#12
Hey all,

I'm looking at replacing our stair railings, and am not sure how to best go about it, so I'm looking to you for answers!

We're replacing all the hardwood flooring in the house, and the stairs will be converted from carpet to hardwood (natural maple). The stairs currently have a handrail with balusters attached to the bottom 4.5 stairs, and then remaining 8.5 stairs just have a standard handrail attached to the wall. That top section attached to the wall is easy, but I'm not familiar with how to best approach the bottom section that gets attached to the stairs themselves.

There's a local woodworking place that will provide custom parts for this, which you can mix/match with "stock" parts. I would love to get a curly maple handrail (and maybe newel post), then use standard white balusters. I don't think I can make the handrails themselves, as I don't have a shaper or the proper cutters. The woodworking place will make the parts, but won't do measurements or installation.


  1. Who would I contact to do this sort of work? The flooring company we're using seemed ok with removing/replacing what already exists, but didn't seem eager to go beyond that. Are there people that specialize in installing these?
  2. How hard is this to just do myself, if others are making the parts? I can't imagine it's that tough, although getting the right measurements for ordering would make me a bit nervous, just because I don't have experience. So if there are any great resources, feel free to point me toward them.
  3. Can this all be done well after the hardwood stairs are installed, or does it need to be planned as part of that process?
The woodworking place wasn't able to give any estimated pricing without dimensions, so I have no clue what this would cost and if it's going to be outside the budget. I'm willing to splurge a little, within reason.

Thanks!
Tyler
Reply

#13
(03-29-2024, 03:32 PM)OneStaple Wrote: Hey all,

I'm looking at replacing our stair railings, and am not sure how to best go about it, so I'm looking to you for answers!

We're replacing all the hardwood flooring in the house, and the stairs will be converted from carpet to hardwood (natural maple). The stairs currently have a handrail with balusters attached to the bottom 4.5 stairs, and then remaining 8.5 stairs just have a standard handrail attached to the wall. That top section attached to the wall is easy, but I'm not familiar with how to best approach the bottom section that gets attached to the stairs themselves.

There's a local woodworking place that will provide custom parts for this, which you can mix/match with "stock" parts. I would love to get a curly maple handrail (and maybe newel post), then use standard white balusters. I don't think I can make the handrails themselves, as I don't have a shaper or the proper cutters. The woodworking place will make the parts, but won't do measurements or installation.


  1. Who would I contact to do this sort of work? The flooring company we're using seemed ok with removing/replacing what already exists, but didn't seem eager to go beyond that. Are there people that specialize in installing these?
  2. How hard is this to just do myself, if others are making the parts? I can't imagine it's that tough, although getting the right measurements for ordering would make me a bit nervous, just because I don't have experience. So if there are any great resources, feel free to point me toward them.
  3. Can this all be done well after the hardwood stairs are installed, or does it need to be planned as part of that process?
The woodworking place wasn't able to give any estimated pricing without dimensions, so I have no clue what this would cost and if it's going to be outside the budget. I'm willing to splurge a little, within reason.

Thanks!
Tyler
Couple pics of the project would really help.
VH07V  
Reply
#14
(03-29-2024, 03:32 PM)OneStaple Wrote: Hey all,

I'm looking at replacing our stair railings, and am not sure how to best go about it, so I'm looking to you for answers!

We're replacing all the hardwood flooring in the house, and the stairs will be converted from carpet to hardwood (natural maple). The stairs currently have a handrail with balusters attached to the bottom 4.5 stairs, and then remaining 8.5 stairs just have a standard handrail attached to the wall. That top section attached to the wall is easy, but I'm not familiar with how to best approach the bottom section that gets attached to the stairs themselves.

There's a local woodworking place that will provide custom parts for this, which you can mix/match with "stock" parts. I would love to get a curly maple handrail (and maybe newel post), then use standard white balusters. I don't think I can make the handrails themselves, as I don't have a shaper or the proper cutters. The woodworking place will make the parts, but won't do measurements or installation.


  1. Who would I contact to do this sort of work? The flooring company we're using seemed ok with removing/replacing what already exists, but didn't seem eager to go beyond that. Are there people that specialize in installing these?
  2. How hard is this to just do myself, if others are making the parts? I can't imagine it's that tough, although getting the right measurements for ordering would make me a bit nervous, just because I don't have experience. So if there are any great resources, feel free to point me toward them.
  3. Can this all be done well after the hardwood stairs are installed, or does it need to be planned as part of that process?
The woodworking place wasn't able to give any estimated pricing without dimensions, so I have no clue what this would cost and if it's going to be outside the budget. I'm willing to splurge a little, within reason.

Thanks!
Tyler

I'm guessing your stairs are similar to this.

[Image: AP1GczPpHA99Xig-8L7nfNszAL9dW_JxVm7xKBwn...authuser=1]

[Image: AP1GczMHCCpVOf07S8IMsmr5p7nNfx2XlPMJJDZ5...authuser=1]

I built this balustrade about 15 years ago now, the first one I made.  The stairs were there, but I made everything else, including the newels and handrails, the one on the wall being 14' long.  I don't have a shaper.  I used a handheld router and bits made for handrails.  It wasn't that hard.  

I did another balustrade where the balusters are set into the stair treads.  Those treads pre-existed, too.  You just layout where the balusters go on the treads (no more than 4" between them), drill holes for the dowels in the ends of the balusters, and install them.  

[Image: AP1GczMmwaNVTmdgcfJCfNHD-WTmSaX6XvdNCYx7...authuser=1]

I would not have anyone cut parts to final dimensions ahead of time.  Risers are not always exactly the same height, so the distance from the treads to the underside of the handrail can and does change, so part lengths need to be adjusted to fit properly.  Other parts, too.  Things are rarely plumb or square so small adjustments need to be made for parts to fit properly.  So if you are going to do it, do it all.  If you don't want to do it, talk to a couple of home builders and find out who they use to install balustrades.  You could still make the parts they use, if you want, knowing everything will be installed correctly.  

If you decide to do it yourself, or make the parts, download a copy of the codes related to stairways and make sure to follow those requirements.  Get a permit, too.  The approval by the inspector after you complete the work, is peace of mind and a good form of insurance.  Or you can ignore the codes and do just about anything you want and all will be fine until someone gets hurt or you sell the home.  

John
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#15
Of course you were going to ask about pictures. Unfortunately, I don't have great pictures of the stairs, but I have a couple where they were in the background of other pictures to (hopefully) give you an idea. Part of the reason for lack of pictures is that this is a house we're buying. We closed on it a week or so ago, and the sellers are renting back for a couple months. So, for now, I'm planning out projects that I want to happen before or shortly after we move in.

John, that last picture that you show is fairly close to my situation, with the balusters set into the stairs themselves. The newel post is currently about half on the last step and half on the floor, but it doesn't have to be that way when we redo it.

Doing straight balusters like you would be fairly straightforward (and certainly something I could do). Anything with a more complex profile I might opt to buy pre-made. We generally like simple lines (Skaker-esque), so straight might work for us.

The newel post would take a little figuring, but that seems buildable too.

The handrails would likely be my biggest hesitancy. I have a decent setup with a router table, and it sounds like you were able to make the right profiles with some correct router bits. I guess lots of light passes would be needed. One other hesitancy would be that I'd love to make the handrails out of curly maple, which could invite tearout. Making that someone else's problem to avoid/fix can be nice.

It sounds like I need to do more research, but you've at least given me hope that this is something that I could reasonably tackle (and fear on my wife's part that this is one more project being added to my list). And, costs would certainly be reasonable if I took it on.

Thanks!
Tyler

[attachment=50471]
[attachment=50472]
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#16
Your photo is a perfect example of what you can no longer do.  Handrails have to make an uninterrupted run from top to bottom, with the exception of intermediate newel posts.  The photos in my earlier post shows how it has to be done now.  

Making newel posts and railings is not that hard.  Long handrails will need to be made from glued up stock unless you can source long, thick stock.  Glued up railings will be stronger than single piece ones, and you can orient the grain for all face grain, or all QS, etc. around the railing.  Cutting the profiles on the handrails is not a job to be done on the router table.  Supporting them would be difficult and the risk of tearout is high.  I do them with a hand held router, using several climb cuts, as you suspected, and then a very light finish pass in the normal way.  Even figured maple can be done this way with minimal risk of tearout.  

[Image: AP1GczNu-rr5xVjZXeuiNCg8NUQ9xd6d-qBLLXU4...authuser=1]

Here's a photo of cutting the top radius on a handrail using another railing as an outrigger to support the router.  

[Image: AP1GczOLtHDWZ3wJa7wmT3cKN6Zpx2_j8sKveJx1...authuser=1]

The reliefs in the sides were cut on the tablesaw.  This photo shows the laminated construction.

[Image: AP1GczNrDHdDL1PAi9lwLb0VUso8kSmcfgdsN5uJ...authuser=1]

Other profiles use a router bit to form the side profiles.  In any case, handrails have to be "graspable", and the code will explain what that means.  

As I said, it's not that hard, but if you don't feel comfortable doing it, hire it done.  Balustrades are critical to safety.  

John
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#17
A Millwork shop can make the hand rail if you don't have the equipment.
Neil Summers Home Inspections




I came to a stop sign and a skanky tweaker chick in a tube top climbed out of the brush and propositioned me.  She looked like she didn't have any teeth so I counted that as a plus.


... Kizar Sosay





Reply
#18
(03-29-2024, 03:32 PM)OneStaple Wrote: Hey all,

I'm looking at replacing our stair railings, and am not sure how to best go about it, so I'm looking to you for answers!

We're replacing all the hardwood flooring in the house, and the stairs will be converted from carpet to hardwood (natural maple). The stairs currently have a handrail with balusters attached to the bottom 4.5 stairs, and then remaining 8.5 stairs just have a standard handrail attached to the wall. That top section attached to the wall is easy, but I'm not familiar with how to best approach the bottom section that gets attached to the stairs themselves.

There's a local woodworking place that will provide custom parts for this, which you can mix/match with "stock" parts. I would love to get a curly maple handrail (and maybe newel post), then use standard white balusters. I don't think I can make the handrails themselves, as I don't have a shaper or the proper cutters. The woodworking place will make the parts, but won't do measurements or installation.


  1. Who would I contact to do this sort of work? The flooring company we're using seemed ok with removing/replacing what already exists, but didn't seem eager to go beyond that. Are there people that specialize in installing these?
  2. How hard is this to just do myself, if others are making the parts? I can't imagine it's that tough, although getting the right measurements for ordering would make me a bit nervous, just because I don't have experience. So if there are any great resources, feel free to point me toward them.
  3. Can this all be done well after the hardwood stairs are installed, or does it need to be planned as part of that process?
The woodworking place wasn't able to give any estimated pricing without dimensions, so I have no clue what this would cost and if it's going to be outside the budget. I'm willing to splurge a little, within reason.

Thanks!
Tyler

If you can find a stair builder , let him figure it out and do the work. My uncle was a stair builder, now deceased. When mills started suppling pre built stairs then only custom stairs were built by a stair builder. 
I hesitate to give you advice as this job  is not easy.
If you want to try making the hand rail, here is how I do it. 
Stock should be 3" longer than needed. Determine the grain, or test  with a light cut first. The cutter I use is a window stool cutter in a router table. This cutter when both edges are routed look almost like the lumber yard stock rails. The cutter is large, a 3hp router is ideal. I use a power feeder . When I first started I did not have a power feeder and pushed the stock by hand. I would have to go over the rail stock with the cutter held in a gloved hand . Better than sanding , works as a scraper. Power feed is best. You can buy the spindles  and newel posts. A volute will not be an exact match for the rail. I would not use a volute when installing rails that I made. I bore a hole in the tread and spindles for a 16D common nail. The head is cut off with a hacksaw , D
Dremel tool,,bolt cutter or whatever you have. If the spindle hole is 1/64 " undersize the nail does not need any type of glue. The tread holes should be the same as the nail, 3/16" or so. Spindles are 4" in-between or less. You need a 3/8" thick rip the width of the spindles and as long as the rail. Temporarily install this rip after sawing the spindles to the angle and height. Pull a dry line from newel post to newel post at the correct height. The 3/8" thick rip will hold the spindles in place and the rail will fit over it. I forgot to mention that the rail should be plowed out 3/8" deep and the width of the rip, usually 1-1/4" . Hold a level or use framing square if the treads are dead level to then mark the dry line. 
The correct angle and the length of the rip is done by laying the rip on the stairs and marking each end at the newels. The rail is done the same way. Clamp a scrap to each newel and tack the rip to it. Plumb or square each spindle and mark at the dry line . Repeat for each newel. I once had the bright idea to cut a spacer that fit between each spindle.  Lousy idea as I gained a fraction each time til I noticed it was wrong.
Now you can remove each spindle, saw to dimension. Repeat til done. Install spindles, get wife or someone to raise the rip a bit so you can install another spindle. Nail with 2 brad nails thru the rip. Two nails will keep the spindle from turning .You can use glue if it is a long setting glue . I used hot hide glue and smeared the tops of every spindle before nailing . This glue sets up within 5 minutes. After the spindles were 
nailed I used a heat gun on the top of the rip to soften the hide glue. About 45 seconds on high heat and the glue will soften thru the 3/8" thick rip. Now your spindles are done, next is to install the rail. After cutting to length, lay the rail down starting at the low point. When the rail fits snugly on the rip, nail or screw from the under side of the rip into the rail bottom. Brad nail the bottom of the spindle also.
Tyler, hope this helps
mike
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#19
I built these from scratch so its definitely doable.  My original railings were similar to yours.  I built the entire assembly in my shop and then installed it as one unit. 

https://forums.woodnet.net/showthread.php?tid=7374671

The 14' foot railing was built in 2 halves.  The middle overlaps by about 8" and there's a scarf joint.  I didn't have walnut long enough and my shop wasn't big enough to do a full 14' run.  In retrospect it would have been easier to do a continuous piece and figure out a different way to mill it.

One difference on mine is there's a lower bottom rail, the balusters are not tied into the stairs like yours are. I would consider making that change, if you decide to build them yourself it will be easier assembling offsite and bringing the entire unit onsite.
Another thing if you're worried about code is the continuous rail can be moved to the other side of the stairs where the wall is, assuming that wall is continous. The hand rail with the balusters can just end at the wall. This is the way my stairs are. there's a short railing with balusters, then on the other side there's a continous hand rail all the way up.

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#20
[Image: ivtsSqt.png]
Neil Summers Home Inspections




I came to a stop sign and a skanky tweaker chick in a tube top climbed out of the brush and propositioned me.  She looked like she didn't have any teeth so I counted that as a plus.


... Kizar Sosay





Reply
#21
Thanks for all the great info! I have no issue with making all these pieces, so I'm leaning toward doing this myself (I think). And I should have some time to do so. Probably the only part that I'll just buy are the spindles/balusters, as I wouldn't want to have to try to make about 8 identical ones on the lathe (unless we opt for a square cross-section). I still have plenty to research before diving in, but also won't be able to actually start the project for a few months.

Unfortunately, I don't have a power feeder for my router table. It sounds like if I want to do the railing on the router table, I really should be doing a climbing cut for at least part of it and using a power feeder to do so (for safety). Alternately, a hand-held router can work (I have a 3HP one), so I'll give that a try. Given how prone curly maple is to tear out with reversing grain, I plan to do some tests on small scrap pieces to get the cleanest finish before doing the real piece.

I would plan to use a newel post at the bottom, not a volute.

John - that's a good point on now requiring an uninterrupted run of the handrail. The current ones were installed in the mid-80's. I'm not sure I love the look of installing a handrail from top to bottom on the opposite wall, but we may have to do so for the sake of meeting current codes. And that's likely easier than curving the rail around the wall on the current side to make it continuous. Or I could make the handrail separate from and on the inside of the balustrades (as I believe crokett is describing) so it's a straight run up that side.

crockett - Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the pictures in your previous post are working, but I'd love to see what you did.

Questions

  1. What router bits do you use/suggest? I usually go with Whiteside, but am not seeing much in the way of handrail bits from them. Mike, you mentioned a window stool cutter. Can you share which one?
  2. It seems like there might be some specialized hardware for some of the joints (such as attaching the newel post to the tread or attaching the handrail to the wall, if I were to terminate it there). Any recommended sources for the hardware?
Thanks!
Tyler
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