Buying the best paint for stairs means finding something that is durable, slip resistant and of course, aesthetically pleasing. If you make the wrong choice, you could end up with something that chips when walked over or cracks during the natural movement of the wooden substrate.
So how do you know which one to choose?
Fortunately, I’ve been in the trade for years and have used a variety of stair paints and have put my knowledge into a simple recommendation list below. I’ve rated the paints based on durability, slip resistance, ease of cleaning and opacity and overall finish as I consider these the key components to consider when buying stair paint.
Pre-warning: stair paint requires a high degree of maintenance due to the fact that it’s a high-traffic area so going with a budget paint is not advisable as you’ll simply be repainting your stairs every year or so.
What to Look for When Buying Paint for Stairs
Before going through my specific paint recommendations, I thought I would quickly break down the key aspects you should be looking for before buying stair paint.
Stairs are one of the highest-traffic areas of any home therefore durability is perhaps the most important thing you should be looking at when buying stair paint.
A durable stair paint will be resistant to scratches and scuffs, flexible enough to deal with the movement of your wooden stairs and won’t wear down after excessive foot traffic.
This is a no-brainer. Painting your stairs with slippery paint can result in serious injury or worse. Therefore, it’s imperative that you choose a paint that has great slip resistance. Further to this, I would always recommend using anti-slip tape or a stair runner for added safety.
Ease of Cleaning
With plenty of foot traffic, having painted stairs that are easy to maintain is always a bonus.
Whilst it may be tempting to go for a pop of colour when painting your stairs, it’s important to bear in mind your overall interior decor colour scheme before choosing a colour for your stairs.
Feel free to be bold but neutral colours are usually the most complimentary colours to overall decor themes.
Best Paint for Stairs
1. Bedec MSP: Best Paint for Stairs Overall
I’ve been using Bedec MSP for 7 or 8 years now and can say that I’ve barely, if ever, had a problem with it. Whilst all the paints on this list are very high quality, Bedec MSP is my number one recommendation because it’s just so reliable and versatile.
Once fully cured, its paint film is flexible enough to deal with the natural movements of wooden stairs but where it really excels is its incredible resistance to scuffs and scratches which is perhaps the most common problem of less durable stair paints.
During a scratch test that I performed on Bedec MSP, I had to really force a sharp screwdriver with a lot of pressure to finally get it to come away from the substrate. And because of this, I’m certain it can deal with heavy foot traffic for years before you need to recoat it.
There are a few other paints on this list that could ALMOST cope with the same amount of rigorous scratching but for me, Bedec MSP is simply the most durable.
When you factor in attributes such as being easy to clean, having a lovely flow when applying and its high opacity and coverage, it’s simply unbeatable.
- High opacity means you will only need to apply 2 coats
- It doesn’t need a primer unlike some of the other paints on this list
- High resistance to scratches means it should last you years
- The white satin option doesn’t have great opacity so typically needs more coats than other colours
Paint specs: coverage: 13m2/litre, touch dry: 2 – 4 hours, re-coatable: 4 hours, application: brush or roller
2. Bradite Floor-It: For slip resistance
Bradite are known in the decorating trade for having some of the most durable and hard-wearing paints on the market. And Bradite Floor-It is no different. Highly resistant to wear and tear and covering as well as any paint on this list, many professional decorators opt for this gear when painting stairs.
As it is touch dry within 30 minutes and re-coatable after 1 hour, it’s a convenient choice for many homeowners as you should be able to use the stairs on the same day that you paint them without having to worry about the paint lifting away from the surface. With that being said, I would advise giving it at least 16 hours before using the stairs just in case.
In terms of slip resistance, I would say that Bradite Floor-It ranks the highest out of all the paints on this list. It has fantastic adhesion and dries to a hard finish that provides plenty of grip when walking on it.
The only thing that really lets this paint down is the fact that it can only cope with light-medium foot traffic. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a negative, depending on how often the stairs are used and whether you use footwear in the home such as slippers/sliders.
- Its super-fast drying time means the stairs can be used on the same day they’re painted
- Provides plenty of grip when walking on it
- Can withstand plenty of wear and tear
- Doesn’t last as long as Bedec MSP
Paint specs: coverage: 12m2/litre, touch dry: 30 minutes, re-coatable: 1 hour, application: roller or brush
3. Scuff-X: A dream to apply
Perhaps one of my favourite paints to apply, I’ve included Scuff-X in this list due to the fact that you’re almost guaranteed to get a professional-looking finish after application.
The paint flows so well that there’s no danger of an orange peel effect or brush marks being present once it cures. Furthermore, it’s very forgiving when touching up with minimal, if any, flashing.
Whilst the Scuff-X has very good adhesion and would likely be fine to apply straight away, I would recommend an undercoat first to give it guaranteed long-term adhesion. Any quick-drying undercoat will do.
In terms of coverage, 2 coats will do the job. I know decorators who are sick to death of having to use 3 coats with paints designed for use on wood, but Scuff-X almost always covers in 2 which ultimately saves time and the cost of additional paint.
In terms of colours, Chanting Lace is the whitest mix they’ve got available and looks beautiful – I would thoroughly recommend it.
It does lack the durability of paints such as Bedec MSP and Bradite Floor-It but if you’re happy with occasional maintenance, you won’t be disappointed.
- Almost always covers in 2 coats
- Dries to a stunning, professional finish with no orange peel effect or brush marks
- Adheres incredibly well to wooden substrates, especially with an undercoat
- Brilliant opacity
- Will occasionally need to be given a new coat
- Not as environmentally friendly as other comparable products
Paint specs: coverage: 9m2/litre, touch dry: 2 hours, re-coatable: 4 hours, application: roller, brush or spray
4. WRX Trade Satinwood: Long-lasting budget option
Typically, for a project such as painting stairs, I wouldn’t recommend budget options. With that being said, WRX Trade’s Satinwood is about as good as you can get without having to stretch your purse strings too much.
The one thing that really impresses me about this paint is how great it adheres to previously painted surfaces.
Whilst you’ll need to stick on an undercoat on bare wooden stairs, if you’ve painted them previously then you can go straight on with the WRX Satinwood. Of course, you’ll want to follow standard preparation practices but even stairs painted in oil-based gloss will only need a quick rub down before painting over it with this gear.
In terms of application, it’s up there with the very best stair paints. It goes on so quickly and smoothly that even if you need a third coat (which in some circumstances you might) it’s not going to take too much additional time from your schedule.
I should mention that it is just a standard satinwood paint so it’s not going to win awards for its bomb-proof durability any time soon but it does dry to a solid finish that can withstand scratches and scuffs.
- So easy to apply
- Can paint over previously painted stairs with no issues
- Dries to a solid finish that isn’t easy to scratch or scuff
- Trade standard paint at a retail paint price
- Can’t withstand foot traffic as well as Bedec MSP or Bradite Floor-It
Paint specs: coverage: 14m2/litre, touch dry: 1 hour, re-coatable: 6 hours, application: roller, brush or spray
5. Johnstone’s Aqua Guard: Best mid-budget choice
Following on from WRX Trade Satinwood, I’ve gone with Johnstone’s Aqua Guard in the fifth and final spot on this list. Whilst the Aqua Guard is a tiny step up in quality, the price jump probably doesn’t warrant choosing it over WRX if you are working with a smaller budget.
Furthermore, unlike WRX Trade Satinwood, which doesn’t need an undercoat, I always find that I get my best results with Aqua Guard when used in conjunction with the Aqua undercoat. Of course, purchasing the undercoat paint is only going to increase the cost of the job which is why I’ve put this paint in the medium budget range.
In terms of scuff and scratch resistance, it definitely out-competes WRX as it’s able to withstand a lot more wear and tear. But compared to Bedec and Bradite, it doesn’t quite measure up. For example, when I conducted a scratch test with my fingernail, Aqua Guard was fine. When I used door keys, it still held up. But when I used a sharper screwdriver it came off after a few seconds of scratching. The Bedec and Bradite on the other hand were immovable.
Of course, that’s not to say it won’t be highly durable because it will be – it just won’t last as long as the top 2 paints on this list.
When it comes to application, it’s got a very impressive 14m2/L of coverage and very good opacity considering that it’s a water-based paint and has a thin consistency. 2 coats will likely do the job.
- Cleans up well
- The white is very bright which is ideal for dark stairways
- Requires an undercoat for an optimal finish and durability
Paint specs: coverage: 14m2/litre, touch dry: 1-2 hours, re-coatable: 4 hours, application: roller and brush