More in Stairs

Handrail for Winding Stairs

How can we install a handrail on our steep, curved stairs?

ask this old house winding stair handrail

We want to install a wood handrail on our stairway, but how can it be made to follow the tight, steep curves of the stair?

—Janet Desnoyer, St. Louis, Mo.


Master Carpenter Norm Abram replies: With stairs like yours, also known as winders, there's no easy way to install a handrail where the steps make such a tight turn. But there is a way to make what you need from off-the-shelf stair parts.
To start, mount a hand­rail on the wall with the window and continue it around the corner to the bottom of the stair. This will encourage people to walk along the wider portion of the steps and avoid the dangerous narrow ends where the treads come to a point. Support the rail on brackets screwed into the wall's studs.
For extra protection on the exposed side of the stair, install two newel posts: one beside the first full-sized step above the winder, the other at the second-floor landing. Then, run a handrail and balusters between them. Once it's in place, you'll feel much more secure coming down your stairs.


TV Listings

Find TV Listing for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.