Faux Wood Graining: Fake Your Way to Oak Stair Treads with Paint


These stairs started out covered in old, nasty carpet:


I ripped that off, but the wood underneath was not pretty enough to stain. So I painted them white with gray treads. But it looked like a basement staircase.


So then I painted them again – white this time. They were pretty, but they showed every spec of dirt, and every muddy pawprint.

Screen shot 2013-10-08 at 3.27.02 PM

What I really wanted were stained wood stair treads. (more on that here) I like the way they look, but I really really like the way they hide dirt. But I wasn’t up for the demo and money required to rip out my old pine treads and replace them. So I told you guys that I was going to try a faux woodgraining treatment. I’m back to report that IT WORKED!!!

The surrounding stuff isn’t finished yet. I still need to install quarter round at the bottom of the stairs. So please overlook that, and have a good look at these faux bois (fake wood) stair treads. They’re real wood, of course, but the grain is completely done with paint.

Here they are now!



Here’s another close-up. Believably real, right?! Let me mention again that the woodgrain you see here is totally fake, created by me with paint and a few tools.


For this project, I bought three paint samples. I tried to match the background color, midtones, and darkest tones in my actual flooring. Since I used vinyl plank floors from Home Depot, it was easy to just grab a floor swatch while I was there and carry it over to the paint department. I didn’t have them do any fancy color matching – which I don’t think would work. I just wandered around the different paint displays, holding my flooring piece up to color swatches until I found the ones I liked. The specific colors would be different, depending on your flooring.


Before I began on the steps, I actually tried three different sample boards. When I thought I had the technique down fairly well, I started on the real thing. First, my lightest color went down and dried. Then, I tried two different techniques.

On the top stair, I used a chip brush to lightly brush streaks of the midtone color (mixed with glaze). I let that dry, and then used the darkest color (also mixed with glaze) to do the top coat. For the top coat, I used a combination of Martha Stewart’s wood graining tool and her graining comb (which came from a three comb set – it’s the one in the top left in the linked photo).

One the other stairs, I skipped the middle step, and simple brushed on a combo of the midtone and the dark paint right over the base coat, and did the graining step. The result looked good, but was too contrasty. It really needed that middle tone. So I mixed up a really watery glaze of the middle tone combined with the dark tone, and brushed it over the top of everything.


Finally, the next day, I applied two coats of Polycrylic on top of everything. I should do a third coat, but by the second one I was tired of keeping the puppies (and myself) off of the stairs. I did most of this while the kids were either asleep or at school, so that helped a little.

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  1. Wow! You did a really good job with that! Fantastic idea and well executed.

  2. Wow…that is super duper freaky….and cool! You go girl!!

  3. That looks incredible! Great job! Do you mind sharing the three paint color names/brands that you used? I would like to redo my dining room table top (so I don’t really need to match the colors to an existing floor) and I like the look of your wood. Thank you so much!

  4. I just kinda fell upon your blog today and I’m in love!!!! These stairs really went from “blah” to chic and help keep that cohesive element between these spaces!! Love it!!! Ok….gotta go *drool* over more here on your blog… lol

  5. Hey there. These look great and are exactly what I want to do to my stairs. I am also curious which paint colors and brands you used- I’m not trying to match to my existing floor. Thanks!

  6. This is AMAZING!!! I keep looking at the pictures and can’t believe this is just painted. You did a great job!

  7. But how did you actually create the grain? What tools did you use? What was the technique?

    • I plan to do my other staircase, and maybe I can do a video. At least a more detailed post. I bought a set of faux bois combs by Martha Stewart at Home Depot. I also bought her glaze for faux finishes.

      Then I just watched some Martha Stewart videos on how to use her combs to achieve a faux bois effect, and started playing around. I did two test pieces of wood, and was pleased with the result, so I started on the stairs. It’s more art than science, but it’s not hard. It is quite time consuming, waiting for all that paint to dry, layer by layer, which is why I’m procrastinating on the other staircase. It’s hard to find a time when no one needs to use the stairs.

  8. Ahuva Kapon says:

    Fantastic job, I admire you!

  9. Very nice work! I’d love to see a video if you do it again.

  10. WOW, great project!!! We have carpeted stairs and they are soooo boring and hard to clean. Will definitely keep this in mind!

  11. I went through the same process. i removed icky carpet. painted the stairs a light color. every dog hair, peice of dust stood out against the light color. next, i painted the stairs a jade green, lets be adventurous, same problem. i thought about recarpeting the stairs, but, what about all of the dust and such. now it would sit in the carpet, albeit, less visible, but sweeping the stairs is much easier then vacumming. i have a house full of beautiful antique oak, quatersawn oak floors that i paid $5 for at an auction along with 40 hours of hard labor to remove, denail and clean, well anyway, i decided to paint a faux wood. that’s how i found your example.

  12. Wow wee wo woo!!! These are too impressive ! Kudos, congrats, great job, all of it! Well deserved outcome for your dedicated design!!!

  13. Wow, just found your blog and love it! Do you remember the colors you used for this project? Thanks! Awesome job!

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