How to Install Wood Stair Railing

a woman holding a wooden star railing
  • 4-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 400-600
What You'll Need
Wood glue
Brad nails
Tape measure
Stair rail
Baluster spindles
Newel posts
Baluster spacers

When you are remodeling the interior of your home and fitting a new wood stair railing, it is vital that you install it correctly for both aesthetic value and safety. There are quite a few details involved in installing your own stair rails and the main issue to consider is whether your existing rail is a one piece rail and whether you need to create new fittings for the balusters.

Step 1 – The Kit

If you bought a stair rail kit which contains the correct amount of newel post, balusters, spacers and rails, you will simply need to measure and install. However, you may also need to create angled mortise joints for the stair rail to fit into them. Each process will be slightly different according to the pieces, parts or kit purchased, but the general installation techniques are the same.

Step 2 – The First Post

If the stair case is a straight up-and-down staircase with no turns or angles, this job will be much easier than if you have turn corners or create gallery railings. Mark the bottom and fit the first Newel post in the place the old post sat. it will probably need to be cut to size. Secure it to the bottom stair with lag screws. Remember, measure twice, cut once.

Step 3 – Cover the Bottom Rail

On the bottom rail of the stairs, where the old spindles or flat rail were, you may need to install a cover to place the new spindle shoes. If so, rip some wood that is identical to the wood you are using to create the new stair railings and miter the edges to angle them from the top to the bottom Newel post.

Step 4 – Newel Posts and Rail

Replace the top newel post with the one you have chosen. Once both the newel posts have been secured you can miter the edges of the hand rail and place it correctly in the mortise joints. You are advised to loosen the lug nuts on the bottom newel post and pull it backward in order to fit the hand rail. Once it is in place, tighten the lug nuts back up.

Step 5 – Placing the Baluster Spindles

Each baluster spindle will have to be mitered to fit exactly into the space between the angled hand rail and the bottom stair rail. Measure the exact space between each spindle and place spacer blocks after each one. Attach those using wood glue and brad nails (unless they came with a specific fitting method). Begin at the top and place a spacer between the top newel post and the first baluster spindle. Once the first spindle is placed add another spacer to make way for the next spindle. Work down the stairs until you reach the last spacer, which should marry up perfectly to the bottom newel post.

Step 6 – Checking your Work

Once you have completed the stair railings and everything is tightly secured and fitted, you can then think about whether you will stain or varnish your new stair railings.