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A few weeks ago, we shared how we’re helping Fe’s ACL by limiting jumping and teaching him to use pet stairs to get on and off the couch.
In fact, for those who have been following along, we’ve been sharing the on going saga of Fe’s torn ACL’s and our adventures in conservative management, both with the right leg last year and the left leg this summer. These stairs, along with a ramp for our bed and a passel of rehab and alternative therapies mean that Fe is healing exactly the way I want him to.
After a bunch of training, Felix is using his stairs pretty consistently now. I still occasionally catch him hopping on or off the couvh like a kangaroo, but those moments are getting fewer and far between. Now that I’m convinced the steps are here to stay, it was time to give them a make over.
There are a lot of things I love about the Solvit PupSTEPS – They’re nice and sturdy because they’re made of wood, not plastic. They are collapsible, so you can fold them down and tuck them away when you have company. They’re lightweight, so I can move them around myself, with little effort. There’s only one thing I don’t love about them: They’re a dark stain and a dark brown felt.
You guys, my living room is all greys and blacks and beiges. These brown stairs look so, so out of place. I don’t mind doing what I need to to make life easier for Fe, but I also don’t want a big, bulky mismatched set of stairs to be the first thing people see when they walk into our living room.
Luckily, the Solvit PupSTEP pet stairs are wood which means you can easily refinish them to match any decor in just 3 or 4 easy steps!
Here’s what you need:
Solvit PupSTEP Wood Pet Steps (<-affiliate link)
Furniture Stripper with a furniture scraper or Sandpaper (#120/150 Grit & #220 Grit)
Paint & Primer Combo to match or complement your decor
Medium weight felt, in a colour that complements your paint
Craft & Fabric Glue (I used Sobo’s <-affiliate link)
80 or so carpet tacks <-affiliate link
Optional: Riser decor – 2 packs of 12 x 12 mosaic tiles + all in one tile adhesive/grout combo. (I bought mine premixed for easy.) You’ll also need a small tile trowel and tile float.
- Click here for a few alternative riser options that easy, fun and fabulous.
Optional: chalk pen & ruler
STEP ONE: Strip ’em down.
To start the process of giving your pet stairs a fresh new look, you first have to take them “back to one”, so there’s no stain or fabric on them.
Use pliers to rip out the staples holding down the brown felt tread. Curse freely and frequently, as required, since this step is so much more woofing difficult than it sounds. The staples are tiny and tenacious.
Use the furniture scraper to scrape the felt off the treads. (Kol’s Note: Dropping a generous dollop of the furniture stripper on one corner/along one edge will make that edge fairly easy to lift and give you an easy spot to get your scraper under.)
The PupSTEPS come with a coat of stain in a rich, reddish brown. It’s really pretty, but just not my style. In order to remake these to match your decor, you first have to remove the old stain using either furniture stripper or sandpaper. Honestly? Both options suck. LOL. There are few things in life I hate more than this first step. In my case, since I was doing this on my apartment deck and I didn’t want to shower my neighbours with dust, I used a furniture stripper that claimed to be eco and pet friendly.
– Furniture Stripper – Apply furniture stripper in small sections. Allow it to work (per package directions), then scrape the now gooey, sticky stain off with a furniture scraper and wipe off any excess with a dry rag. (I am fussy and hate sticky fingers, so I used a whole pack of cheap, thin kitchen cloths and just threw them out after.) I did still have to do some minor sanding with medium grit sandpaper – mostly on the stair treads, where the glue did not come off cleanly.
– Sand Paper – Using a medium grit sand paper (#120 or #150), sand the stain off the wood. Once the finish has been removed, give the stairs a quick, all over sanding using a fine #220 Grit sandpaper, to ensure a nice finish.
STEP TWO: Apply Paint
I hummed and hawwed and went back and forth on what to refinish my stairs with. Truthfully, I initally tried staining them in a rich, dark ebony gel stain, but I ran into…complications. Not all furniture pieces take stain well and unfortunately, this was one of those cases. The sides looked absolutely gorgeous, but the edges and stair risers were less cooperative. I wasn’t happy with how they were turning out, so I stripped them again and decided to paint them.
Paint was a much, much better option. It looks so creamy and rich. I don’t know why I didn’t just paint them in the first place! I’m lazy, so I opted to use a Paint & Primer all in one interior paint, but if you’re the kind of person who has the patience for waxing, these would look gorgeous in a milk paint with antiquey edges and a waxed finished.
I applied two coats of paint + primer to the sides and supports of the stairs, allowing the paint to dry completely between coats. I didn’t bother to paint the risers, as I had plans for them, BUT for an easier project, you can absolutely paint the risers.
STEP THREE: Re-upholstery stair treads
Trim your felt to cover your stair treads, remembering to leave enough to wrap around the face. I used a ruler and a chalk pen to mark my pieces and ensure they were good and squared off, not wobbly edged.
Apply a thin, even layer of the wood/fabric/craft glue to the top riser and over the edges. Place your felt on top, ensuring that it is straight and smoothed all the way to the edge. Repeat with each stair tread. All glue to dry completely.
Use carpet tacks along the back of the riser to secure felt in place. I used about 10 tacks across the width of the stairs. (Kol’s Note: If you painted your stair risers and do not plan to tile or panel them, then I might choose decorative tacks in a coordinating finish and rounded top.)
Flip your stairs over and wrap your felt around the front of the steps. Secure the felt to the underside with tacks (again about 10 across the width of the stairs.)
OPTIONAL STEP FOUR: Create visually appealing stair risers.
I loved the idea of tiling my stair risers and, thanks to a Grandfather who wasn’t afraid to teach me to get dirty, I have tiled several times in the past. If you find tile a little intimidating, that’s OK! Click here to see a list of easy ideas to create some visual interest on your risers. I promise though, tiling your pet stair risers is easier than it sounds!
If you’re smarter than me, you’ll start by masking off your felt treads and the painted wood along the edge of your stair risers with painters tape. I skipped this step and I ended up having to clean a ton of goo off my felt, plus sand down a few goopy spots and touch up paint. It would be WAY easier just to mask them off.
Decide how you will lay out your tiles. Since my tall tiles were offset at the edges, I had to cut up my tile sheets and piece them into my own pattern. At 5/8″ tall, I used 4 lines of tile on each riser, but you may need more or less depending on the size of tile you chose.
Apply a thin (about 1/8″ layer of tile adhesive to the stair riser with your tile trowel (or, MacGuyver it and use your scraper to apply it and then drag a plastic fork through the layer to “score” it. I think we all know which method I used.)
Press your tiles into the adhesive. They make these fancy little tile spacers to make sure everything is perfectly spaced and you can use them if you want, or you can live on the edge and eyeball it, like I did. Since most of the tiles will still be attached to the tile webbing, it’s pretty darn hard to mess it up. Wipe off any excess adhesive, but don’t worry if there is a little on the face of the tiles. It’s no bid deal at this stage.
Allow the adhesive to set, so your tiles no longer move around when you press on them. Apply more of the ahdesive/grout combo and smooth it into your grout lines using a tile float. (MacGuyver option: Those high density make up sponges also work *like a charm*)
Allow the grout to mostly set, then using a damp sponge, clean the face of the tiles. (You’ll have to keep washing the goo off your sponge, so have a bucket of clean water close at hand.)
Remove the painters tape.
Voila! Just like that, you’ve given your pet stairs a designer makeover.
I’m honestly thrilled with how they turned out. The tiles and the paint work with the beige and grey decor in my living room. The stairs no longer stick out like a sore thumb. When I have company over, it’s really easy to move the stairs into a corner and sit a plant or two on them and they just look like a really fancy plant stand. We had one of Felix’s favourite people over last night and she said the photos of these stairs really don’t do them justice. They’re lovely and I couldn’t be happier.
I’m really grateful to Solvit, not just for making a product that is helping to keep Fe from reinjuring his torn ACLs, but also for the chance to play with these stairs and really make them into something I love. It takes a pretty fabulous brand to hear “I really love your product, but” and be open to your ideas. I can confidently say that the PupSTEP Wood Pet Stairs are worth buying if you have a pet with knee, joint or ligament issues.
Have you ever custom made or refinished something for your pet? Did it work out the way you planned? Will you share any pictures with us?
This post is a part of the Caring for Critters Health Issues Round Robin hosted by Heart Like a Dog. All month long, pet bloggers will be sharing their personal experiences, health problems their pets have faced and how we dealt with them. While we consulted veterinarians and specialists in determining our own course of treatment, we are not vets and nothing shared should be considered medical advice. Capische?
Check out tomorrow’s post by Kelsie at one of our favourite big, fuzzy dog blogs, It’s Dog or Nothing