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How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets

Turn a bland stringer into an elegant eye-catcher with this low-cost DIY upgrade

How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets
Photo by Ryan Benyi

The newel post and balusters get all the attention, while the exposed side of most staircases is largely ignored. But with the addition of decorative stair brackets, a bland stringer can become an elegant eye-catcher.

Here we used simple-to-install wood brackets that go up with adhesive and nails. To make the project even easier, we had the stock ¼-inch-thick profile custom-milled to just 3/16 inch so that the bracket would be slightly recessed beneath the existing scotia molding that skirts the treads. Any thicker and we would have had to remove the scotia and replace it with longer strips that could wrap the brackets. Customization adds to the $8 to $13 price per bracket (StairPartsUSA.com), depending on the profile and wood type, but the DIY-friendly installation makes it well worth the extra $40 or so. We spent $160 total for our 12 poplar brackets.


Steps // How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets
1 ×

Before Photo

 
Step One // How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets

Before Photo

photo of stairs before
Photo by Ryan Benyi; Inset photo: Ted Morrison

Budget: $150 to $250

Key players: Decorative wood stair brackets

DIY savings: Up to $600 to hire a finish carpenter

 
2 ×

Steady Each Bracket

 
Step Two // How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets

Steady Each Bracket

steady each bracket
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Steady each bracket on the stringer and mark the length of the scotia and height of the riser. Number the back side of the brackets so you know which one goes where.

 
3 ×

Trim the Brackets to Fit

 
Step Three // How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets

Trim the Brackets to Fit

trim the brackets to fit
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Trim the brackets to fit with a miter saw, using the pencil marks as a guide. We cut the top, horizontal leg at a 45-degree angle to match the scotia, but you can also leave it square.

 
4 ×

Rough Up the Surface

 
Step Four // How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets

Rough Up the Surface

rough up the surface
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Rough up the surface of the painted stringer with a medium-grit sanding sponge so that the brackets will better adhere to it.

 
5 ×

Apply Adhesive Caulk

 
Step Five // How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets

Apply Adhesive Caulk

apply adhesive caulk
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Apply adhesive caul to the back of the first bracket, and press it in place. Wipe away any adhesive that seeps out from behind with a rag.

 
6 ×

Secure the Bracket

 
Step Six // How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets

Secure the Bracket

secure the bracket
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Secure the bracket with brad nails at the top, bottom, and along the bracket's decorative edge. Repeat the glue and nail steps for each of the remaining brackets.

 
7 ×

Prep the Brackets for Paint

 
Step Seven // How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets

Prep the Brackets for Paint

prep the brackets for paint
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Use adhesive caulk to fill nail holes and the joint between each bracket and the front of the stair tread. Smooth rough edges with the sanding sponge.

 
8 ×

Prime and Paint Each Bracket

 
Step Eight // How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets

Prime and Paint Each Bracket

prime and paint each bracket
Photo by Ryan Benyi

Prime and paint each bracket, and touch up the stringer if needed.

 
9 ×

Maintain a Uniform Profile

 
Step Nine // How to Add Shapely Stair Brackets

Maintain a Uniform Profile

maintain a uniform profile
Photo by Ryan Benyi

To maintain a uniform profile when a bracket must be shortened to meet the newel, align its angled end with the scotia, and trim from the opposite side.

 
 
 

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