• In this video, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva explains how to install a stair handrail.


    1 Stand 4-foot level on first step and hold it plumb.
    2 Mark the level where it meets top of second step.
    3 Calculate height of handrail and mounting brackets; mark bracket height on level.
    4 Use level to mark bracket height on wall at top and bottom of staircase.
    5 Snap chalk line to connect the two wall marks.
    6 Using electronic stud finder, mark wall studs at top, middle and bottom of staircase.
    7 Drill 7/64 inch-diameter screw pilot holes on chalk line and into studs.
    8 Screw the mounting brackets to the wall studs.
    9 Cut handrail to length, mitering the ends to 45 degrees.
    10 Glue and nail a mitered return to each end of the handrail.
    11 Prime and paint, or stain and/or varnish the handrail.
    12 Once dry, screw handrail to mounting brackets.
    • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
      Locating wall studs is the only tricky part.
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      Video Directory

      Selected Topic/Section

      Tools List

      • four-foot level
        4-foot level
      • 100-foot tape measure
        Measuring tape
      • framing square
        Framing square
      • chalk line
        used to snap line on wall for mounting brackets
      • studfinder
        Stud finder
        for locating wall studs
      • drill
        1/8-inch drill bit used to form pilot holes for finishing nails
        7/64-inch drill bit used to form screw pilot holes for attaching mounting brackets
      • miter saw
        Power miter saw
        used to cut handrail to length

      Shopping List

      1. Handrail

      2. Handrail mounting brackets

      3. Carpenter's glue

      4. 6d finishing nails,
      used to attach mitered returns to end of handrail

      5. Primer and paint,
      or stain and/or varnish, for finishing handrail