Stair Care

Space solves

Stair Care


The Guardian, Saturday 25 April 2009

About 10 years ago, we replaced our boring 50s-style banister with pine spindles. We used a coloured varnish to stain them, which is now a greeny shade of orange. Can it be removed? Ideally, I’d like a clear varnish, but even painting them would be an improvement.

Julian Cassell, author of DIY: Know-How With Show-How (Dorling Kindersley), says it can be removed, but adds that “stripping varnish with chemicals and/or a hot-air gun is a messy and labour-intensive process. Also, the orange stain will have penetrated deep, so it will be very difficult to get back to bare pine. Because the spindles are not part of a beautiful period staircase (where painstaking stripping could be considered appropriate), I would consider two other options. Painting is the most straightforward: sand the spindles, then paint with a primer-sealer such as Zinsser B-I-N Primer (£14.80 for one litre, from, or most builders’ merchants). Then undercoat and gloss, or give two coats of eggshell for a matt finish.

“If your heart is set on a pine finish, you could just replace the spindles – new ones start from about £2 each. Lever out the small filler blocks that hold the spindles in place at their base (or they may be pinned top and bottom). Once one is out, the others follow easily. Number each one, and use as cutting templates for the new ones. Fix into place with wood glue and/or wire nails, and coat with clear varnish. Try builders’ merchants and DIY stores ( is good quality). The technical name is baluster, rather than spindle.”



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