Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to Stain....and NOT Make Our Mistakes

As promised today we are going to talk about staining, sanding, polyurethane....and REPEAT!  During this whole staircase process this was the one job that Jared gave us.  Tony and I have never done this before so we thought it would be a fun couples project to do.  

This is a picture of the staircase not stained....and then of it stained!

Starting from the beginning...
Tony and I went to Lowe's and decided on the color of stain that we wanted to use.  There were so many to choose from it was a little overwhelming.  I personally wanted a dark dark brown, BUT since we aren't planning on changing out the laminate floors that are already in the living room, a dark wood would have been way too much of a contrast.  So, we decided on the Pecan color by Cabot.  We needed just 2 of the small half pint size cans for the entire staircase and the stair railings.   

It probably would have been a good idea to take a picture before we got the stain all over the place..whoops!

We also had to decide on the type of polyurethane we wanted.  There are 3 different options: satin, semi-gloss, glossy.  After discussing it, we decided to go for the satin type.  Neither of us were too fond of the idea of having a glossy stair rail.  Even though, if we had the fancy type of staircase where you can see each individual stair and didn't have carpet on it, we probably would have chosen a different type of polyurethane...

We used the brand Rust-Oleum (because it was the cheapest).  We bought the gallon because we needed to put on a total of 3 coats.  It was way too much for this project, but we have upcoming bathroom projects where the leftover's will come in handy!

Also while at Lowe's we bought more tack cloth, paint sponges, painters tape, and sandpaper.  We bought 3 types of sandpaper: 320 grit, 220 grit, and 120 grit.  Back home it was time to tape up the whole area.

Now time for the sanding and staining!  Per Jared's instructions we needed to sand down the entire area with 120 grit sandpaper before staining.  Roger that!  Once that was completed the staining began.  We first wanted to practice on a piece of scrap wood, even though Jared said there is no way to mess it up...he must not know us that well.  Once we were done practicing, the staining began!

 I was a nervous nellie when we first started!  I think the stain color goes well with the floor though.

 First newel post is done!
The last shot I took before the stain was 100% done....on this part.

Once this part was finished it was time to start on the railings that Jared built.  The smaller railing wasn't so bad, but the larger more complicated one..well that was a different story.  To be honest actually, we probably put a lot more stress on ourselves than needed but we knew that Jared worked a while getting the arch on so we definitely didn't want to mess it up! 

Tony is working on the arch part right now.  Needless to say, that out of all the parts, was the part we screwed up!  We looked at each other the next day, took a deep breath, and said "lets figure out a way to fix this and NOT tell Jared!"   

So...this is how we fixed it.  We just resanded it down so the stain came off and attempted to stain it again.  I unfortunately didn't take a picture of our mistake.  Essentially, it was stain that dripped down that was never wiped off..so it looked like streak marks.  I will go over how to stain below because I actually took pictures of the process when we were fixing the mistake.
After sanding we then reapplied the stain.  When you stain, depending on how dark the stain and how long you leave the stain on, will determine the color of it at the end.  Since we didn't want the area to be super dark we applied the stain below....

 Then immediately wiped it off!  Stain isn't like paint, you have to add the extra step of wiping it all off.  But once you wipe it off, it looks nice because that is when you get to see all the grain in the wood.

Woo-hoo we were able to fix the problem!!

After all the staining was completed then came the polyurethane.  We waited the rest of the night and didn't start the polyurethane until the next day to allow the stain to completely soak in.  

Note: Polyurethane is a very very thin, liquidy, white over coat to protect your wood.  Okay well in the can it is white, but when you put it on correctly and it doesn't run, then it's clear.  This is the stuff that is going to determine how shiny or not shiny your wood is.  Jared suggested that we do a total of 3 coats.  Once again....Roger that!  

After the 1st coat of polyurethane was completed and dried (it takes about 12 hours) then time to sand....lightly.  Another mistake we made.  When we went to sand with 220 grit sandpaper after the first coat, we sanded a little too rough and needed to go back to some of the areas and re-stain.......geesh! 
Always sand LIGHTLY!

Okay, so the fixes are done and no more mistakes happened!  After coat #1 polyurethane was completed and we waited a day, we then sanded lightly with the 220 grit sandpaper.  Then we took the tack cloth and wiped away the excess dust.  Coat #2 polyurethane was applied.  The next day we then sanded coat #2 lightly with the 320 grit sandpaper.  After that was done and we cleaned off the left over dust with the tack cloth the final coat of polyurethane was applied!  Woo-hoo!  It looks great and we are very happy!

We still needed to paint the balusters also.  Like I said before, this was once again a lot bigger project than I thought!  We decided to place the balusters like such...

Doing it this way was a lot easier because we could do all 4 sides at the same time.  We needed 42 balusters total.  Since we painted these white it is pretty self explanatory.  2x4's are what the balusters are nailed into for the painting process.  We primed then painted 2 coats (3 in some areas) of white.  We bought a gallon of white paint (which we clearly don't need all of it) and will use the leftovers to paint all of the trim in our house white!

The next step in all this is putting up the balusters and the railing....

....just a couple of fun picture's of Jared measuring the railing before we stained and finished it.

More to come in a few days of the FINAL project!  So excited that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel....and it's sooo close!

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