Routine maintenance is one of those absolute necessities that we almost always hate doing. I'd so much prefer creating new spaces, finishing new projects, or just relaxing on the couch. But keeping the already finished spaces of the house looking good is as important as getting them the way you want them in the first place. It's just a fact of home ownership.

When we chose salvaged cast iron stairs to replace the brick stairs and rusted railing that previously adorned the facade of our home, we knew there would be an added level of maintenance to keep them looking good. After all, you can pretty much leave brick alone and not really worry much about it, but iron and steel will rust, deteriorate, and very quickly look bad if you don't make a conscious effort to keep it looking the way it did on the day it was installed. 

We last painted the front stairs about three or four years ago, but in the last couple of months, we started to notice the wear and tear the weather, foot traffic, and afternoon to evening sun have been taking on our stairs. This weekend we took advantage of the somewhat warm, though pretty windy weather to apply another coat of paint. I'll tell you one thing, for a project that is considered routine maintenance, it sure can be a bit of a pain.

We started the project on Saturday morning. Thought it started out a bit cold, the temperature would eventually warm above 50 degrees, which is the minimum we needed to use the paint we chose. Before the sun got on the steps and warmed things up, I got started taking care of some of the basic prep work. As with any painting project (and really any project around the house), prep work is key to a job well done. And though it is key, prep work is also the most tedious and annoying of the tasks. 

The stairs were covered in dirt and pollen, so I dragged the hose around front and kicked things off with a good cleaning. It took a little over an hour getting in all of the various nooks and crannies of the treads, risers, newel posts, and rails. The cleaning alone really made the stairs look better, I couldn't believe it, but I was actually getting a little bit excited for how it might end up looking once we actually painted.

The paint we chose was the Benjamin Moore N133 Alkyd in high gloss black. The N133 is formulated for metal, which is exactly what we needed it for. If you're a long time reader, you might remember my difficulties between the C133 and N133 at our local hardware store when we were painting the front door. I went around and around with Benjamin Moore, our hardware store, and a few other local paint stores about whether the N133 could be used on wood. The end result, N133 is for Metal, C133 is for wood (but we knew that), and our Ace Hardware no longer carries the N133 because of this issue. Great, just when I actually need the N133. I was able to find a quart of the N133 at another local Benjamin Moore store, so I ran out and picked it up. When I got back to the house the sun had made it onto the stairs, the temperature warmed up above 50, and I had all of my stuff ready to go.

I had one final prep item to tackle before I could get started painting. Using some '0' steel wool, I went over the problem areas of the last coat of paint. I used the steel wool to smooth anything that was rusted, flaking, or lumpy to give the next coat a good and clean surface to adhere to. Everywhere that I sanded had a nice matte finish to it.  

Wendy and I got started applying our new and shiny coat of paint. I began on the newel posts...

...While wendy got started on the stair treads.

The goal with this project was to do an even and thin coat that will last us a good couple of years. We stretched the current coat a little longer than we should have, allowing too much to peel away or flake off. 

Our simple project was going along pretty smoothly until we hit a little snag. Well, actually, Wendy hit a little snag. I was painting along, minding my own business, when Wendy says "Oh no, I cut myself." To which I responded, "What?" It seems that Wendy was holding her brush in a manner that forced the copper base to slice into the side of her finger, resulting in a pretty decent and bloody cut. 

Seriously? Who cuts themselves on a paint brush? Wendy wiped off the blood and before she knew it it was back (and now dripping onto the paint brush). Apparently she really cut herself pretty deep. Deep enough to require a Scooby Doo band aid. Luckily, we had some of those on hand. 

With our favorite cartoon tourniquet applied, the painting itself took us a couple of hours to knock out, but on a warm sunny day out front, it sort of became a social happening. Pedestrians would comment on our efforts and how it was looking. During the process, we saw several neighbors and even had a friend or two stop over. When our friend Katie showed up, we hatched plans for our Easter brunch. Talk about multitasking. 

As we were getting close to wrapping up the painting work on the stairs, the wind started to pick up a little bit. Unfortunately, we couldn't do much to avoid the dirt and dust blowing into the paint, but I don't think it really hurt the end result all that much. Our finished stairs were shiny and black, just the want we wanted them to be.

After we painted the stairs, we also wanted to put a coat of paint on the cast iron flower urns to make sure they didn't stand out like a sore thumb from the newly painted cast iron. We followed the same basic steps on the urns as we did with the stairs. 

This type of work, thought not particularly difficult, is an annoying and sometimes painful type of work that involves squatting, laying, crawling, and groaning. 

After much complaining, we were finally able to take a step back, appreciate our completed project, and check it off of our super long list.

I have to say, a fresh coat of shiny paint on the stairs and urns paired with our shiny French doors really looks great. 

Whenever I look at our stairs, doors, detail work above the windows, house numbers, etc, and remember what our house looked like when we bought it, I'm always so proud of what we've accomplished.

So that was part of our super productive Saturday. What did you do this weekend? Was there any routine maintenance in the cards for you, or did you make some progress on a project you really wanted to work on? 

Comments 13


4/9/2012 at 10:59 AM
How did you handle the center posts that you share with your neighbor? Did you paint your half or just do the entire thing? It turned out great!!!
Thanks Nikki! We painted the entire railing and newel posts down the center. We let our neighbor know ahead of time that we'd be painting and that we'd happily do the center rail. I think she has painting plans in the near future too.
Bill O
4/9/2012 at 11:33 AM
That is so very excellent. I drove by your house recently, and I just love the blue door. It really makes the front view of your house so much more distinctive than typical Old Town. I bet it's even better with the shiny front steps!
Thanks for noticing! When we leave the house we sometimes drive by the front and say "look at how nice the front of the house is looking." The shiny steps are just a little added something now.
4/9/2012 at 8:56 PM
Nice! Looks much better.

For some reason, though, I seem to no longer be getting updates from you guys in my Google Reader. I can't seem to understand why. I'll try re-subscibing...
I am fed up with Google Reader and Feed Burner. For whatever reason they seem to be duplicating constantly for some people and then not showing up for others. They are essentially a giant black box to web developers and have no good way to debug or track what is wrong. And the thing I hate more than anything, it only seems to be an issue with our blog. Grrr. So frustrating. Hopefully I can get to the bottom of it before too long.
4/9/2012 at 9:32 PM
From Mike (not Sandy), Scooby Do to the rescue (again).
Some habits die hard. :-)
4/11/2012 at 1:16 PM
There's not much you guys don't know. This is a great book on architectural metals; covers standing seam metal roofs too. Best metal resource I know: Metals in America's Historic Buildings by Gail, Look and Waite (NPS). They mention zinc-rich primers as a good base for alkyds over cast iron.
I'll look it up, sounds like it has some good reference items. Thanks for the tip.
4/13/2012 at 5:23 PM
Very interesting post and the stairs look great!
Thanks so much, Tyler!
4/23/2012 at 8:23 PM
Alex, I figured out that for whatever reason, I wasn't subscribed to your blog anymore, so I just re-added the subscription, and now I'm getting the notices again. Also, I do get a lot of duplicate posts from your blog for whatever reason, but I don't think it's just yours. I guess I can't complain too much about a free service, right? I still have all my blogs bookmarked separately.
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