My wife has a quilting home business in our basement and while we don’t want to spend a lot of $ to re-do the basement stairs, we’d like to make them look a little better now that she has customers coming down to her studio.

The house came with the basement unfinished, so the stairs were never a pretty job. From what I can tell from the bullnose of the treads, they are painted (or just primed) particle board, so it has some surface texture, and some wear and tear. That includes nail holes where the tack strips were nailed down for the carpet and scratches that I suspect were done when they cut the carpet or underlayment (see pic)

I’m not sure what the risers are made from, it looks like I can see wood grain under the paint, so I suspect not the same particle boards.

I have another thread about closing the gaps you see in the picture (maybe just calking) and stopping the stair squeaking, so let’s ignore them for now.

My question is how do I prep the stairs to get a “good” paint job. I don’t expect perfection, it’s just a basement and we will put some of those individual step carpet rugs, something along the lines of:


but I would love to do a decent job.

I can fill in the nail holes with putty, and fix the gap. Should I try and sand each tread for example to remove the slash marks? I’ve never worked with particle board before, so I’m not sure if sanding it will make things worse. I suppose I need to use suction and wear a mask since I don’t trust manufactured woods to be healthy for you. Can I improve the bullnose texture with sanding, or is it just a fact of life that it will have that glued wood chips look?

Are there tricks I can play with priming or painting? I don’t know if there is such a thing as “thick” primer/paint that will hide some of the underlying texture?

Finally is there special “high-traffic” paint I should use that will withstand traffic better? (at least the rugs will help)