I thought about going the same color of stain as the kitchen floor, but in the end I went one shade darker (one coat of Early American, one coat of Dark Walnut by Minwax) and I loooove that I did. It's not quite as dark as it looks here - it just makes the undertones a nice rich walnut rather than the orange-y undertones that Early American can have in some lighting.
So happy. And - simple - ! I taped off the surrounding area with painters tape and newspaper, then sanded it down one night with my trusty handheld orbital sander, wiped it down with rubbing alcohol + soft cloth (to remove dust), did the two stain coats and then three coats of polyurethane.
The most work was cleaning up all the dust off all the other surfaces in the sunroom (thanks Netflix for boredom busting that phase for me ;) )
One of the best tricks I've learned for the polyurethane is to use a cheap foam brush to apply (8 for $2 at WalMart) and then clean by wrapping 4-5 paper towels around it and squeezing. This gets enough of the poly out to reuse the brush, without trying to wash it down the drain into the water supply (washing off a brush that used oil-based poly = gross).
Also these days I always sand lightly with 220 grit paper in between coats of poly. It helps remove any bubble-build-up to get a great, professionally smooth surface in the end!
I will probably go around and caulk over the edges of where the step meets the tile, since stain got on that caulk line. But even before then I'm really pleased with how it turned out!
And another Before:
And now After:
And some gratuitous close-up shots of the lovely woods:
I love how a simple update can make a big difference!