How To Paint An Oak Railing & Banister To Modernize Your Stairway

Oak banister and handrail before makeover
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This DIY home project will show you how update oak fixtures in your home decor

Our oak banister and handrail were the LAST (I think) piece of oak trim, molding, and cabinets left in our house. I knew I needed to come up with a DIY design and figure out how to paint the ugly oak railing. Okay, to be fair, there is some in the basement, but I like how it looks down there once we modernized parts of the molding and columns. 

A theme in our blog and life is that one project always leads to another project. This was the case for the ugly oak banister and handrail. Because we were getting around to do a cheap DIY bathroom makeover upstairs, I knew we had to update the railing right outside the door. 

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It also helped that I had leftover paint from the bathroom vanity painting to help with the two-toned banister look I was going for. I have seen banisters with more of a black or darker gray top and bottom. I knew I wanted ours to be a little different. Therefore we chose to use this colored enamel paint for the banister and my favorite white latex enamel (Sherwin Williams Proclassic) for railings. We will see how these paints hold up over time. 

I know that the SW paint will following our DIY painting tips because our kitchen cabinets and all the molding in our house has last for over 7 years with only a few minor scratches and blemishes.

We have even painted our old oak mantel using these painting steps to help get rid of the honey oak and update our living room. 

Read more: Check out 9 other DIY projects that helped us get rid of that honey oak!

So let’s get to it…

How to paint an oak banister to completely update your stairway

Supplies Needed: 

White Enamel Latex Paint- We love Sherwin William Proclassic Line

White Latex Primer*

Latex Enamel Paint in the color of your choice-Here is the paint we used

220 sandpaper or block

Deglosser- This large jug will last you for a lot of DIY projects.

Painter’s Tape-My favorite brand and type that I use for all of my project including my detailed accent walls

Paint Brush-I was so happy that I bought myself a new Purdy brush for this project.

Small Foam Roller (if you want)

Small Paint Tray Liners-these make life so much easier when doing smaller paint jobs

White Paintable Caulk (optional)

Drop cloth or old towels (something to protect your floor as your work)

Old Rag

*Some professional painters will recommend oil-based primers such as this one, as they do a better job blocking out color. However, we have always had great success with Sherwin Williams Latex Primer. I love that I don’t have to worry about the smell (esp. Because I was doing this painting project outside my children’s rooms as they were napping). 

Now let’s get rid of that dated oak!

1. Lightly sand the oak banister and handrail with the 220. This is just to rough it up a little. You really do not need to spend a ton of time on this.

Sanding block used on oak banister

2. Use an old rag and wipe down the surface with a deglosser.

Deglosser used to prep oak banister

3. Start taping out to help protect your walls and flooring. You can see that I had to try to push my carpet down and get the painter’s tape under the edge of the banister’s base.

Frog Tape used to keep carpet clean

4. If you have some gaps or uneven spots in your woodwork, you may even want to use white caulk to give it a more finished looked after painting. 

5. Use a brush and small roller to prime everything. This will take time. Let dry.

Oak banister and railing being primed

6. Begin painting primed railing white following the same steps as the primer. I was able to actually use the small foam roller on more parts of the railings than I initially thought. 

7. You will need at least 2 coats of white enamel on the railings. I spent a few hours during the week to complete this project. You do not want to get lazy and have a ton of drips or start spraying paint around on your carpet, etc. 

White Painting Railings

8. Once white railings are done and dry, begin to tape (use this brand) out the areas so you can have a darker outside.


I was pretty impressed with myself that I came up with this easy idea. I used Press and Seal around the railing that was closest to the side so that my colored enamel paint would not get on the railing if I accidentally hit the finished part. Just make sure that you completely cover the railing.

Press and seal used to protect finished railing

9. Using a roller and brush begin to put your first coat of colored enamel paint.

Oak banister being painted two colors

You will also need at least 2 coats. I think I ended up doing 3 coats with this paint, especially because I knew the surface would be touched a lot. 

Roller painting a blue-gray color on railings

10. Let dry and remove tape. Some of my paint lines were not as clean as I would have liked. I used white caulk to try to help some of the lines (especially the bottom edge in that groove) and a smaller painter’s brush to do some touch-ups. I do not blame the painter’s tape, just that the railings have so many little grooves and uneven surfaces that is was hard to get everything perfect.

Painter's tape being removed from painted oak railing

11. Clean your brushes and area and enjoy your updated banister. 

Drumroll please…

It never gets old seeing a “before” DIY project picture

Oak Banister before being painted

Finished painted oak banister

I just love looking up the steps and seeing a fresh banister and look. While I would not say this was the easiest painting project, it definitely gives you a lot of bang for your buck. And now I can honestly say, bye bye to all the old oak items in our home. It is so crazy how just simply painting honey oak can really modernize your home without breaking the bank.

Oak Railing Redone

Other DIY Paint Projects to Try

50 DIY Projects You Can Do This Weekend

DIY Ombre Hexagon Accent Wall Check out my daughter’s fun room that is right near this banister. 

White and gray painted oak railing
Painted oak banister

Oak Handrail Makeover

Before DIY makeover

Oak Handrail before being painted

While I was painting the railing, I was also priming and painting the handrail that is on the other side of our steps.

Oak Handrail being painted blue-gray

We followed the same painting steps outline above and you can see how we were able to easily update our handrail as well.

Gray-blue railing near steps

With a little elbow grease and hardwork, we were able to cheaply update our stairway, banister and handrail. 

Paint an old banister like a pro

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