Painting Banister Rails

Jun 30, 2023

Painting Banister Rails: How We Do It

If you own a home in Calgary, it’s likely you have wooden banister railings. These banisters feature prominently in many homes we work in.   Over the years they have a tendency to wear down, chip and discolour, especially if used as intended to be a hand railing. Sprayed lacquer is an excellent surface coating to change the colour of your banister rail.  More and more of our clients are opting in to adding banisters and other wall ledges or trim pieces to their kitchen cabinet painting project – for a broader and more cohesive look throughout the house.

In this article we will outline our process for painting banister rails and the costs for an average sized staircase from one floor to another. Painting banister rails is different than painting kitchen cabinets. We love opening up the curtain to show our clients behind the scenes, how each and every job gets done and the process we follow.


Prepping a Staircase for Painting Banister Rails


Preparing to paint a banister rail is much different than prepping to paint cabinets, as there is generally more surface area being sprayed.  The spindles create a higher level of difficulty and significantly larger area of prep and containment needed. A typical banister railing accompanying a staircase from one floor to another will require a significant amount of floor coverage, both downstairs and upstairs, surrounding any area nearby and underneath the banister where overspray might occur. If there is carpet going up the stairs, all the edges are thoroughly taped off and carpeting is covered either with drop cloths or a large plastic film that adheres to carpet and is tear-resistant.

Spindles and Walls

If the railing spindles are not wood and are not being sprayed, they are meticulously prepped off and taped. Any wall area adjacent to, or near the banister, is taped and covered with masking paper. Poly sheets are used to cover any furniture in the area. Poly walls are erected to block off hallways, other rooms, and sealing off as much of the area as feasible. The prep phase for banisters is time-consuming and tedious, but it guarantees the end result .  It also protects the home by containing as much of the dust and fumes as possible.

Sanding and Painting the Banister Rails

Once the level of prep coverage is achieved, the sanding can begin. This can be a time-consuming part of the process as banisters usually have a lot of surface area that is moulded, detailed, and must be sanded by hand. It is also a home feature that is designed to be touched and grabbed, and therefore the entirety of the banister must be flawless and sanded smooth.

Spraying the Spindles

If the spindles are being sprayed, each individual spindle, the base case and the bottom of the upper handrail all need sanding in order to achieve the total consistency and smoothness of lacquer. This is done with flexible hand sanding pads to get all the detail, and ensure every square inch of surface area is smooth.


When all surfaces have been properly cleaned, sanded and dusted off, the primer coats can be sprayed. As with our normal spraying procedure, after the first coat of primer we inspect, fix and fill any divots or dents.  Then we sand and prime again. Once the final primer coat is dried, one final scuff sand and a thorough dusting will prepare the banister for the two top coats of  lacquer finish tinted to the colour of your choosing.


This is where the spraying can be tricky.  Banisters have many overlapping areas – difficult spots where the spray angle is hard to achieve, and detailed vertical surfaces where drips and sagging can easily occur. A properly executed sprayed lacquer banister should look flawless and vibrant, with a colour that transforms the interior space in and around your staircases.  Any colour is possible!  You can select your colour from various paint line such as Benjamin Moore or Cloverdale Paint.  Of if you prefer, we can custom tint a colour to have it match your existing trim or other feature.

De-prep and the Final Product 

Once the lacquer is sufficiently dried, the prep can be torn down and tape and paper removed to reveal clean and sharp lines, and a striking, new-looking banister railing. As with all lacquer products, a full cure can take up to a month and so being gentle with your banister initially is recommend. But once that full durability is achieved, your handrails will feel luxuriously smooth and feature a colour that is rich and long-lasting. 

Cost of Painted Banister Rails

To give you an idea on pricing, a number to start with would be around $2000 for the average banister on a staircase from the main floor to an upper floor in your home. Of course, this price will fluctuate depending on the complexity of your banister rail. If it is larger than average, how much prep is needed and so on. Each project is unique, but $2000 is a good starting point. Imagine what your home may look like with a brand new looking banister featuring a premium sprayed lacquer finish from Distinctively Paint. 

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