How I Stenciled My Front Steps (And So Can You!)

This was a hard DIY for me. Not because of the stencil itself, but because it was so time consuming. There were so many layers of epoxy down on these steps that it took me almost a week just to strip the entire thing down! This was also not just my first time really stenciling, but also my first time doing anything with steps. I kept encountering some issues with my steps themselves and the elements, since I was racing the cold weather. But, when the entire project was completed, it was totally worth the amount of time and work that I put into it.

These steps were really in need of some help!

Supplies

Power Washer
Scraper
Concrete Repair
Concrete and Garage Paint (first Layer)
Paint Roller for textured surfaces
Stencil(s) of Choice
Paint of Choice
Stencil Brush
Duck Tape
Paper Towels
Sealant
Might also need:
Paint Remover (if needed)
Concrete Patcher (if needed)
-Gloves, Mask, bucket, concrete float (If you need to go this route)
Small paint brushes (if needed for touch ups)
Tape Measure
Scissors
Painters Tape

Being in New Jersey, I really wanted to get this project done before the cold weather really set in and before I put my fall décor out. So, I found Royal Stencils Herringbone Brick Wall pattern and fell in love. But before I could paint the stencil and while I was waiting for it to come in the mail, I needed to prep my steps for the new paint. These steps were pretty gross. They were flaking everywhere, and they had visible different layers of paint showing. I was dying to dive into this project simply because these steps have been driving me crazy since we moved in and I was honestly embarrassed by them!
I used a power washer to get the first layer of paint off, but this paint was so stubborn in so many places that it took a total of 4 days of power washing to get the majority of the epoxy off. On day 2 we tried a paint stripper to help remove some of the caked on epoxy and even that wasn’t helping very much. On day 3, I went outside to power wash again to find a horrific smell from the paint thinner and the stagnant water that wouldn’t dry up. I was having to use so much water, there was just no way for the ground to absorb it quickly. I really didn’t want to keep using the paint thinner because of this, but it was pretty clear that this epoxy wasn’t coming off easily. So, I added a layer of stripper again, let it sit and power washed it again. On day 4, I did the same thing and I pretty much got everything removed, finally! Hallelujah!
I used a scraper to get up whatever little pieces were left, and I was pretty happy to put away the power washer and not be a sopping wet mess for another day. I was also hoping that smell would start dissipating, but it took several days for the smell to start to go away.

After all of the epoxy was removed, we had two steps that were needing concrete repair because someone had done a pretty junky job at repairing them previously. So, my husband, Steven, mixed the concrete and used a concrete float to smooth it out onto the two steps that needed it.
The steps were already starting to look so much better with all of the epoxy removed and the bottom steps finally looking perfectly even. But, we needed to let the stairs dry before we could do anything else.
The next day I applied concrete repair in any cracks we had left, and there were a few… again we waited.

…Waiting really started to feel like the theme of this project…

The next day the concrete was dry and I was finally ready to paint. I swept the stairs ( I was actually having to do this quite often just because I was outside and fall was approaching, constantly blowing anything and everything onto the steps), and finally started to roll my white paint down on the stairs. I used Behr interior/exterior cement and garage in white since this was going to be visible and act as the “grout” for my brick stencil.
I wanted to make sure the base paint was a good cement paint so that I knew it was really going to adhere to the steps. I did two coats and took the next day off so that the paint could really adhere and dry properly. The directions also ask you to wait 72 hours.

Next step is finally the stencil and this can honestly be so much fun! You can be as creative as you want. First, I want to talk about color. I used several different colors to achieve the “red brick” look. I used all Fusion Mineral Paint (FMP) for the actual stencil since I love working with their paint and I planned on sealing it when I was done. The main color I used is FMP custom blend 31 “Barn Red”, a mix of 6 parts Fort York Red and 1 part Chocolate. I also used their Coal Black in some spots and Enchanted in others.
Since I was using a pretty large stencil, I wanted to use a larger stencil brush for the majority of the project. I also used smaller stencil brushes for areas I was doing by freehand, but I did not like the brand I used, they were just too stiff for this project which was causing problems with the paint laying on the cement properly. I was getting a wire-y look.

I taped the stencil down using duck tape at the top edge of the top step, in the center. I used duck tape because painters tape really wont hold nearly as well against cement. I also placed the stencil in the center so that I could jump around with the stencil as each section dried and I will explain more about that in a minute. After I had the stencil taped down, I started with my custom blended “Barn Red” and painted the entire stencil. I then would dip my brush into Black coal and dab a little bit of black in a brick or two. I would then do the same thing with the color Enchanted. However, I would then go back and do another layer of Red Barn over the entire stencil again. I would add more Red Barn in places I felt like needed it, or less, whatever the case may be. This is the part where you can be as creative as you can be!
PRO TIP: You want to dab off as much paint from your brush as you can to avoid bleeding, especially with such thin lines on these stencils. Keep an entire roll of paper towels near by to dab you brush on. I also place my paint on a paper plate so that I can dab my paint on that first, then the paper towel, then I go to the stencil.

Getting back to the placement of the stencil; I laid the stencil in the center of the top step all the way against the house. Taped it down. Did my thing with the paint, then I removed the stencil and let it dry for just a bit. (not too long, maybe just 15-20 minutes.) Next, I moved the stencil to the right and lined up the top left triangle on the stencil with the top right corner of the brick of what I had just painted. I also was aligning the bottom left triangle on the stencil with the bottom right corner brick I just painted (see photo). When everything was lined up just right, I taped the stencil down again with duck tape. Again, I did my thing with the paint; Red Barn everywhere, a little coal black here, a little enchanted there, a bit more Red Barn here and then a bunch more Red Barn everywhere. When that was done, I lifted up the stencil and moved it to the left of the very first stencil I had painted and lined up the stencil again. This time I was using different corners since I was on a different side of the stencil. But, because I worked on the right hand side of the stencil first, the left hand side was dry and I didn’t have to worry. Now, when I was done with this next stencil I then moved down to the bottom right (under where I had just worked previously.)
TIP: for videos on my technique for how I moved the stencil, check out my Instagram story highlights labeled front steps
By flipping back and forth, side to side, I am allowing each little section to dry enough so that I can lay my stencil down without worrying about spreading paint around. Now, with this particular stencil, the brick is so large and the grout line is so small that there is already so much room for the paint to seep out and bleed a little. But, we are eliminating any added paint movement by giving it time to dry and we are still able to continue to work by moving on to another dry section to work next to.
I was able to use the Stencil for the majority of the top of the steps without a problem, However I have two pillars that made it nearly impossible to use the stencil for. So, for a decent portion behind the pillars I needed to free hand the brick pattern. I also added little triangles in places that the stencil was not getting and made sure each brick pattern went all the way up to the stair in front of it, or the house. For all of these things I used a medium sized paint brush instead of my stencil.
I continued the Herringbone stencil all through the top of the steps and I realized I wanted something different. So I decided to add a straight brick stencil as a border to the steps. I also decided to do the risers and the sides of the steps with the same straight brick pattern. So, in order to get this border around the steps- I needed to paint over some of what I already stenciled. I know you’re thinking “this girl is crazy! she just did all this work and now she is going to paint over it?” I promise, stay with me, it will be worth it.

When You have brick pavers with a true herringbone pattern, there is a border of brick around the pattern. Especially on a set of steps, you aren’t going to have a brick laid at an angle and stop abruptly at the edge of a stair. So, I knew I had to do the border or it was going to bother me forever.
In order to even paint this new stencil, I needed to re-prep my surface again. So, I used painters tape, trying to minimize the amount of wear on my freshly painted steps, and created a border. The top step had a bit of a lip to it already, so I just went with that natural indent as my border. After I taped up the first step, I measured what that length was so that I could do the same size for the other two steps, which was about 3 inches.
After taping up each step, I painted each steps new border with a gray paint to use as a primer. This helps the red from coming through the white paint that will be going on next. I happened to have FMP Pebble on hand, so I did one layer of that and let it dry. The next day I used my, always on hand, FMP Casement and rolled out the paint on my newly created border. Luckily, because I did the gray first, I only needed two coats of the casement and I could not see any red brick showing through at all! All I had left to do was remove the tape and let it dry.

The next day I used my second stencil from Royal Stencil and only used the bottom portion of the stencil to achieve the new border around my other pattern. My steps have a lip, or a slight over hang over each step, so I followed the pattern of the brick down over that lip, making it look like one piece of brick that you can now see from the top of the step and in front of the step. Next, I took the straight brick pattern and did the sides of the steps. Again, I had to free hand some of the brick that went up against the wall. Also in some spots I even used painters tape to create my own stencil of sorts in areas that were just to difficult to use the stencil against, like against the ground. It was too difficult to place the stencil in these areas and I didn’t want to cut it for just a few bricks. I had a good amount of trouble on the sides of the steps with simply keeping the stencil in place. Even with a substantial amount of duck tape, the stencil kept falling. I’m pretty sure the reason for this was that we had a few really cold nights in between when I started this project and when I started the sides of the steps. So, I think the steps got too cold for the tape to adhere well enough. At one point I needed Steve to hold the stencil in place for me to finish up painting, because it was becoming such a nuisance. Just like the top of the steps, I would move the stencil around so that I was always placing the stencil on sections of dry previously painted step. I would sometimes even alternate between sides of the steps if I ran out of dry sections.

After powering through most of the sides of the steps, I started on the risers. I found that all three risers were different in size and the middle step was extremely narrow. No matter what I was going to need to cut the stencil to do the risers, which I figured. But, the middle riser was so narrow that I was going to have to eventually cut the stencil even more. I just snipped the bottom line of brick off of the stencil so that I had one straight line of brick. I did the top and bottom risers first, alternating between the steps and then I cut the stencil further to do the middle. At this point I just cut the top grout line off of the same line of brick I had previously cut off. It almost made what looked like upside down “t’s”. I did a few like this then got frustrated with the stencil falling again and again, and eventually just taped each “brick” off and used painters tape as a new form of stencil.
I used painters tape as a “stencil” for any spot that was too difficult to use the stencil and that I didn’t think I needed to free hand. Besides the risers, these were spots like the corners of the steps and the bricks close to the ground on the sides.
After I was done with the risers, I took a step back and did not like the way that they were looking. The center riser looked a lot better than the other two. Because the riser was so narrow, the brick basically started at the step below it and finished at the step above it, and I liked that much better. So, I grabbed my paint brush and painted each brick pattern up to the top of the step above it and all the way down to the space below it. Essentially, it now appeared as if there was no grout between steps and they weren’t floating in air.
After finishing the risers, I touched up a few bricks on the sides of the steps free hand and then I was done with the brick! I took some time to stand back and admire all the hard work I had done so far, did a little bit of a happy dance and then walked away… but just for the night because my OCD would not allow me to leave the steps like this.

The next day I grabbed my FMP casement, which is that really nice white that I used before when I needed to cover up the border of the brick, and I went around the entire thing covering up any spots where the red paint bled into the white “grout”. I also used the red paint to cover up some spots where I has spilt a little black paint also. Now, your average person does not need to do this step, and your average person also probably wouldn’t even notice half of the spots I was covering up, but I did indeed feel like it was necessary, though my back and knees may beg to differ.

When I was done with the tedious and (some would say crazy) detailed painting, I waited yet another day and needed to protect this baby with a sealant. I decided to go with Behr Low-Luster Sealer for cement, brick and tile that I found at Home Depot. I didn’t want anything glossy since brick would never naturally be glossy. I poured it right on to the cement and applied it with a roller. I waited for it to dry for about 4 hours and then applied a second coat. For me that ended up being around midnight. Yes I am that crazy, but I was also ready for this project to be over since it had already taken way longer than I had planned.
But after that last coat of sealant, I was finally D-O-N-E!

See for yourself how these steps turned out. I still cannot believe they are painted!

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