anytime you plan on staining softer woods, you should first apply wood conditioner to it to provide an even finish.  It only takes a few minutes and you will be ready to stain!  We chose Minwax Dark Walnut as our stain color because I just LOVE the dark against the white contrast.  Because our home is a split level with our main living space at the top of these stairs, this step required a little finagling. I ended up staining every other step to give us SOMETHING to walk on but after two coats per stair, I decided to try out another method. You’ll see that in step 9 🙂 You can also get as messy as you want with the staining process because you’ll be taping off and painting in another step.

staining hardwood stairs, The Serene Swede on Remodelaholic
hardwood stair remodel, The Serene Swede on Remodelaholic
It also helps to place an object on the stairs that don’t have fresh stain on them in order to remember which ones are wet!!

Step 9: Polyurethane

This is one of those moments in the project where I decided to change things up.  The “every other” method was taking too long and I was just too impatient.  This time, I started from the top of the stairs and worked my way down to the bottom doing each and every one.  Remember I said it was a split level? Well, it really worked to my advantage.  Once I finished applying the poly, I set up a fan at the the bottom of the stairs, and went out my walk-out patio door in my lower level and up to my deck patio door!  I did have to yell down to the kids to lock the patio door in the lower level once I was back inside though 🙂   By morning, the poly was completely dry and ready to have another coat thrown on! It’s important to sand with a super fine sanding block in between coats of poly to give it the glassy shine too, so definitely don’t skimp on that! It really only takes about 30 seconds per stair.  I ended up doing 4 coats of polyurethane for durability.

Step 10: Caulking and Paint

This step in our stair makeover was really the easiest.  We taped off the stair treads and filled in any areas that needed some “plastic surgery” with caulk and started painting away! Be careful not to get paint on your awesome new stair treads! (See? I told you could be messy with your stain job!)

Step 11: Add the Risers

This is THE best part because you finally get to see the finished product and your dream stairs take shape.  We painted each riser prior to putting them on because it would save us so much time.  I’m glad we did!  We used liquid nails to attach each piece and then used a nail gun to add some brads. Fill in all of your little nail holes with caulk or wood putty and touch them up with your paint!

Step 12: Enjoy your Hard Work

Enjoy what you did! And if your anything like me, forget that you have another stair case to finish for a while because you’re exhausted!

Turn carpeted stairs into hardwood beauties for just $60! -- The Serene Swede on Remodelaholic

A special thanks to Cassity and Justin for having me as a guest again today!  And if you were still on the fence about changing out your carpeted stairs, I hope I’ve help you see that it really isn’t as hard as it looks!

Carpet to Hardwood Stair Remodel

Visit The Serene Swede to see all of Stacy’s DIYing, including the epic story of her 6-year (and counting) basement remodel — I think we all have stories like that! 🙂


Staircase Remodel, Carpet To Wood Stairs Tutorial, By The Serene Swede Featured On @Remodelaholic

[pinit align=”center” url=”https://www.remodelaholic.com/carpet-hardwood-stair-remodel/” image_url=”https://www.remodelaholic.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Staircase-remodel-carpet-to-wood-stairs-tutorial-by-The-Serene-Swede-featured-on-@Remodelaholic-533×800.png” description=”Remodel your stairs with this carpet-to-wood DIY tutorial”]


Find some more DIY inspiration here:

Carpet to Wood (without replacing treads)17 How To Clean Paint From Wood, A DIY Staircase Makeover, By Cleverly Inspired, Featured On @Remodelaholic


Add some pop with this tutorial for using fabric on the stair risers:

Carpet to Hardwood Stair Remodel

And if you’re really “all in” give this complete entry/stairway remodel a try!

Check out all these unique ideas:

+ posts

Lorene has been behind the scenes here at Remodelaholic for more than a decade! She believes that planning projects and actually completing them are two different hobbies, but that doesn't stop her from planning at least a dozen projects at any given time. She spends her free time creating memories with her husband and 5 kids, traveling as far as she can afford, and partaking of books in any form available.

We love hearing from fellow Remodelaholics, so let us know what you like about this and leave any questions below in the comments. If you've followed a tutorial or been inspired by something you've seen here, we'd love to see pictures! Submit pictures here or by messaging us over on Facebook.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. OMG! I love this – perfect timing. Last year, we had our basement flood with water…and it got to the carpeted staircase. I think it was a good and bad thing because our cats marked their spot in the staircase (which I think seeped through the plywood – gross). Anyway, we still have the tack strips still attached – boo. Long story short, we still need to do this project. I was looking for an easy way to do stairs…inexpensively. This is a combination of inexpensive and looks great. Do you think that two flights of stairs (that are sort of close to each other) need to match? One wood, one carpet? Also, anyway you know to fight cat odor stains o stair cases? 🙂

    Stay fabulous,

    1. Hi Seng! That stinks about the cat urine! (ha! No pun intended!) We don’t have any cats but a friend of mine that does has used a product called Odo-Ban. I think she found it at Home Depot and it got the entire area of her concrete where the cats favored, completely free of smell. Hope that helps! Also, we have a split level home and have two sets of stairs right in the entry area. For over a year, we only had one set of stairs completed while the other one sat still carpeted. We never had anyone notice 🙂 (Or at least they never said anything about it looking odd, lol!) Good luck to you!

  2. Your stairs came out beautifully! What kind of polyurethane did you use? I redid my stairs a few years ago and the poly that we used turned the the white to yellow. I’d like to redo them so that the risers are actually white again but I don’t know what poly to use. Thanks! 🙂

    1. Hi Helen! We used Minwax Helmsman indoor/outdoor Spar Urethane on the stair treads but we didn’t apply any of it to the white areas (skirt or risers) just the white paint. I would think that you would be able to sand all of the yellowed areas slightly and prime with with a primer that will stick to glossy surfaces (Zinnser works great!) and then repaint, you should be able to get rid of the yellow. If you are still interested in covering the white painted areas with some sort of protecting finish, I would use a Polyacrylic instead. It is a water based option and won’t yellow over time 🙂 Good luck to you!!

      1. Hi!
        Your stairs look awesome.
        I’m doing this same thing (as a job) I get a lot of unusual work – but this is my first time redoing stairs!
        It’s a kinda narrow stair case – only 35 inches wide.
        Today I ripped the carpet up & removed all the tack strips & swept all loose junk.
        Next part – cleaning all the staples, nails, etc, priming the face of each step. She wants those to look like books! So fun!

        She has chose prefab red-oak treads. I’m going to go to her house cut, fit, and number each one, then take them to my shop to stain & poly every one.

        While they cute, I’ll go paint the step faces – each book colour using simple craft paint
        (3 coats). When those are dry they will get a couple of coats of fast drying water-base poly.

        After staining, the treads will likely get 3 coats of poly (sanding between of course) You’re right about the conditioner before stain. I used it on a dining room table I did & loved the results.

        After the steps are cured I’ll load them up & go install them, then letter the ‘book spines’.

        I’m really excited about this project!!

        Thanx for your info – it was fun reading – & i,just thought the whole time – those kids are gonna grow up knowing they had such a cool mom who can do anything.

        Lotsa love,
        (he animated greek -lol

      1. The staircase looks fabulous, and just the encouragement I need!

        Do you think it’d be a good idea to put on one or two coats of stain prior to installing, then finish the final coat once installed and holes filled? Would that work? Also, when you removed the old treads, was that difficult? Are they sitting under the upper riser, or in front of it? I have no idea, as mine are carpetted, but I just assumed they’d be under the upper riser. I do hope I am so wrong!

        Thank you! 🙂

  3. Hi there! It looks like you painted the railing at some point which is my next venture-do you have any tips on types of paint to use or prep? Looks great!!

    1. Hi Casi! When we did the railings, we lightly sanded everything and then primed the spindles with Zinnser Primer (that stuff sticks to glossy surfaces really well!) and then I used quite a few light coats of Dutchboy Cabinet and Trim paint. On the railings, we actually used a gel stain in dark walnut. It’s kind of like painting with pudding 🙂 Looking back, I should have just used dark brown paint because the stain takes FOREVER to dry! We sealed the railing with some Polyacrylic as well. Hope that helps!! Good luck to you!

  4. Wow! Beautiful and inspiring!

    What did you do on the top step (actually landing) to transition between the steps and your upstairs flooring?

    Can’t wait to try this!


  5. Hi,
    I’m not sure if you’ll see this question or not, but my husband and I stumbled across this and decided to do our stair remodel using yours as our inspiration, they’re beautiful and we’re so excited! 🙂 My question is, at what point did you add the skirting? Did you remove the old treads first, or did you install the skirting with the old treads still in place? We’re trying to figure out the best way to add skirting to ours. Thank you! 🙂


    1. Hi Sarah!
      We did remove the old treads prior to adding the stair skirt 🙂 We felt that it would eliminate the need to add a lot more cutting and time to the project so we just slid the board down through the gap along the stairs and added the new treads after. I hope that helps and best of luck to you guys on your stair remodel!!


  6. this may have been asked already but when you get to that too step what did you do? Did you keep the carpet on top steeping going up to the main floor carpeted? I’m unsure what to do with the carpet after the last step backing that flows to the landing. Cutting it would make a jagged edge. Hopefully that makes sense on what I’m talking about!

  7. Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for posting this! My house was also built in 2003 and although we don’t have carpeting on the side, our rail and posts are in the stair, so that raises an additional challenge. I’m sure someone can help us figure out how to take it out and reattach it. I told my husband I refuse to get new carpet for the stairs. If we have to have nasty carpet until we have enough money for hardwood stairs, so be it. This could make it much sooner! Even if we have a handyman who does this type of stuff on the weekend, it would still be cheaper than having hardwoods professionally installed. I’ll post pics if we do it.

  8. Hi, how would you do this if you have angled stairs? Our current stairs (treads are blue and risers are white) are painted from the previous owner but the paint is peeling , so I would love to do this. I was originally just going to sand them down but do you think that way is much more time consuming? Did you remove your old risers or just add new ones over top of the old ones? We also have a skirt but Some of it is straight and some of it isn’t so I was thinking of replacing that too. Any thoughts? If we don’t have any saws do you think a home hardware store do all of the cutting for us? What did you use to measure your treads and risers to make accurate cuts? Thanks so much for this post!! Look forward to your reply!:)

  9. Hello!

    Absolutely beautiful! I’m just wondering how the stairs have held up, especially with your adorable stair models who I’m sure are rough and tough on them 🙂 I have two little monsters and dogs, and I’m terrified of attempting this, and having them ruined.

    Thanks for posting this, super informative!!

    1. Hi Karen! This project is from a guest, so you’ll have to click over to their blog (linked up toward the top) to get all the info about how they’ve held up. Thanks!

  10. My question is why doesn’t anyone seem to stain/Poly BEFORE attaching? Just curious. I am going to put tile on the riser part of ours to match our LR 😀
    Your models are adorable btw 🙂 Mine are grown and gone 🙁

  11. I’m confused by this. My floor guy told me that stair treads would be the MOST ex$pensive addition to my house I’d ever do. Why did he say that if this is this easy and cheap?

    1. Hi T.,
      I’m in Australia, and I had a quote for replacing my MDF treads with timber, and it was an astonishing $5,560!! (The whole staircase was less than $10,000 only 5 years earlier!). There’s only 16 steps! I would’ve had to remove all the carpet, staples, etc and prepared the stairs, then they would simply place another layer of timber on top, to fit each stair. Nothing would’ve been done to the risers. Well! That aint gunna happen in this house! Needless to say DIYing will be the way to go.

      Why is it so expensive? I guess they think most people wouldn’t try and do this themselves so they can charge what they like?

    2. It is because she used a pine select board for the treads. Most stair cases are built using 1 inch thick red oak tread with a bullnose edge facing outward. Oak stair treads are a TRUE 1 inch thick, hers is actually 3/4 inch which probably gives a bit when stepped on and regular pine select boards do not have a bullnose edge. A square edge is prone to damage, especially pine which is MUCH softer than oak. I’m not saying she did anything wrong, but that is the reason for the price. Plain red oak stair treads are in the $25 per piece range on the low end for a 36 inch wide tread but if longevity is your goal, save up for oak.

  12. I really want to do this. The main thing is that I hate dirty stairs. I think everyone (who isn’t OCD) has a couple of things around the house that make them feel so much better when they are clean. When we had painted stairs in my old house, we used Lillian Vernon stair treads. I don’t know who else makes them but they stayed put very well and I could just collect them, shake them, and sweep and I felt much better. Oh, and no one slipped. Right, because safety is important and the argument everyone uses against my plans.

  13. These are so beautiful! I’m really curious about the stair skirt construction. Your post comes up when I search for it. What do you mean by the 15″ W on it? Was there space on the side so you just needed one continual piece of board to go alongside it? Thank you!