Can I refinish stair treads without hiring a professional?
Maybe, but this is a very tough job. I use a floor edger and balance it gingerly by hand in the air and wisk off the old finish with coarse and then fine sandpaper. Then I scrape the corners and vibrate sand the edger marks out with a 1/2 sheet Porter Cable vibrator sander, with 80 grit floor sanding paper. Then hand sand those marks out with 80-100 grit sandpaper, depending on whether I am going to stain or not.
Perhaps the daunting task is really removing all the old finish. You could try to do this by chemically stripping instead. Just read my Chemically Stripping Floors article in the Floored News section of this site. I think however you might find this messy and you may endanger the wood work beside it and below it.
So instead be prepared to scrape off the old finish. my favorite scraper for this task is the Richard type W series at
The large 14″ handle allows you to use both hands when the going get tough. But the blade must be razor sharp, so use a handled 10″ mill bastard file to sharpen this new scraper blade at just the same factory bevel, with a little off the corners to prevent gouging. Do the sharpening often as you work, by holding it close to your chest with one hand and filing as you sight down the bevel with the other hand. Have the blade pointing away from you. Scrape, then vibrate sand, then hand sand.
Or if you want to use a cabinet type floor scraper, there is a new one out by Lee Valley Tools. Go directly to
But I should warn you that sharpening the HCS style blade ( requires burnishing ) is quite an art, but one you get good at it, you will save a lot of hand sanding.
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As always your Most humble servant, Joseph, the Wood Floor Doctor.