Easily one of the most rewarding processes when completing a stair & railing project, or any other wood working project. Finishing can make or break a job. There are two main reason why you finish wood:
1) Protection: It is important you seal the materials so you can stabilize the materials with respect to the environment where the wood materials will reside. Protecting/sealing the wood will provide your materials with "armor" against wear and tear and anything else that could harm the materials (sunlight, spills, bugs etc)
2) Colour: Staining materials gives you the ability to match the colours of your wood to others that might be in your house (match the stairs to your flooring). Every species of wood has a different staining ability. It is important you take this into consideration when determining what colour you end up going with as you may not be happy with the finished result. For example, Maple is a very dense wood which is very difficult to stain, especially dark. The materials should be "conditioned" prior to finishing which will give your materials a much more consistent look.
Finishing can be expensive! I find that most people do not allow enough in their budget when it comes to protecting their stairs & railings. This process is VERY labour intensive and can take up a few days due to the time it takes for some materials to cure. Probably the most important step and the one that takes the longest is the preparation of the materials. Sanding & taping take lots of time however they are key if you want a consistent and beautiful finish. Stains and clear coats can be either sprayed or manually applied, both have their pros and cons.
It is very important that you do not look over this step as protecting your investment is very important. A poor finish can ruin a project, we have seen it many times. PLAN PLAN PLAN! We offer professional finishing services here at Stairhaus, let us help you protect your stairs & railings.