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How to Paint Stair Skirting Boards in 7 Steps


If you’re thinking about painting your stair skirting boards, don’t start without reading these professional tips. Though it’s not a difficult task, there are things that can go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Ensure you’re properly prepared with this simple guide that teaches you how to paint the skirting boards on your stairs without damaging them.

Is Painting Your Stair Skirting Boards a Good Idea?

The skirting board may seem like a fairly minor part of the home, one you don’t need to worry about. However, stair skirting boards are particularly prone to marks, scuffs, and general dirtying from all the foot traffic they experience. This becomes especially noticeable if your stair skirting boards are white.

Giving them a fresh coat of paint is a simple but effective way to restore them to their former glory, looking neat and complete.

Before You Start Painting Your Stair Skirting Boards

Don’t just get the first tin of paint you see and start sloshing it on without the proper preparation! This list should be everything you need for cleaning your skirting boards, preparing them, and finally painting them. 

What You’ll Need for Painting Stair Skirting Boards

  • The right paint: First, get the right paint for your skirting board. The best paint for stair skirting boards is an oil-based, semi-gloss paint. Though it does take longer to dry, this type of paint is thick in consistency, ensuring all cracks and divots are properly filled. Semi-gloss is also more aesthetically pleasing than matt finishes, with a beautiful sheen and smoothness to it.
  • A 5cm brush: Brushes larger than this will be too big and risk unwanted patches of paint on the stairs or wall. A smaller brush than 5cm will just mean the boards take longer to paint.
  • An oil-based primer: Primer goes on after the boards are clean and before you start painting. It means the paint will better stick to the boards.
  • Knotting solution: If your skirting boards have never been painted, invest in some knotting solution. This will prevent yellow knot marks from discolouring your paint.
  • Sandpaper: This is to prepare the boards for an easier painting process by making them smooth and even. Fine sandpaper is best, like 180-grit sandpaper.
  • A dust sheet: Sanding creates a lot of dust and cleaning and painting risks splashing liquids over your stairs and staining them. A dust sheet will help to counteract this, especially if your stairs are carpeted.
  • The right cleaning products: You’ll need a bucket, a sponge, and a sugar soap solution. This is to properly wash the skirting boards and provide a smooth, clean surface for easier, neater paint application. 
  • Masking tape: This is to ensure you only paint the skirting board and not the stairs or wall.
  • Varnish: This isn’t essential, but a varnish does mean greater longevity for your paint job and gives a professional finish.

How to Paint Stair Skirting Boards: A Step-by-Step Guide

When it comes to painting the skirting boards of stairs, preparation is the majority of the process. Follow these steps carefully to ensure the best results for your stair skirting boards paint project:

1. Sand the skirting

To prepare your skirting boards, first sand them. Remember to put down your dust sheet or stair protection first! Rub your 180-grit fine sandpaper in circular motions evenly across the surface. Vacuum up any dust left over.

2. Clean the skirting

Fill your bucket with water and the sugar soap solution and dip your sponge in it, making sure to wring out extra moisture. Using up-and-down strokes, clean the boards with the damp sponge. It’s important to let the boards dry completely before continuing.

3. Prepare for painting

Carefully place masking tape where the wall meets the skirting board and also on your stairs where the treads and risers meet the skirting board. If your skirting boards have never had paint on them, apply 1-2 coats of the knotting solution over any dark spots and allow it to dry for 24 hours.

4. Apply the primer

Apply your oil-based primer to the skirting boards and let it dry for 24 hours before you start painting.

5. Paint the skirting board’s first coat

Use your 5cm brush to paint your board with the oil-based, semi-gloss paint of your choice. Don’t overload the brush with paint. 

To paint properly, first “cut in” the edges of the skirting board. This means holding your brush so the wider side of the bristles faces towards the floor. Drag the horizontally-positioned brush across the top edge of the skirting board and repeat for the bottom edge.

Then, paint the middle of the skirting board. Slowly stroke your brush across one direction in the middle of the skirting board, making sure to stick to this direction. Between separate strokes, make sure to “feather” the areas. Do so by gently dabbing the tip of the brush, without too much paint on it, between the stroke areas.

Wait until the paint is completely dry before applying the second coat. 

6. Paint the second coat

Before applying the second coat of paint, you’ll need to use extra-fine sandpaper to smooth out any sections where the first coat of paint has bubbled or is bumpy and rough. Brush off any dust with a dry paintbrush. 

Apply the second coat of paint following the process in step 5 and let it dry completely.

7. Varnish

Finally, brush on the varnish using the same stroke techniques above and allow it to dry. 

Your brand-new stair skirting boards are ready!

How to Paint Stair Skirting Boards With Carpet

If your stairs are fully carpeted, you will need to take a couple of extra steps to protect the carpet when painting the skirting. You can follow the instructions above but with additions to step 3:

  • Use a putty knife to push the carpet away from the wall by inserting it in the space between the skirting board and carpet
  • Apply masking tape on the edges of the treads and risers like above but leave about 1/2cm of the tape onto the actual skirting board
  • Paint the skirting boards as usual with the steps above and replace the carpet edges back down

Complete Your Staircase Look With Beautiful Stair Accessories

If you’re painting your stair skirting boards, why not go the whole way and update the rest of your staircase? At Stair Rods Direct, we have a wide range of premium staircase accessories that will transform your interior decor.

Get a stair carpet runner to go alongside your refreshed stair skirting board and secure it with some bespoke stair rods. And be sure to check out our door threshold strips to finish your whole entrance hallway off. With our products, quality and beauty are guaranteed. 

All orders over £75 qualify for free UK delivery.