Step 4: Clear coat the stained stairs. I used an oil based Polyurethane with a satin finish. The glossier the finish, the more durable it is, but we didn’t want to go glossy, so satin was the best bet. Oil based finishes are also more durable than water based ones, which is why I went with that for this project. I did three coats. The first soaks in quite a bit the second evens it out and the third coat ensures a durable, even finish.