Need help with a stair railing


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Old 10-15-14, 07:07 PM
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Need help with a stair railing

Hello everyone,
I'm nearly done with finishing my basement and adding a bathroom down there, and before I have the carpet installed, I want to finish up the stair area. I have an idea of what I need to do, just need some help with where to get what I need and how to do it so it is done right.

There used to be a wall between the stairs and the basement. I opened it up, and would like to add a railing in its place. I have done some research, and from what I've read, the railing needs to be continuous. Initially, my plan was to have a rail that terminated into the ceiling and then add a second small rail on the wall above it. Is there a way to have both? What I mean is, have it terminate into the ceiling for support, but also add a fitting to it to mount a second rail to it so it is continuous? Here is where I'd like to have the railing:



Also, I'll have to use a ceiling rail (or at least that's what I've heard it called), similar to this setup:
[ATTACH=CONFIG]40145[/ATTACH]
Is that just a piece of the railing with the top cut off it?

And my last question (for now): The drywall on the other side of the railing is not flush with the skirtboard. I would like you make another skirtboard out of some 3/4" thick wood so I can add some quarter round on top to clean up the lines. Is there a trick to doing this? It doesn't have to be perfectly tight with the stairs since they will be carpeted.



Any tips, tricks and other help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
 
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Old 10-15-14, 07:41 PM
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For the railing, since the upper rail would have to be some distance away from the wall, I'm not sure how it could be made "continuous" with a rail which terminates into the ceiling, since that one would theoretically continue inside the wall. Might be good enough to have a short railing on the wall, then the lower segment into the ceiling (that would seem to be sufficient for general safety, but might not satisfy your local codes). The "ceiling rail" does appear to be cut down from the same rail stock as the actual rail in the second pic; I can't imagine why it would be strictly necessary to use it there, but it does provide better visual continuity and probably makes it easier to connect the balusters in that area to the ceiling (which is necessary for safety, especially if there will be smaller children on the stairs).

As for the skirtboard on the other side, you could use some base molding there, otherwise if you just use some 1-by wood, it'd be simpler to round off the upper edge of that board if you have a router than it would be to stack quarter-round on top of it, which also wouldn't leave any internal seams, it looks like you'll need to chamfer off the upper corner of that board where it runs into the lip at the upper end of the stairs (rounding off with a router would also allow that chamfer to be rounded to match), just use some 2" finish nails to tie that skirt/base board into the studs behind that drywall and caulk the upper edge if you really want to be thorough about it.

Also, it looks like you might want to replace that bottom tread before putting in the carpet as well.
 
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Old 10-15-14, 07:50 PM
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Initially, my plan was to do two railings; one terminating into the ceiling and then a short railing on the wall. While doing my research, I saw a lot of people saying it had to be continuous. I haven't looked into my building codes yet.

As for the base molding on the other side, are you talking about putting base molding on the drywall, just above the skirt board? Or covering the seam between the drywall and the skirtboard? There are no studs behind the skirtboard, just concrete.

And a new stair tread for the bottom is on the list
 
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Old 10-16-14, 03:38 AM
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I don't see a gap between the drywall and the skirt board, but if that is what you want to cover, you can install about any type molding you want atop the skirt and use PL 8X adhesive. The skirt board stands on top of the sheetrock, just to be clear. I can't see it in the picture well. As far as the handrail goes, common sense has to take hold over unknown code issues. I like the introduction of the second rail on the wall above the centered rail to the ceiling. Just make it as continuous in direction as feasible so there is no change in plane. A person transversing the steps should not have to move their hand up or down to grasp a handrail, only in or out.
 
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Old 10-16-14, 11:41 AM
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If you terminate the railing at the ceiling, you still need something to grab when you take the first step from the main floor. It can just be railing mounted on the wall. The height has to be a minimum of 2' 10" from the nose, of the treads & the space between the balusters can't be more than 4" apart. That's the code, at least here in NY.
 
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Old 10-16-14, 04:13 PM
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It looks like the skirt board covers the bottom edge of the drywall. If that's the case, anything added on top of the skirt board would essentially be base molding, whether you use milled stock, pre-finished MDF, or just a board topped with quarter-round. If there are no studs, then I'd agree with the others that any interior silicone construction adhesive/caulk would be the way to go for installing that, and whatever you go with, installing anything that's one piece would be easier to do than two pieces (if you've got the tools to do it, routing the edge of a board will be simpler than gluing on quarter-round).
 
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Old 10-16-14, 05:28 PM
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Thanks for the input guys.

I may have used the wrong terminology when I said skirtboard. It does not sit on top of the drywall. I guess it's a stringer... it supports the stairs and runs right against the concrete wall. There isn't enough of a lip to use a router on, and the lip that is there isn't even the whole way up. I'll post a better picture this evening.

If using two rails, I will of course make the second rail at the same level as the rail terminating into the ceiling. I will look into the code here and at least make the height comply to code, as well as baluster spacing. If code requires a continuous rail... well... it isn't being inspected.

EDIT- Here is a picture of the largest lip I have. It's about 1/4".

 

Last edited by Andy89; 10-16-14 at 06:50 PM.
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Old 10-17-14, 04:38 AM
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A stringer sets under and supports the treads, that is a skirt board. They are normally installed over the drywall but occasionally they get nailed up and then the drywall sets on top of it. How far does it come past the drywall? they are normally 3/4" thick.

I think one of the nearby towns with stricter codes [or enforcement] requires a continuous handrail. It's not just about code compliance but safety also.
 
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Old 10-17-14, 12:55 PM
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My suggestion of routing the edge was in relation to adding another board. It's easier to rout the edge of that board than to stack a piece of quarter-round on top of it, and the end result has one less seam to fill/cover before painting. Sorry if it came across as suggesting that you try to rout the edge of the existing board.
 
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Old 10-22-14, 08:34 PM
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Well I made a template and cut a new skirt board. In the process of painting it now so that side of the stairs will be taken care of soon.

I replaced the bottom step and while I was at it, decided to replace all of them since they were all creaky anyway. Nice and solid now.

Now I am moving onto the railing side. I plan to stain the railing and the newel post and use white balusters. I will use some 1x on the bottom and then a shoe rail for the square base balusters. Should the 1x and shoe rail also be stained to match the railing and newel post? Or should they be white like the balusters? Or white 1x and stained shoe rail?
 
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Old 10-23-14, 04:27 AM
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IMO it looks best stained but it's not like there are any set rules
 
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Old 10-24-14, 10:40 PM
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Thanks. I agree, I think that would look best.

I started on the railing side today. I got the newel post in place. How do I calculate the cuts for the railing? I had a couple extra 2x4s I tried the "guess and check" method with results that were close, but not quite perfect. Is there an easier way to do this that I'm missing?
 
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Old 10-25-14, 04:20 AM
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I'm not sure what it is called [I'm a painter not a carpenter] but I have an adjustable angle tool [like a square but adjustable] that works great for figuring odd angle cuts.


something like this, although mine is cheaper [non digital]
Woodworker.com: GENERAL® DIGITAL SLIDING T-BEVEL AND PROTRACTOR
 
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Old 10-25-14, 05:19 AM
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Run a string from the top of each newel post and use the Tbevel (mine is not so fancy schmancy), against a post and the string. Lock it down and now you have the angle of not only your rail ends, but the top angle of your balusters.
 
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Old 10-25-14, 06:06 AM
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Makes sense. Does this work if the rail terminates into the ceiling? I have to match the angle of the 1x than the balusters attach to. Running the string to the ceiling and eyeballing it leaves too much room for error.
 
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Old 10-25-14, 06:09 AM
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Measure vertically from the nose of any upper stair tread to the top of the newel post or ceiling using a level to give a good point of reference. That measurement must be taken all the way down the staircase so you won't have a "wedge" shaped handrail.
 
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Old 10-25-14, 09:53 AM
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Sorry, I'm not sure I follow. Measure from the top of the nose of each tread to the ceiling? Or just one? And what do I do with that reference point?

Thanks again for your help, I appreciate it.
 
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Old 10-25-14, 02:41 PM
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Measure from the top stair tread to the ceiling. This will be your reference point at your newel post that is mounted on this step. At the bottom newel post make sure this vertical measurement is the same at the last step, transferred over to the newel post.

Do not laugh at my drawing

Name:  newel.jpg
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Old 10-25-14, 03:13 PM
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No laughing here, I appreciate the drawing! Makes more sense now. The string can be anywhere on the newel, correct? Not necessarily where the railing is going to connect? Because if I put it where the railing will connect, I cannot get the angle with a t-bevel because I cannot put it flat on the newel. The angle should be the same anywhere, correct?

Here is the newel:

 
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Old 11-03-14, 08:53 PM
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Got it all figured out, thought I would post some progress. Not perfect but looks pretty good for my first time doing any sort of stairs or railing. The balusters are just sitting in place at the approximate locations. The top few had to be cut and shortened, so they are just balancing carefully in the picture. I'm in the process of joining the cut ends, filling and sanding smooth right now, but you get the idea:



Unfortunately, the piece that the shoe rail nails to had to be made with two 1x10s as opposed to one. Any tips on creating a near seamless joint? I think I made a mistake by putting a slight bevel on the cut edges where they meet so I could fill it smooth with filler. It's smooth, but the stain does not look the same in that area and it will drive me nuts.

Thanks again!
 
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Old 11-03-14, 09:00 PM
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Get a furniture pen (magic marker, but colored like stain) and use ink to color your filler. It will help it disappear. Filler never takes stain like wood does so you try to avoid the use of any fillers on stained trim.

Looks great, BTW.
 
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Old 11-04-14, 04:59 AM
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IMO the only way to fill stained wood is to use a colored putty. It might take 2 or more jars to get the right color. You use the colored putty after the stain and 1st coat of poly is applied. Personally, I'd replace the 1x10s minus the bevel. The smaller the gap is the better the filler will look.
 
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Old 11-04-14, 02:10 PM
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two 1x10s may cup quite a bit over time, (assuming flatsawn rather than quatersawn lumber), you might be better off building up to the needed width with a larger number of 1x6 or even 1x4 if you can take the time. If you've got a T&G router bit, that'd be a good way to join the edges, otherwise doweling or biscuit joints can produce good alignment.

A good trick for making edges match up without a jointer is to put two adjoining boards face-to face, then either cut the mating edges together (tricky on a table saw, but turners/double-stick tape can be handy for holding the parts together) or else run over the edge with a planer (belt sander could work in a pinch, but you'll need to be more careful to make an even edge); that way, any minor amount of bevel will be aligned between the two boards when they're mated up. Then glue and clamp the whole works, making sure to keep the "face" surface from slipping or bowing in the clamps, and wipe up as much squeeze-out as possible on that face. Once it's set/cured go over the joints with a cabinet scraper, rout the edges if you want it a bit fancier, and finish sand the piece before staining.
 
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Old 11-04-14, 07:33 PM
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Sorry, I meant 1x8, not 1x10. Not sure if it makes any difference. Are you saying they will cup at the joint because they are not one piece? I am by no means a carpenter, so my tools for this work are limited to a miter saw, table saw and a palm sander.

I know most people will never notice the joint, but it will bug me forever. So I decided I'm going to re-do the bottom piece since it is much easier to do now while the balusters are not nailed in than it would be later.

Are you saying I would be better off joining two 1x6s lengthwise as opposed to butting two 1x8s along the short side? That might be a better idea, since I can hide that joint under the shoe rail. Then I wouldn't have to worry about the looks of the joint at all.

I decided it would be best to re-do the piece with a straight cut. No sense getting cheap now, since it will drive me nuts forever and be much more work to fix later as opposed to now when the balusters are not nailed in place.

I am by no means a carpenter. My tool selection for this kind of work is limited to a miter saw, table saw and a palm sander. Are you saying that there will be cupping where the two 1x10's join simply because they are not one piece? The joint is across the 1x10, not down the length (so only
 
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Old 11-05-14, 04:23 AM
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A pic showing the joint would be helpful .... so we fully understand what's going on.
 
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Old 11-05-14, 05:54 AM
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Here you go. This should be rotated 90 degrees clockwise , but I'm using my phone right now. Would I be better off taking two 1x6s and ripping them the long way and covering the joint with the shoe rail?

 

Last edited by Andy89; 11-05-14 at 06:37 AM.
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Old 11-05-14, 07:56 AM
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I think a 1x8 will be fine, generally anything wider is apt to cup/warp.

I'm having a hard time understanding why you are splicing 2 pieces of 1x8 rather than use 1 long piece eliminating the joint
 
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Old 11-05-14, 08:42 AM
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I can't find a 15' 1x8 red oak board, so that's why I'm using two.

Any reason why I couldn't use two 1x6s so I can cover the seam with the shoe rail? I think I can find longer 1x6s than I can 1x8s.
 

Last edited by Andy89; 11-05-14 at 10:11 AM.
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Old 11-05-14, 04:30 PM
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I hadn't realized the joint was across the length, I was assuming the joint you had was along the length. Probably the best way to hide a joint like you have is to use a scarf joint, where both boards are beveled but are aligned so that the mating surface is angled relative to the face, the shallower the angle the easier it will disappear - if you can get the scarf angle to 20 degrees or so, you can get a relatively strong glue joint, but that will be tricky with the tools you've got available, and strength isn't really a driving factor in this application. Beveling the ends to 45 degrees should be sufficient to get a good looking scarf here. If you're feeling ambitious, a 1-2 inch lap joint with scarfed ends, if properly located, would allow you to nail through the lap into the stud below which, in addition to giving a great face-to-face gluing surface to ensure the splice never separates for any reason, but that's not a big concern for what's essentially a trim board and is probably not worth the time it'd take.

Another option, if you can get the right length in narrower stock would be to use a narrow piece on either side (it looks like 1x4 would suffice). As long as both sides are overlapped by the shoe rail by at least 1/2 inch, the gap in between can be filled with two or three shorter strips which can butt together without any real concern for appearance where they butt together; just make sure the grain in all the parts run lengthwise and glue up the long edges of all the component parts while keeping the outer boards flush to each other, the newell and the ceiling will hide the gaps from sight at either end
 
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Old 11-05-14, 09:25 PM
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Thanks for the ideas, guys. I don't know why I thought I needed a 15' board. I had measured all this a while ago (along with some other things I was doing) and for some reason I had that number in my head. Turned out to be a little over 12'.

Unfortunately, I can only get up to 12' 1x8s, so I went ahead and bought one thinking I would make it all one piece up until near the top of the stairs, where the exposed joint would be only about 1.5" long. After taking the old stuff off, I decided to cut the new 1x8 where it meets the ceiling. I then cut the previous section I had to fit up with it, again keeping only about a 1" to 1.5" joint visible. Since the angle where the 1x8 meets the ceiling is about 43*, I just cut it at that angle and matched the other part to that. It may not hide as well as a shallower angle, but since it is a small joint, I should be able to do a good enough job where it won't drive me nuts. No one else will notice it anyway.

I hope to have it all finished this weekend. Thanks again!
 
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Old 11-06-14, 10:14 AM
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once it's sanded and finished, a 43 degree scarf should disappear pretty well, you can really only eybeall within about 5 degrees, so 43 is close enough to 45 which disappears well enough on base moulding.
 
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Old 10-05-16, 11:10 AM
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picture update?

I know this is an older thread, but I'm about to tackle a very similar project. Would you mind posting some pictures of the finished product?

Thanks!
 
 

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