One of my favorite parts of my kitchen renovation is the new stair wall! We tore down the wall separating the stairs and the kitchen and now have the prettiest view! Plus the whole room feels more open! I thought I’d share how to install stair railing in case this is a project you are considering tackling.
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how to install stair railing
The first thing I should say about putting in a new stair railing and balusters is it is NOT a beginner DIY. It’s definitely more of an advanced project. This took hours and hours longer than we thought it would. Sometimes the new stair railing stumped us and we (my husband and I) weren’t sure how to proceed. But we preserved I’m so proud of the final stairs!
Also, you’ll want to check your city’s local code for stairs. To find this, google your city and state with “building code stair railing.” They have exact numbers that different components of the stairs need to be. Stairs can be a major safety hazard so you don’t want to get something wrong that could harm someone.
So with those warnings, here’s the tutorial for how to install stair railing-
- 9 Balusters in 36″ height
- 9 Balusters in 41″ height
- Newel Post in White Oak
- Attachment Kit for Newel Post
- Hand Rail in White Oak 10′
- Brass Handrail Bracket
- Rail Bolt to install Handrail into Newel Post
- Spade Bit 7/8″
- 10 Stair Brackets
- Wood Glue
- White Paint (I used Ultra Pure White)
This project costs about $800 in product.
Note, you need to buy two-three heights of stair balusters. I didn’t realize this at first, but if you think about it- on each stair you’ll have a short baluster and a tall one since the railing is going up with the stairs.
Below are links to the items from LJ Smith’s website. Above is where to shop from retail locations.
To get the stairs to the point where they’d be ready to add the new railing, all of the studs in the wall (besides one) were removed. The old railing was still up and was secured into a stud. On the day we begun this project, the last stud and handrail were removed.
Start by figuring out the stairs angle. It is now the time that you remember all of your 8th grade geometry because this requires The Pythagorean Theorem. This angle is very important because it’s what you cut the bottom of the railing on and base everything else on.
If you don’t remember The Pythagorean theorem, you can use this website to plug in numbers and quickly get the angle.
Measure the length of the step tread- go from the back of the step to the front of the step. That number needs to be added to line a. Next, measure the rise of the back of the stairs- how long the back of the stairs is from one step to the next one. Plug that number into line b. Press calculate to get the stairs angle.
Note, the angle should ideally be between 34 and 36 degrees. The very steepest it should be is 37.78 degrees as allowed by code in many areas. My city actually doesn’t specify this number, but many might.
As you can see, my stairs are just below 37 degrees. Our old steps are steep, but it’ll work.
Cut the railing to that angle.
Next, figure out the height of the handrail. In general, handrails on stairs should be between 30-38″ high.
We held up our railing and saw where it hit that worked for the newel post at the bottom, would work for the top of the stairs, and felt comfortable. We ended up going with a 36″ handrail height.
Once the handrail height is determined, figure out the newel post height.
To do this, hold the newel post in place and the handrail up to it. mark the top of where the handrail hits the newel post and subtract the handrail height (mine is 36″).
Mark the newel post to the correct height and cut it to length.
And now, mount the top bracket where the handrail will hit the wall at the correct handrail height. We had to cut off some of the trim on the stair to get the handrail to fit flush to the wall.
Next, mount the newel post at the bottom of the stairs or on the landing. Make sure there’s something very sturdy to secure it to. If the newel post is loose, the handrail and balusters will all be wobbly at the end. We used an Attachment Kit to connect the newel post to the bottom stair.
After the newel post is screwed in, use finish nails or wood glue to attach the wood trim from the attachment kit to nicely finish off the bottom of the newel post.
Once the newel post is secure, drill holes in the handrail. We created two so that the lag bold could connect through the handrail to the newel post and a bigger one so the curved bushing can have a snug fit.
A wood plug comes with the lag bolt so that the large hole can be filled with wood and wood glue for a nicely finished product.
After the holes are drilled, install in the new handrail to both the newel post and the brass bracket with the lag bolt.
As a bonus step, you can add stair brackets to the side of open stairs. This creates a beautiful display. Note, I painted mine white to match with the rest of the trim in the room.
After the newel post and railing are in, it’s time to concentrate on the balustrades. These are the posts that are on each stair that prevent falls.
Next, figure out baluster spacing. The number of balusters on each stair depend on your local code and the width of the stairs. Mine worked to do 2 balusters per stair. We held up the balusters in different places until we were happy with the spacing.
Then, we marked that spacing on each step. This is how far from the riser each baluster will be drilled in.
After that, we used a laser level to find center on the hand rail. Mark on the handrail where the laser hits- this is where the balusters will be drilled into the hand rail. Also, mark on the stairs where the laser hits. This is how far in from the edge of the stair where the balusters will go in.
Drill holes into the treads on the marked spots.
Tip, use a sharpie to mark how deep to drill the hole. We used a red Sharpie marker to draw a line 3/4″ in on the drill bit. This is how much space the pins on the bottom of the balusters need.
Repeat for all the stair treads.
Finally, test fit a baluster and mark how deep the hole will be on the hand rail. Note the hole depth shouldn’t be more than 1 1/2″ or the baluster needs to be trimmed. If the baluster is too long, mark where it needs to be trimmed down to.
We also found it helpful to mark the angle the hole will need to be drilled in.
Trim the balusters to the correct height. On the bottom of each baluster, we marked which step it went on. This make it so that each baluster was custom cut depending on how it hit the handrail.
Use the spade drill bit to create holes in the hand rail in the spots that were marked with a pencil.
Lastly, put the balusters into their bottom tread spot. Then lift up the handrail and get each baluster into the hole in the floor and in the banister.
This can be a little tricky as some holes might need to be made bigger and some balusters might need trimming. But even if this step is difficult, it means that it is finally done! To finish up, use wood glue to secure the balusters in the holes in the treads and in the handrail.
Note, our code states that a spear of 6″ can’t fit through any area on the stairs. We tested it and nowhere on the stairs can a 6″ head fit through the new rail! This size will also vary from city to city.
And yay! The stairs are open and I LOVE the new stair balusters and handrail and newel post! They work perfectly with new floors.
What do you think? I’m so happy we opened up the stairs! It gave us 7″ more of extra floor space! Plus, isn’t really pretty?!
Anyway, I hope you like this project! We did it over 3 days and I’m just so happy with how they turned out.
If you love it, pin it!