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I'm getting ready to install pre-finished hardwood on the treads of a staircase that was previously carpeted. Rather than installing the hardwood on the risers as well, I'm planning to install white, painted boards. I intend to paint the boards before I install them, and I'm just looking for some advice on the type of paint to use and how I should apply it, as I've struggled to get good results painting trim and doors in the past. I've always used water-based semi-gloss paint, and recently I've started adding floetrol, which has helped some with brush marks, but I still haven't been able to get the kind of results I would like.

I would really like to avoid brush marks on these treads if I can help it, and I'd also like to go with a really tough paint that won't scuff easily and that will clean up well. So should I go with an oil-based paint? I gather that spraying is probably the best way to paint these, but I don't have a paint sprayer. Any suggestions to work around that? Or should I just suck it up and buy a sprayer? Any tips, tricks, or suggestions are appreciated.

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    Renting an airless sprayer beats buying a cheap one for a single use. Even if the cost is similar the rental will be a much higher quality. Personally I would opt for a small roller. – Matthew Gauthier Aug 28 '18 at 20:39
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You can attain a beautiful mirror-like finish with no brush marks if you:

  • use only the best professional grade paint brush you can get; seriously, this will probably be the biggest factor in getting the finish you want
  • use high quality paint and never do it in direct sunlight or when it's too hot (>80°F), no Floetrol necessary
  • lay the panels flat on sawhorses and paint each panel all in one go; always maintain a wet edge, never stop midway through
  • if the wood is bare, prime first
  • use high gloss paint for best durability and "washability"
  • high quality water based paint will perform perfectly and will be easier as opposed to oil
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My recommendation is a gloss cabinet paint with a good paint brush.

We painted our stairs(after filling in the nail holes) with this type of paint. Put a carpet runner on. Now it looks like a staircase from a design magazine.

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