How to Stain Oak Stairs With Varathane

Kevin McDermott

Varathane is the brand name for a line of wood refinishing products, including stain and polyurethane gloss. If you stain your oak stairs with Varathane, or any other brand of stain, it's important to seal in that stain with polyurethane. The process of staining and glossing stairs is the same as on a floor, except you need to work in two shifts, doing every other stair in each shift, so you can still use the staircase while the stain and gloss are drying. You don't have to follow that procedure if you happen to have an alternate staircase, of course.

Stain Oak Stairs With Varathane
  1. Use a hand-held vibrating sander and 36-grit sandpaper to sand down each stair, taking off any existing finish and the top layer of the wood. Follow up with 80-grit sandpaper in the sander to smooth it all out. Vacuum up the dust.

  2. Brush Varathane wood stain over the top stair, putting it on thickly with a paintbrush. Let the stain soak into the wood for one minute, and then wipe up the excess stain with a rag.

  3. Skip a stair, and then repeat the process on the next stair. Continue and repeat, staining every other stair and leaving the stairs between them unstained.

  4. Let the stain dry for 12 hours. Don't walk on the stained stairs during that time. Use the unstained stairs.

  5. Set a penny on each stair that's already been stained and is dry. This will remind you of which stairs you can walk on after you stain the remaining stairs. Repeat the staining process on the remaining stairs. Let them dry for 12 hours, and walk only on the previously stained stairs during that time.

  6. Brush a layer of Varathane polyurethane over the top stair, using a paintbrush. Make it a thin, smooth layer. Repeat for each alternate stair. Let the gloss dry for 12 hours. Walk only on the unglossed stairs during that time.

  7. Dull the shine of the polyurethane with 240-grit sandpaper, sanding it lightly by hand. Wipe off the dust. Apply a second layer of polyurethane to the same stairs that were glossed before. Let them dry, dull the surface again and apply a third layer of polyurethane. Let them dry for 12 hours.

  8. Set a penny on each glossed step so you'll know where you can walk. Repeat the glossing process on the alternate steps.