Staining an Oak Banister

It was 3 years ago right after we moved in this house, that I decided to tackle this project that I originally posted about here. In fact, click on that post from last year for all the details on how I did mine. If you have those light oak railings and banister on your staircase, you might want to do this too. It was a really easy project!


These top 2 pics are the Befores and you can see the dramatic difference that stain makes below. The beauty of Polyshades is that it’s stain and poly all in one. I did NOT sand, prime or do any prep to my railings, I simply brushed on the Polyshades to darken and deepen the color of the stain and I’ve been really happy with the outcome.


My foyer table has come a long way too. See how light the oak railing is in the above pic?


This is After: Polyshades Bombay Mahogany applied.


I was looking for contrast with the floors, so I’m fine with the 2 different tones of wood.


This color blends very well with my older vintage pieces of furniture in the living room too.


And I love the darker, richer depth of the stain now. I’m so glad I did this one! So, I’m digging this project up again, because I met a new blogger recently who was inspired by my post last year to do the same thing at her house.

stairs before

(Kate’s foyer, BEFORE)

Kate at Centsational Girl, mentioned that my project had inspired her to do something with her plain oak railings in her house too, so she has just finished this project and I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce Kate to those of you who have not yet met her. Kate lives in CA, has fantastic taste and a wonderful DIY blog that you will totally enjoy. So, click over to her railing project too. You will love her entire blog and be hooked like I am!

foyer after


Check out what Kate has been up to with wallpaper and moldings too. What a change! I just love it all. Notice how she painted the bottom of the staircase molding white too. Click over to Kate’s blog for all the details. She will tell you all about how she did it and the color stain she used. Now, I want to go back and make mine even darker!

Hope ya’ll will also be inspired if you have those light oak railings. This is a great way to get an instant update for just a little elbow grease.

- Rhoda


  1. Rhonda in OK says:

    very pretty!

    our home has all light oak cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms and fireplace mantel. They are nice but would look much more up to date if they were darker.

    I am assuming your method would work on them too?

  2. Love this! I had no idea this could be done. I was envisioning lots of sanding and dust etc….Both projects turned out beautiful. A huge change and once again I am inspired! Thanks!

  3. Blushing hostess says:

    Are you ever brave! Staining in my least favorite improvement activity. thank you for sharing, no tthat it will make me reconsider – only be glad there are others who can do it!

  4. southerninspiration says:

    Oh my GOODNESS……haven't been to Kate's blog in a few days and look what I missed. I have banisters so similar to hers and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what she did…….I wonder if my husband would disown me???? I am so head over heels in love with that!
    thanks, rhoda!


  5. Nicole @ BugaBoos says:

    Absolutely Gorgeous! Love the dark!

  6. Adamonk11 says:

    I LOVE this project and thanks for sharing it again. I missed it the first time. This is exactly the inspiration I needed to tackle my banister. Thanks also for telling us about Kate's blog. I'm going over to visit now. 🙂
    See ya soon,

  7. Jennifer @ Diving In says:

    Oh.My.Word. I am rushing to the store TODAY to get me some polystain. This would be perfect for my foyer!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  8. Oh, a big thank-you for this post, I have some staining that needs to be done, but I have been procrastinating because, I haven't had time for all the prep and mess. This sounds so easy, where do you buy the polystain?

  9. Mabry's gamma says:


    How rich your rails look, what a wonderful idea. Kate's looks amazing and so much better. You girls rock.


  10. Becky K. says:

    Now that is dressing a staircase! I love all of her very classy touches. It must feel great to know that your blog inspires, Rhoda!

    Becky K.

  11. Adrienne says:

    This looks really nice, classy! I need to tackle my stoop. Maybe I can match a polyshade to my already dark wood. I've been wondering how to do it myself, so thanks for passing this on.

  12. Gina @ The Shabby Chic Cottage says:

    What an elegant transformation for such a small budget and a little bit of work. Those simple touches really do make a big difference, even though it isn't a major change, the overall appearance looks dramatically different.

    Now, if I only had a banister…. which means I would need a staircase….which means I would need a second floor…uhhh, I better stop while I'm ahead!

    Have a super sweet day!

  13. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says:

    Rhoda ~ Your banister looks fantastic in the mahogany! Mine is currently oak (even the spindles), which I would have loved to paint but I think my hubby would have had a heart attack. It's okay though, we will be down-sizing soon and I'm looking for one floor living, so I will just enjoy looking at yours and Kate's. Her is fantastic too, btw. I love the way she added the molding and wallpaper to the wall – what a difference in her "before" and "after" shots. Just beautiful!

  14. I just love the deep mahogany color you chose. Okay, my stairwell is going on my project list. Abbie

  15. A Touch of Country says:


    What a HUGE difference this made! Oh my gosh…I love the new look….very rich looking!

  16. I have been itching to do my railing too. I didn't know what to do with the white side boards though. I see you have both left them white and just painted the actual rails. Hmmm.

  17. You were so right to stain that banister the darker color. It looks so much richer and goes more with your decor! I love that two story foyer you have!

  18. Tracey The AVON Lady says:

    Very pretty. I love the black and white lamp in one of the pictures. I must have one!

  19. wow! I love her after pics!! love your darker stain as well as the black knobs on the chest. I don't leave many comments, Rhoda, but love coming here 🙂 I always leave a better person.

  20. Oh my word, what a transformation in your railings and in Kates. They are both just absolutely stunning and look so up to date. I'm not a real fan of light wood and both of these look fabulous. Hugs, Marty

  21. You are a mind reader. Every time I think "gosh, I'd like to paint my banister or beadboard my island" up pops a post from you–I love love love it!

  22. That was a great difference on your railings, Rhoda! What a great job this gal did from inspiration from you! I'm going to go and visit her!
    Have a beautiful day!
    be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

  23. Praise the Lord I found you again Rhoda!! I've been trying to talk the hubby into changing our stairs foreverrrrrr and well he's not biting. This will be the trick..I love the look and he will like the easy factor. You inspire me and many others too.

    Question for you…We're ripping out the carpet in the den and I want to put in a dark hardwood-walnut color. My other hardwoods are light, more blonde looking in the kitchen and foyer. Is it o-k if they don't match?
    Be good,

  24. Stephanie says:

    oooh Rhoda, I love it! I have light oak bannister & railings which i can't bear! My hubby won't let me paint them, but I think this just might do the trick. I am going to go to your how-to post right now!

  25. Richella says:

    Hi Rhoda–

    Your banisters look so much better, and so do Kate's!

    In my old house, I took things one step further and had my banisters painted BLACK. I hated the light oak railings. Painted black, though, with the white spindles, I thought they looked wonderful. It did take a bit of work–sanding, oil-based paint, then a top coat of polyurethane for extra protection. That's why I had it done by professional painters. But a talented DIYer could do the same thing; it would just take some patience.

    Have a great day!

  26. What a great transformation…love the darker stain! Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy your blog!

  27. LOVE it….my hubby is not going to like you ladies for much longer. First, getting me hooked on thrifting now staining! 🙂

  28. Tracy @ comfortandluxury says:

    Wow Rhoda! I hadn't seen your bannister transformation before… what a difference! I love it that you're willing to tackle something like that. And that you inspired Kate to do something so beautiful too… you must be so proud. One day soon, I'll show you what you've inspired ME to do!

  29. Runner Mom says:

    Wow!! And no priming, huh? Rhoda, chikcadee, you need to write a book at some point!!! I am going to road trip to Katie's blog after a shower (just ran and then put a coat of polyurthane on a cute table that I'll post about later this week!!).


  30. blushing rose says:

    Whoa! That is awesome the contract. The house area is gorgeous too. Wouldn't have thought of this … TTFN ~Marydon

  31. Blessed Mama says:

    Wow! I just got through sanding, priming & painting my bannister because I thought I would have to endure months of sanding to simply darken it. ARG! If I would have only known….Thanks for the pics! I still have 2 bathrooms worth of oak cabinets to do…I am going to follow your directions! Thanks a million! It looks gorgeous!

  32. Frugal Fine Living says:

    This is a great idea! I'm going to put it on my list of projects to do at home. I follow Kate's blog and love it, too. Thanks for sharing this. You are both very talented.


  33. Kendra @ Domestic Princess in Training says:

    WOW! What great transformations! I am totally inspired. Our banister is the exact color that yours was before you spiffed it up. Right when you walk in the front door it’s the first thing you see in our home. We’ve talked about darkening it for long time but we’ve taken on other projects and put that on the back burner. Now that I see what a difference it makes and by what you say it seems fairly easy I just may take this project on this weekend. Where did you purchase your product? I love the color you selected as well. No sanding right? Was it hard keeping the product off the white railings?
    Thanks for much for sharing! Looks like I need to look through your old post to see what I missed.

  34. Ashley @ AshleysBusy says:

    Hi Rhoda! Your new stairs look great. I wold love to do this in my home, and paint the spindles white. Love it!

  35. Anonymous says:

    Oh my, how did I miss this post first time around?? What a change it made to your entryway and to Kate's! I hope this great product is available in Canada. Luv the fact there is no sanding, priming or prep work involved beforehand.

    Would it be a good product to use on teak furniture? I've been thinking of giving our bedroom set an update "in true Rhoda style" with maybe a darker color stain, new hardware, etc. TFS! Sheila

  36. Both stair cases are gorgeous! Love it!

  37. Hi Rhoda! The banister looks great. I have a question for you.

    I purchased a baby crib and dresser from a yard sale this weekend and they are in IMPECCABLE shape. However, they are the blondish oak and I'm not too fond of the color. I had plans to stain/refinish them but I didn't know where to start!

    Would this method be good for them you think? Do you think I would need to sand?

    It seems to good to be true!

  38. The mahogany color looks great! Think I could do my oak kitchen cabinets? How does it wear?

  39. Diane @ Four Paws and Co says:

    Wonderful idea! I can think of a couple of projects for the polyshades. Love Kates banisters. I'll go visit with her next. ☺ Diane

  40. I JUST bought that exact same color of Polyshades for my "turning-an-old-door-into-a-headboard" project, beautiful! I am so excited to try it, it looks gorgeous in your photos! And I checked out Kate's post and her banister is gorgeous too! Now I can't decide if I want to try to go darker… 😉 Thanks for posting this!!

  41. k a r i s a says:

    so you really didn't have to sand the banister first before applying the stain?? sounds too easy to be true!! 🙂 did you do any taping?

    i may tackle ours soon.

  42. klawellin says:

    Great Job!!!

    Just became a follower! ; )


  43. Daisy Cottage says:

    Fabulous Rhoda! It looks awesome! You've done it again!


  44. New England Girl says:

    GORGEOUS projects!! Both yours and Kate's!! I am so glad you showed us these… I love the results you both got. I especially love how Kate used the wallpaper detail. Both of your projects add so much warmth to the stairs. LOVE IT! 🙂

  45. ButterYum says:

    The dark wood is stunning! Thanks for the link over to Centsational Girl's blog – I've been perusing it for over an hour!

    Great redo my friend!

  46. Susie from Bienvenue says:

    Sweet! Love the before and afters..always! I like the darker wood so much better. have a good one!

  47. I really admire the way you just dive in and do these changes without fear of the outcome. I am usually hesitant to try something new, but have used several of your ideas. Thanks for the inspiration and courage!

  48. Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality says:

    Hi, Ladies, just to answer a few questions on how I did my railings. I did NOT sand at all, nor did I tape off the white spindles (call me crazy)and as I mentioned in the first post (be sure to click on that link at the top for my original post with all the details), I just used a cheap chip brush that I could simply throw away after using, since this stuff is oil-based.

    Polyshades can be found at Home Depot or Lowes. It's a Minwax product, you can see the can in my original post. The stain & poly are all in one can, so what it basically does is color right on top of the old stain finish and doesn't penetrate, but acts like paint, but is still see-through, make sense? You can still see the woodgrain through it. I did find out by trial and error that the Bombay Mahogany seemed to cover better, with a darker finish. I tried Dark Walnut too, but it wasn't nearly as deep in application as the Bombay was. I would say to get a small can & try it out. YOu could mix in a darker shade of stain too to darken it even more & that was my intention to have it really really dark brown. It turned out a little more red than I wanted, but I'm still happy wit hit. You should be able to paint over any wood with this and it will stick fine. Get a small can and test it out first and see how to work with it.

    It really did work very easy for me. It was almost one coat coverage for the most part, I went back in a few spots & touched them up later to darken them completely.

  49. Rhoda, your railing looks really great. I am wondering if I could us that same product on my oak china cabinet. I was going to paint it white as well as a pedestal dining rm table. But I recently fell in love with a vintage table and chairs and purchased them for my din. rm. They suit my house so well, the china cab actually looks better than it did and I am wondering if I should just make it darker to match the vintage table and chairs. That might be the answer! I will need to see if we can get it in Canada. Hugs, ~cindy s~

  50. Centsational Girl says:

    Say it with me now, "Rhoda for President !" Or Governor, or Mayor ! You are such a can-do gal, and you inspire us all.

    Big hugs,

  51. Laura Ingalls Gunn says:

    I think my dated oak cabinets are in for a surprise.

    I hope to take some time soon and go back in time through all of your great posts.

  52. Laura @ the shorehouse. says:

    This post couldn't have come at a better time! We bought an old mantle this weekend (and by "we" I mean the mister…and I was SHOCKED! In a good way. 🙂 and it needs to be darkened a notch or two. Sounds like it could be Polyshades to the rescue!

  53. The Pifer's says:

    I LOVE IT!!!!

  54. Donna's Days says:


  55. Darlene - Our Creative Life says:

    I did the same thing to our stair handrail. Only mistake is that I didn't sand it first so the mahogany stain has worn off…now I have to redo it. This time I will sand first!!

  56. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says:

    Rhoda…this looks great! Where did you buy the Polyshades? You may have mentioned that in your post…I'll go back and check. Really looks great! Susan

  57. grannyann says:

    I like your darker stain. Kates foyer is absolutely beautiful and WHAT a difference.

  58. I like the darker stain too. It gives a much richer texture and look to your banister. Good job!

  59. Rhoda, great way to update your bannister,they look great. Simple and hardly no cost other than the labor, good advice! Hugs Kathysue

  60. Embellished Bayou says:

    Your railings turned out beautifully. I did the same thing to my kitchen cabinets last summer.

  61. Michelleigh says:

    Seeing both yours and Kate's dark handrail against a lighter hardwood floor has really calmed down the constant anxiety I've been feeling since we decided on a hardwood color. We want light hardwoods (like yours) and our handrail is stained darker (somewhere between yours and Kate's). Love your blog! 🙂 Keep up the great inspiration!

  62. So, I took your advice and bought this stain b/c I hate my oak railings. I tested a spot and it is very sticky. It’s only been 2 hours so maybe I need to let it dry like the label says??
    How long did yours take to dry and was it sticky? And one of my dilemas is the backside of the railing. It’s screwed to the wall and it’s pretty tight between the rail and the wall.
    What are your thoughts, if you have a second???

  63. I was just curious if after time the stain rubs off and if you have to re-apply? I’m just curious because I’d rather go through the extra step of sanding if it would ensure the color staying on the wood and not my kids hands or whatever else.

  64. Hi Rhoda, I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now…it’s so much fun and so many ideas! I read your DIY about staining an oak bannister. I’ve never restained anything and I’d love to send you a picture of a piece that I’m considering doing to get your opinion. Could you please email me back with a way to send you a pic? I don’t know alot about blogging and this was the only way I could figure out to contact you. Thanks so much!!

  65. Stacy K says:

    Hello Rhoda,

    Awesome job on the banister. It looks amazing. I too have been inspired by your DIY project and plan on doing the same to my dated oak banister. I had a couple of questions though before delving into this project. First, just to be clear, you did not do any sanding or prepping of the banister at all??? Also, did you use satin Polyshade or gloss. I bought Bombay Mahogany Gloss and am now afraid it may end up looking too glossy. Also, how has this banister held up since the project completion? I purchased all the items to remove the varnish, stain and then varnish. However, if your banister has held up (no chipping, cracking, wearing etc) I would be willing to skip that process. Thanks so much for any information.

  66. Michelle says:

    Amazing job! I’m glad I found your blog! Like some other posters, I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind on commenting on how the finish has held up over the past couple years, particularly in spots that get a lot of touching and hand traffic. With kids, I’m a bit concerned that the staining right over my old varnish wouldn’t last long, and then I’d be stuck doing it again in a year or two.

  67. Stacy and Michelle, I used Satin Bombay Mahogany on my railings. And nope, no sanding or prep at all. I just brushed it on. My railings were not shiny to begin with, so if you do have a bit of shine, I would suggest at least going over them with Liquid Sander, which you can find in a bottle at the home stores.

    Michelle, after 4 years, my railings look exactly the same as Day 1. No chipping or rubbing off at all, I promise. You can still see the wood grain through the finish, it’s just darker.

  68. RebeccaMommy23 says:

    Can I confirm that you used the polystain over the existing stain without sanding or removing the poly? Our contractor put in red oak newel posts and bannister and it is too brown, want a more mahogany look. thanks

  69. Does anyone know that name of the finish in the last picture (the walnut/ebony finish)…

  70. How long did it take the sticky feeling to dry? Oh, did you put a Poly over it too? Its beautiful

    • HI,Jen, they actually dried within a couple of days, no sticky left. And no, the Polyshades has poly built in, no need to add more.

  71. Thanks Rhoda! I finished and its all dry! I have one problem.. it is VERY cherry in color. Can I go over it today with the darker shade to give it more of a wrought iron color. Also goofed and stained the spindles. OOPS. I stopped half through and finished rest in white. Do I have to sand down the three I did before painting them white or just prime first. Thanks JEN

    • Hi, Jennifer, glad you tried it too! yes, that mahogany shade is very cherry & I found that too. I tried mixing in the Dark Walnut to darken it, but it didn’t get as dark as I wanted, but I was fine with it, it def. looked better than the blonde wood. You can try going over it with the darker shade and see if you can darken it, but I found the best coverage was the Bombay mahagony shade. Give it a shot and see though. I do think if you mixed in some darker Ebony/dark brown stain into the Bombay Mahagony before you start, it would achieve a darker color. If I had experimented a bit more, I think it would have worked too.

  72. Your blog post imspired me to do the same to my oak!! I copied your shade and went for it! It’s drying now! Thank you

  73. I have oak floors and did the same thing with my railings. I have dark mahogany railings and ivory posts…We have just added new railings upstairs and the wood is bare. I am having an awful time getting the stain as dark as the existing rails Even though I bought very dark stain, it is coming much too light. Any tips?

    • I’m not sure what to tell you on bare wood. Try adding a wood conditioner, as that should open up the wood pores and let the stain in better.

  74. Love this! Do you happen to know the name of the paint for the walls?

  75. Hello!!! This is exactly what I want to do to my railing!!!!! How is your banister holding up? Do you happen to have a link to the exact stain you used. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!!!!

    • Hi, Nicole, this project was at my old house over 5 years ago. I used Polyshades Bombay Mahogany and mixed in the darker walnut with it. You should experiment with the colors until you get what you want.

  76. Looks wonderful!

    Just curious, about to do this to a new to us home and curious how the polyshades staining has held up over the years with no prep?

    Found your blog through Pinterest ?

    • Just kidding. I see from other comments that in 4 years you had no wear but aren’t at that home anymore! Thanks for keeping up with your comments for years!!!


  1. […] and there, for example by my friend Linda at Restyled Home, Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick, Rhoda at Southern Hospitality, Rachel at One Pretty Thing, and the SITS girls.   THANK YOU LADIES !!!   My […]

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