Every homeowner who has more than one floor in their house has a decorating opportunity that often goes over looked – the stair risers. Stair risers are the upright sections between the stair treads. Risers are often referred to as the toe kick because as you climb the stair your toes kick it. Many people simply cover the stairway with carpeting, paint or stain, which leads to an area that blends into the background rather than stands out. If you want to showcase your flair for interesting decor and generate a creative way to show off your design style, consider decorating your risers.

There are several ideas to consider when adding decoration to it. You can make your risers fun, dramatic or elegant. The choice is yours, after all they are your stairs to design. With a little creativity and some great ideas the possibilities are endless.

Preparing the Stair Risers

If the stairway is currently covered with a carpet or carpet runner, remove the carpeting from the stairs to expose the wood structure.

Pull out staples, nails and tackless installation strips.

Vacuum the stairs to remove dust and dirt.

Spray a mild all purpose detergent onto a rag and wipe its to remove dirt. Dry it with a clean, dry rag.

Stenciling Risers

Choose a background paint color in an interior grade latex paint. Brush or roll on a coat of paint on it. Let the paint dry for a day or two. Choose a stencil with a design that fits well into your decorating vision. Align the stencil to it and secure it in place with low tack masking tape. Pour a contrasting color stenciling paint onto a small plate. Dip a foam stenciling paintbrush into the paint and knock off excess paint on a clean rag. Gently blot the stenciling paint onto the stencil. Continue to blot the paint onto the stencil, filling in the design until you stencil all stairs. Let the paint dry for a day or two and then roll on a coat of protective, clear polyurethane to preserve your design. Consider painting every riser a different color or shades of one color and adding varying stenciled designs to each riser. After the stencil paint dries, add some glitter over the stenciled design before coating it with polyurethane.

Mosaic Risers

Place a sheet of heavyweight paper up against it and cut out the exact size and shape with a utility knife. Note which riser the pattern correlates with. Draw a picture on the pattern or go online and get a coloring page type picture and transfer the design onto the pattern. You can also choose to make a random pattern – there are no rules – pick what appeals to your tastes. Place around dry setting the tiles until you come up with a design you like. Get a self sticking tile mat at a tile store or online. Cut the at to the exact size of it. Peel the protective film off the back of the mat, press the mat onto it. Peel the protective film off the front of the mat and transfer mosaic tiles one by one from the pattern to the mat on it, pressing each tile in place firmly with your hand. Dip a rubber grout float into grout and spread the grout over the tiles while pressing it into the spaces between the tiles. Wipe the surface with a wet sponge to remove excess grout from the face of the tile. You can buy mosaic tiles or wrap a tile in an old towel and shatter it with a hammer and use the pieces for the mosaic design.

Cut-Out Panels

Choose and interior grade latex paint in the color of your choice and paint its. Let the paint dry for four to six hours. Buy decorative stair riser panels that have cutout decorations and designs. When the decorative panels are put against it the paint color below shows through the cutouts. Align it panel to it and drive finishing nails through the panel into it around the edge of the panel. Place a nail set on the head of the finishing nail and tap the finishing nail in so it sits just below the surface of the panel. Use a circular saw to trim the panel if necessary.

Chalkboard Paint

Paint two coats of chalkboard paint over the stair riser, allowing each coat to dry for four to five hours in between. Wait a least 12 hours for the paint to dry fully. Write names, quotes or words on each riser to give you inspiration, reinforce your faith and beliefs or to designate a special day. The beauty of chalkboard paint is you can change your message daily. You can alos draw pictures and designs with a rainbow of colored chalks.

 Wallpapering it

Place a section of wallpaper up to it and cut the wallpaper to the exact size of it with a utility knife. Spread wallpaper paste over the back of the wallpaper or set it in water to make prepasted sheets sticky. Line up the wallpaper to the edge of it and set in place. Smooth the wallpaper to remove bubbles. You can choose a different pattern for each riser or every other riser rather than the same wallpaper design for each one.

More Painting Ideas

Paint its with interior grade latex paint and let the paint dry for 48 hours. Place strips of low tack masking tape on it, evenly spaced. Roll a contrasting color or choose the same color as the base but has more or less gloss to create stripes on its. Remove the masking tape and let the paint dry. If you use the same color with a higher or lower level of gloss, you will have pretty tone on tone stripes.

Metal Risers

Use tin snips to cut tin, stainless steel or copper ceiling tiles to the exact size of the stair riser. Spread construction adhesive over the back of the ceiling tile and press the tile in place. Wear thick work gloves when working with and cutting metal.

 Decoupage Risers

Find family pictures, interesting photos or any type of picture that appeals to you. Copy the pictures onto a heavy stock paper. Glue the pictures onto its and apply a coat of glue over the pictures to protect them. Make each riser a different theme. For example the top step can be your baby pictures, the second step your partner’s baby pictures, then your children and so on – it makes a very interesting way to display your family tree.


Measure it and cut a section of Formica to the same size. Spread laminate adhesive over the back of the Formica and press it in place on it. Formica comes in a wide variety of colors, styles and patterns from which to choose. Some types of Formica look like natural stone while others have interesting patterns. Install a different pattern on each riser to add interest.