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How to Replace a Stair Railing

This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shares some tricks for installing a new, sturdy staircase balustrade

In this video, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shares some tricks for installing a new, sturdy staircase balustrade.

Steps:

1. Dismantle and remove the existing balustrade from the staircase.

2. Use a homemade guide block to bore a 5/32-inch-deep x 1-inch-diameter hole over each baluster hole in the stair treads.

3. Glue a 1-inch-diameter wood plug into each tread hole.

4. Sand the plug flush with a random-orbit sander fitted with an 80-grit abrasive disk.

5. Detach the rounded turn out section from the end of the old handrail.

6. Set a new handrail in place on the staircase. Align the turn out with the end of the handrail, then mark a cut line onto the turn out.

7. Cut the turn out to length on a miter saw.

8. Drill holes for a railing bolt into the mating ends of the turn out and handrail.

9. Bore a 1-inch-diameter hole into the underside of the handrail to provide access to the railng bolt. And bore a ⅜-inch-diameter bolt-clearance hole into the end of the handrail.

10. Fasten the railing bolt to the turn out using locking pliers.

11. Insert the bolt end into the end of the handrail. Put a washer and nut onto the bolt.

12. Spread glue into the joint between the turn out and handrail, then tighten the nut with an open-end wrench. Hand-sand the joint smooth with 100-grit sandpaper.

13. Put a strip of painters tape across each tread, then use a framing square to mark the positions of the new balusters onto the tape strips.

14. Set the handrail in position on the staircase, with its end against the spacer block.

15. Transfer the position of each baluster to the handrail using a layout square.

16. Drill 1-inch-diameter holes into the stair treads at each baluster location. Peel up the tape strips.

17. Use a scrap piece of handrail, cut to the proper angle, as a drilling guide to bore ⅝-inch-diameter baluster holes into the underside of the handrail.

18. Tap the balusters into the holes in the stair treads using a dead-blow mallet.

19. Screw the spacer block to the wall to support the upper end of the handrail.

20. Set the handrail on top of the balusters, carefully fitting each baluster into the appropriate hole in the underside of the handrail. Tap down the handrail with the dead-blow mallet.

21. Fasten the upper end of the handrail to the spacer block with 3-inch long counter-bored screws. Conceal the screw holes with ⅜-inch-diameter wood plugs.

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