Q: Near the top of our stairway, the handrail is so tight against the wall that it's impossible to hold on to it. How would you solve the problem?

—George Hervey, Jewett City, Conn.

A: Norm Abram replies: You might be able to reposition or replace the rail, but that would be a fairly major job. I'd just leave it where it is and install a new handrail on the other side of the stair. This second rail will reduce the width of the stair a little, but as long as you still have the code-required 27 inches of space between the railings, you'll be fine.

When installing the new rail, keep three things in mind: It should be positioned 34 to 38 inches above the tread nosings and at least 1½ inches off the wall; its profile should be relatively simple and easy to grasp, and its support brackets should be screwed into solid framing, not just drywall. I added a rail like that at my mother's house and it worked out great.
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