I have a new staircase that's gone in, and I've happily stained and varnished it.

Now I have a problem.

It appears that on the handrail that was varnished, some of the adhesive from tape that was holding a covering cloth in place was missed.

Its a single square right in the middle, and although I've gone over it a few times (and I thought I'd cleaned it thoroughly in the first place) it's glaringly obvious, even from a distance.

What I'm wondering is, could I sand off the varnish on that section and (hopefully) lift the adhesive, then reapply the varnish without making the situation worse?

The varnish I'm using is a water based polyurethane.


  • I'd like to see a picture before I'd recommend either re-doing the entire thing or using a brown sharpie. – Mazura Jan 10 '20 at 17:44
  • you might need a set of furniture markers to exactly match the aged stain and poly. – dandavis Jan 10 '20 at 18:23
  • If the staircase is brand new and the varnish is also, you might have success doing only a small area like that. I'm thinking even if it's not perfect, it will be better than what you have now. On the other hand, if you try to "re-do" the small area and it doesn't work you can always refinish the whole thing. It would be worth a try. – Greg Nickoloff Jan 10 '20 at 20:40

Of course you can do it, and you probably can even get the polyurethane to look pretty good. The trick might be how closely you can get the stain to match. If it's a very light stain or an extremely dark stain it will be more forgiving.

If it's a tone somewhere in the middle, you will need to judge your skill level, and make sure the color is spot on before re-applying the varnish.


If you've still got the leftover stain and varnish from the original finishing, you should be able to match it. I would sand off the varnish and stain and then use some adhesive remover to thoroughly get rid of any residue. Then apply the stain and varnish like you did when you originally did the job. Good luck.

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