Instructables
This is an adventure in refinishing my hardwood staircase, told by an amateur artist and homeowner. This may not be how the pros would do it, but it's done for about $150 in materials and a few days of my time.

We floundered a bit in figuring it out, but here I'll share the things I've figured out. Most of this uses low-odor quick-drying options, because I'm working in a house with small children in wintertime. (They're not home while I'm working, but they need to sleep here at night.)

Tools and Materials:

+ orbital hand sander (or two)
+ plastic drop cloth
+ safety goggles
+ dust masks (buy a multi-pack)
+ ear plugs
+ vinyl-palmed work gloves
+ vinyl or latex disposable gloves
+ cheap throw-away paintbrush for chemical paint stripper
+ paint scraper
+ screwdriver
+ hammer
+ small wood chisel
+ 2.5" angled natural bristle paintbrush
+ small paint tray
+ 40 grit sanding pads (be sure to get the right size pads with the right number of holes - they're for ventilation and your sander will overheat without the right ones) I used about 15 pads for 14 steps and a landing
+ 40 or 60 grit sandpaper and a sanding block, if desired
+ 2" wide painters tape
+ spool of cotton twine
+ Hi-Speed Ready Strip Citrus Paint & Varnish Remover (this project used one half gallon jug)
+ MinWax Wood Finish (this project uses 2 qt sized cans of golden pecan stain) 
+ low-odor mineral spirits
+ MinWax Water Based Polyurethane for Floors (this project uses one gallon of clear satin finish poly)

Here you see the old staircase. Someone had painted that beautiful wood a chocolate brown when the house was built. It was old and dingy and banged up. The dark color robbed the stairwell of all light, making it a dark area even in midday.
 
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Spikeshome1 year ago
I am so grateful for this information.Our home here in S.W. Pennsylvania as built in 1928. The wife and I pulledup the carpet from the stairs just this past weekend. We moved into this home in Jan. 2008. It had been refurbished completely and given beautiful hardwood flooring throughout EXCEPT the old stairs. Its such a shame that it wasnt done as well. Our stairs look very much like your stairs--amazing likeness! Your instructions are awesome. I am following them to a 'T'. However,ours have nail holes and small chunks that need filled with something. What do I do aout that as I dont know of any filler that will take stain! I need help with that please.Again,thanks ad God Bless!
Awesome. My wife feels the same way about the charm in the nicks and holes.We will follow your lead and I'll get pictures going too as we go. We picked up a new sander last night at HD.We have bitten into too much as we have the livingroom to finish painting (now just the trim-round the door and windows) ,and other tasks need caught up. I'll be cutting some grass today. It's so nice today here in Houston,PA,andI love cutting grass! So...on we go. Thank you very much for your kind response!!
KittyJ (author)  Spikeshome1 year ago
I've heard that a lot of fillers really don't take stain well. But if you're refinishing an old staircase, those nail holes are part of the charm. And if you can't fix it, flaunt it, right?
I'd suggest that, if you have little nail holes, like carpet-tack holes, just let the stain get them while you're staining, and let the polyurethane fill them in when you paint.

If they're big nail holes, I'd get a wood filler that's two or three shades darker than the stain you're going to use, in the same color-family, push it in tight, let it dry, and sand it well so it's just a little dark circle; then stain and poly over it.

The nail holes might just be what makes your 1928 home look like it has almost 100 years of memories walking up and down those stairs!
blounsb9992 years ago
I have sanded floors professionally in the past. If you end up doing this again, or for those who read this and want to tackle this themselves - forget the chisel, get a good ol' Red Devil scraper. 1 1/2 inch blade (just the blade and make your own handle if you have to, that what we did and do). You will get much better results.
60, 80, 100 ARE finishing grits when it comes to floor sanding. Forget what the salespeople try to sell you.
We just bought an older house (early 1900's) and I want to do the very same thing to the stairs and the whole house. Thank-you for the excellent instructions!! This will make my job much easier. Thanks again!!
jadronx2 years ago
Nice job...Im impressed, most women I know would never dream of tackling a job like this with no xp and no backup help, well my sis-inlaw would but would then get me and my bothers to finish and correct ;) Im planing on doing my mother's stairs since we just painted the hallway. Again, nice job and keep it up!
great project! looks great!
KittyJ (author) 2 years ago
As a postscript:
The staircase no longer squeaks like it did. Nearly all of the steps squeaked quite loudly before. Now there is only one squeak on one part of the landing, and none on the stairs at all!
I do not have an explanation for this, but it is an interesting bonus!
cobourgdave2 years ago
Nice job, you should be quite happy with the results. I agree with your choice of the MiniWax poly, it does a nice job. Frankly you have a lot of courage and clearly lots of tenacity tackling those stairs. Your method of packing the old strip flooring with cotton strings is quite innovative. I hope it works well for you. Congratulations for a job well done and a nice clear instructable.
KittyJ (author)  cobourgdave2 years ago
Thank you very much!