DIY Victorian Stair Makeover

One of the first things I thought when I viewed the house for the first time was ‘urgh, who paints everything white?’ and my second thought was ‘How the fuck am I going to undo all this!?’

A couple of months after we moved in, I did some research online and found a chemical paint stripper that would be strong enough to remove the paint from the stairs (Yes… there is white paint from floor to ceiling!!) I settled on Langlow’s Strip Away Pro. It had brilliant reviews online for its efficacy,  I decided to give it a go. A word of warning though – it is designed to be used by ‘professionals’ and as such, is only available to buy on Ebay and Amazon. It is incredibly strong stuff and burns through latex gloves – I double glove with Marigolds AND latex gloves underneath and still have to replace them after a few uses. Langlow paint stripper BURNS the skin, so protective clothing, gloves and facemasks are definitely necessary. It’s also important to adequately ventilate the area before, during and after use as it also burns the lungs if not properly ventilated during use.

So, I have my stripper, some wire wool, a scraper, protective wear, some cloths and a bucket of water and get to it. I started on a floorboard nearest the bedroom as we have a yoga mat in the hallway (it’s incredibly echoey when everything is painted and there are no carpets!) so I could hide it if it didn’t look good or work out. Luckily, the paint came off incredibly easy with the scraper. Sadly, the previous owner hadn’t done the best job (to put it lightly!) on painting or varnishing the entire hallway upstairs and down. The whole lot needs to come off, then be sanded down. What a job!

I have to say, I am loving every minute of it! Yes, it stinks, yes it’s hard work physically (I’m wearing my wrist splints more and more since I started the stair makeover) but the instant gratification of the paint coming away is indescribable! Renovating a house is an incredibly slow, laborious thing if, like me, you have no money. I’m doing the stripping myself as my Fiancé works full time and I am really enjoying having something to fill my time with.

Here are some pictures of the stair makeover so far…


I quickly found out that to strip the paint (mainly gloss, with 2 layers of Victorian varnish) from the skirtings was not a job for a chemical paint stripper. I googled how to strip paint from skirting boards and architraves and decided the best course of action would be to purchase a Heat Gun.

I practically ran down to my nearest Screwfix and bought their cheapest (yet most highly rated!) 2000w, 240v heat gun by Energer. I already had everything I needed so the next day after watching several You Tube videos, decided to give it ago.

It’s definitely all about trial and error and I learned quickly the best techniques for stripping the skirtings. I’m really enjoying the process of stripping, but I honestly can’t wait to hire a sander and get them ready for my next step (staining them as dark as possible!)

Here’s what the skirting boards look like.


I ran out of chemical stripper so am waiting for a delivery of the next 5 litre can. I’m working with the heat gun on the skirting boards while I’m waiting to finish the stairs.

The next step, as I’ve said, will be to hire a belt sander (my dad’s loaning me his hand sander for the fiddly bits) and then I’ll look into the array of wood stains. My plan for the hallways and stairs is to stain the wood as dark as possible – a dark mahogany, hopefully, then matt varnish over the top. I’ve been researching original victorian floors and the plan is to get them looking as authentic as possible, so that means they’re going DARK! No more white paint thank you very much!

Watch this space – I’ll be posting another blog once I’ve finished the stripping process and I’ve hired a sander… that’s the really scary bit! Eeeeeek.