When we moved into our house, one of the first things we did was rip up the inherited carpet. It was very old and stained but fortunately beneath the crumbling underlay were the original pine floorboards and stairs.
The stairs like the floors, were painted with sticky, thick bitumen… a black, tar-like substance applied at the turn of the century to prevent draughts and damp. On top of this were several coats of old gloss varnish. Bitumen is incredibly difficult to remove because it heats up when sanded, so several processes are needed to remove it completely. The stairs were particularly difficult because there are so many corners to deal with.
We started by using a heat gun and a scraper to remove as much of the top layer as possible. Then we used a mouse and rotary sander to remove the rest. We started with a very coarse grade of sandpaper, and worked down through the grades to fine. We also used the heat gun to remove the paint on the skirting. We wore masks throughout to prevent inhalation of fumes and dust.
Next, we applied an aluminium primer to the kick boards and skirting (this stops the bitumen bleeding through the paint), followed by a normal paint primer and then 2 coats of acrylic satin in brilliant white. Finally we applied 3 coats of clear varnish to the treads. There is still a little finishing to do on the walls, but it is almost complete.
This previously dark space is so much brighter now. Please excuse the front door, the glass will be replaced and the paint will be stripped and re-painted in the Spring. Renovating the staircase took almost a week of solid work, but I'm really happy with the final result!