We Paid Cash: A New Staircase

We paid cash!

A testimony from Katie

In March of this year, my husband and I were able to purchase our first home. It was a newer home in great condition, but it needed some TLC. The previous owner chose some interesting paint colors and neglected to take care of minor maintenance issues. My husband, Nick, is quite the handyman, so we saw a home with great potential!

Nick works for a university, so he had some free time during the summer months that he was going to dedicate to home repairs/remodeling. Since the home only needed minor repairs, we knew we could tackle nearly everything completely on our own. We also knew that by doing the projects ourselves, we’d save lots of money in the process.

The one area of the home that we absolutely wanted to remodel (and as quickly as possible!) was our staircase. The previous owner had the walls painted a “lovely” forest green, and the staircase was pine. One word came to mind for me: YUCK!

When we sat down to decide how we planned to tackle the project and what our expenses might be, I was absolutely shocked when Nick told me that he thought he could do the entire staircase for $70 or less!

He estimated the following costs and supplies:

  • One can purple paint for the walls (approximately $30)
  • One can white paint (approximately $30)
  • One can stain (approximately $10)

So, after two weeks of lots of hard work on the part of my husband — prepping, sanding, planing, painting, and staining the wooden stairs and landings all by hand — we had a new staircase!

Our total expenses for supplies came in right around $70, just as my husband expected! He guesstimated that if we had purchased all new wood to complete the project, in addition to the paint and stain, our costs would have come in just shy of $600. And if we would have had a professional come in and do the work for us, it would have been even more expensive.

But thanks to some pre-planning, hard work, and creativity on the part of my handyman hubby, and some extra time over the summer to complete the project, we were able to pay just $70 cash for a brand new staircase!

Katie and her husband, Nick, are young professionals, both working full-time and pursuing graduate degrees at a local university. They enjoy remodeling their new home and saving money on anything and everything. In their spare time, they enjoy couponing (well, Katie does!), bike riding, taking their dogs to the dog park, and traveling.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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  1. says

    This is awesome. We actually ripped up the old carpet on our stairs, and have yet to decide how we want to move forward with the rest of the project. Obviously, it needs to look good but cost is a factor as well.

    Carpet would be the easy way to go, but the end result would not be as appealing. Nonetheless, this is good for some inspiration!

    • Katie T. says

      I initially wanted carpet as well, but it ended up being out of our price range, and carpet installation is one thing my hubby does not know how to do. I’m happy with how our frugal alternative turned out! Good luck to you! :)

  2. says

    The staircase looks just beautiful. Your husband did a wonderful job.

    My husband and myself do most of our home improvement projects ourselves too. It saves so much money and while it’s usually a lot of work it’s really rewarding to do it yourself. I recently clean and re-sealed our front deck for just $50. It took a few days to get the job done but it looks so much nicer now. I don’t know how much it would have cost to have someone do the project for us.

    • Katie T. says

      Thanks. :) That’s awesome about cleaning and re-sealing your front deck for just $50! We might have to attempt that project as well. 😉

  3. Jen says

    Beautiful job on the staircase! We have a staircase leading to our newly remodeled basement that needs some major TLC. After pulling off the old, nasty carpet, we discovered old, nasty tiles covering wooden stairs. We’ve been stumped as to what to do, because the wood is a little beat up. I’m going to show this to my husband, because I think pulling off the tiles, sanding and staining or staining/painting would look beautiful. I love the dark stain you chose! Thanks for the great idea, and congratulations on your new staircase.

  4. says

    That’s awesome. We are in the process of planning to build a barn/apartment sometime next year after the hubs get’s out of the Army (and paying off debt/building savings during that time). We have decided that one of the biggest things we can do to help ourselves is start to budget and price check for everything we plan to put in the house-that way we have a pretty good idea of what it will cost and we can start finding deals as we go. Pre-planning is key when saving money! BTW- I LOVE what you did with the stairs. The white and the stain of your steps really goes well together!


    • Katie T. says

      Thanks for the compliment! Believe it or not, my husband was the “brain” behind the remodel design. He has great taste!

    • Brenda Zizolfo says

      Ha- this made me laugh :) We just bought a house and the staircase and whole main level are the before color. We love it and it was a huge selling point for me. I’ve got nothing but compliments and “I love your floors!” from everyone. But I like the after picture too. :)

      • says

        Oh I like the after too. Honestly, both the before and the after look nice (minus the green walls). My stairs are still the sub-floor from 1969 when the house was build. Not high on our list of things to fix up. So the before already looks 10x better than my current. :)

    • Katie T. says

      We did paint the walls a purple, not sure if the exact color would be considered lavender, but nonetheless, I was personally happy with how it turned out. We have a gray/purple color scheme going on in our living room and stairwell, so we decided on gray for the living room, and a pop of color with the purple wall in the stairwell. :)

  5. says

    I’m glad you were able to do what you wanted for such a reasonable price. Although I personally like the pine and forest green:) I really love natural wood, although darker is better.

    • Katie T. says

      The remodel of the staircase was an attempt to help the look of our stairwell flow with the rest of our home, which had lighter/whiter features. It just looked completely out of place with the rest of the house’s decor/look. :)

  6. Heather says

    Love the “after” picture. It looks so much fresher and up-to-date. We have a similar shade of purple on our bathroom walls.

    • Katie T. says

      The purple color goes so well with the gray color in the living room adjacent to the stairwell. I just personally love purple/gray as a color combo. :)

  7. says

    Great job! I love the stain that you chose, and it really looks sharp with the white! I’m just wondering how it would look to flip flop that combination around. Dark colored floors really show the dust, in my experience, but I love the look of them.

    Enjoy your house, and don’t worry about the negative comments. :)

    • Katie T. says

      Thank you for your sweet, kind words. I appreciate them! Negative comments are so hard to ignore sometimes. We were just so excited to be able to complete a fun home improvement project at such little financial cost to us. And we, personally, are so very happy with the outcome. :)

      • Susan says

        Katie, as soon as I saw the photo, I knew immediately that some readers would prefer the “before” to the “after.” When it comes to color and design, indvidual preferences vary widely. But fact that you and your husband love it is the most important thing. It’s YOUR home, and if it reflects your tastes and personalities (which it obviously does), then it’s beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

        Regardless of individual preferences for purple or green, the “before” is outdated and “after” is fresh and modern. I think it’s lovely.

        I’m glad you mentioned in a comment about what the rest of the house looks like. The fact that you were able to redo your staircase so inexpensively is great, but I assumed the house had the pine and dark color scheme throughout, and couldn’t help but wonder about how out of place the staircase now looks. Glad to know that’s not the case. :-)

  8. Jessica says

    I’m house hunting, and painted wood drives us crazy. It’s going to wear off those stairs quickly. It often looks terrible as it wears on banisters. And don’t get me started on painted brick hearths like my current house has, which was done by the previous owner. Yuck. Wood looks so much better just sealed or maybe stained and sealed. People have strange taste, to be sure.

    • Kristine says

      The treads appear to be stained, the risers are painted. Our basement stairs are painted, and despite 10 years of wear, including two dogs using the stairs 3 or more times a day to go out, the risers still have all the paint!

      Sometimes it’s better to say nothing if there’s nothing nice to say :)

    • says

      People also have strange manners.

      Katie, you and your husband did a GREAT job. I’m impressed — you saved money, worked hard, and have a result you can be proud of! Well done! And don’t let the armchair renovators bother you :)

    • Katie T. says

      I agree! I find that we learn a lot about each other’s strengths/weaknesses, and how working together can help to magnify our strengths and downplay our weaknesses. :)

  9. says

    I love a good DIY project and you and your husband did a great job on yours for a fantastic price! I love the white and dark wood combination with the purple walls – very nice!

  10. Margery H. says

    I would love to know how you changed the stain on the stairs. Did you have to strip the old stain off first? Were you able to do that with the stairs in place? It looks so nice with the darker wood.

    • Katie T. says

      Hi Margery,

      Thank you! :) My husband had to remove each stair by hand (well, the tops anyway), and he sanded and planed them completely down to the original wood. Once he got everything “stripped”, he then stained the stairs, and put them all back into place.

      • T says

        Nice work! If you have a Lowes nearby, you may be interested to learn that they usually have a nice selection of mistints. You can buy gallons of paint for $3-4. Sometimes they can even add color for you.

  11. Melissa says

    Great job! (Both on the outcome of your project and on the money saving strategies)

    Congratulations on your first home, btw!

  12. says

    I love your “after!” We did something similar to our stairs; we just have a lighter stain on the treads. I really like the look of the white with the wood. You’re very blessed that you already had nice stairs to work with. When we bought our house, it had nasty, badly-stained carpet on the stairs (and all throughout the house, but the stairs were the worst). We replaced all the carpet in the house, but decided to do wood stairs. That cost us $800 more than if we’d carpeted them. So, cost of carpet and then some! But it was worth it. So much easier to clean than lugging a vacuum cleaner up and down each step, and they’ll remain beautiful for years, unlike carpet, which would need to be replaced again in a few years.

    • Savannah says

      Awesome job! I’ve pinned a ton of pins on Pinterest that look like your remodel :-) LOVE the darker wood stain with white!

  13. Michelle Garcia says

    Katie, I love what u did with the stairs. I have carpet on my stairs and have had the idea of taking the carpet off and staining the wood underneath. I am not handy at all so I’m really nervous about doing it. I know if I go to Lowes/Home depot I can get some tips on how to get it done. Can u tell me what color stain u used?? I appreciate any info u can give me

    • Katie T. says

      Hi Michelle!

      We used a mahogany stain. I’m not sure of the exact brand we used. I know my husband prefers Cabot stain, but I know they were sold out of the mahogany stain in that brand, so we selected another brand, as we were really wanting the darker stain.

      Good luck to you!

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