How to Update a Stair Rail

How to Update a Stair Rail

We had a flood in our basement on August first, so all the carpet, trim, and some of the drywall had to be removed.  I decided that since I painted the oak finishes in the rest of the house, and since the trim was all removed and sitting in a pile in the basement, that now would be a good time to finish the job in the basement.

So, I started with the trim, then I painted the doors black, then decided to update the stair railing like I did upstairs. I took more step-by-step photos this time and will give details on how I did this project.

First, here is a before picture:


As you can see, the carpet was left on the stairs after the water remediation because it is easier to walk on it than the exposed tack strip.

The first thing that we did was to remove the oak balusters.  My son helped me do this with a jig saw.  Once it is cut, it is easy to pull out by twisting the staples loose.




After all the balusters have been removed, you will need to pull out any remaining nails.  Then, the underside of the hand rail will have pieces of trim that will need to be removed.


These pieces can be removed by prying them off with the end of a screwdriver, or a chisel.  They are also nailed in place, so there will be several nails to pull out. After that, I added a long piece of trim to the underside of the railing.  I used this that I got at Menards:


It fit nicely after I cut it to the length that I needed.


I used a nail gun to attach it.  Since I will be gel staining the Newel post and railing, it doesn’t matter that the wood isn’t the same.

After this, I got to work on the Newel post.  I basically just built a box around the old post cap.  I got some pieces of thin poplar at Menards and cut it to build a box.






NOTE: After I took this picture, I decided to  take this part off and redo it by mitering the pieces together so that the edges have a more finished look. I’m glad that I did it because it looks ten times better.

For the top I used a deck cap.  I got this one at Menards.


This picture shows how I started attaching trim to the bottom.


The nail holes will need to be filled in with wood filler and then sanded.





Then, it is ready for gel stain.  I used General Finishes Java Gel stain.  It is easy to apply and only takes a few coats.  I won’t give a tutorial for that because there are lots of online instructions.

Next, I prepare to add the rod iron balusters.  I like to figure out the spacing first.  After measuring and marking where to drill, I used the drill to make the holes in the stairs.  There are several tutorials that show how deep the hole needs to be for this.  Basically, the hole in the stair tread is shallower than the holes that will be drilled in the railing,


Next, I like to prop the balusters up and tape them so that I’m sure they are spaced evenly.  Then, I can mark the position of the holes in the underside of the railing. The code for space between balusters is that it needs to measure less than 4 inches.  Most inspectors carry a 4 inch ball with them that they use to measure.  Mine are spaced about 3 inches.

IMG_5771.jpgThe hole in the railing is deeper than the hole in the stair.  This allows for the iron baluster to lift up and then drop down into the stair hole.



The balusters need to be cut to size using a metal saw blade.  I measured each one as I went, because they are all different lengths.  The instructions for the balusters give details on how to measure for this step.

After I cut the baluster, I threaded the angled baluster shoe  (which covers the hole in the railing) and the baluster shoe (which covers the hole in the stair) as well as the decorative knuckle that I used on the plain balusters.  These needs to be threaded prior to installing.  I used adhesive to fill the holes.  I used this kind:


This is the angled baluster shoe:

This is the decorative knuckle.  I alternated between this ans the twisted one.

This picture shows the baluster shoe.  It can lift up and down.

Here is another look at the alternating styles:

And another before:


And after:

I hope that you find this helpful.  It isn’t as hard as you might think and it sure gives a big bang for the buck!











Published by tamiloecker

I live in Lawrence, KS with my husband and son Chad. I am a dental hygienist. We have a yellow lab named Beau.

One comment on “How to Update a Stair Rail”

  1. Stacey Balius says:

    Looks great!!

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