DIY Stair Railing
When we first moved into our house we had quite the set up at the front door. It's two steps up to our living room space, we've had a tiny closet, which we didn't use, and a half wall built with a small book shelf on the top. It was unusual, built poorly and was one of our first things to go. With a baby on the way, it was time to put my plan into motion to get this railing pulled together!
We thought about a few options, the first was a black rod iron welded railing with horizontal rails, however we thought it would be unsafe for small child in the future. We could have done metal spindles with wooden railings, but it just didn't feel like the right fit. We could have used wooden spindles & railings, but again it just didn't feel right. I had visions of glass. And then I started looking at custom tempered glass, and that was out of budget. I wanted to get a bit thrifty, I knew there had to be a way we could do this.
I work for a home improvement companym, and in their weekly flyers, I saw some unique products that I knew could save me.
Here is my shopping list:
Handrail (1 x 8ft)
Newel Post Fastener (x1)
6" Lag Bolt (x4)
Dark Walnut Stain (we had some already, but this is what we used)
3/4" Washers (x5)
3/8" lock washers (x5)
So how did we do this? I measured out our stairs, and I wanted our railing to be 48" or 4 feet between the post, so we could cut our hand rail in half and use it for both the top rail and the bottom rail. We opted for the 42" glass, so we had a small opening on each side, between the posts and the glass.
I drew it out for Dave, he was completely on board. Here are the step by step instructions.
Step 1: Dave glued the Fillet into the handrail. I'd actually recommend not doing this right away, and waiting until later.
Step 2: Measure out the centre point in the hand rail and cut with a sharp blade on your mitre saw. We often wrap it in painters tape to ensure it doesn't split while cutting.
Step 3: lay out all of your pieces. I liked to use this as my first 'dry fit' kind of stage. We used this to measure the height of the handrails as well as where the glass was going to fit. We marked on the posts where we wanted the handrails to go.
Step 4: Plan the placement of the post on the wall. We wanted to check to see if we would hit studs, so we could plan accordingly
Step 5: Cut the floor out on the Side that would be mounted to the wall. With a floating floor, we wanted the post to be Sitting on the sub floor. We got the post dry fit.
Step 6: Dave used a router to cut at 1-1/8" hole that was about 1/4" deep where we could recess our screws. We had 3 cut on the outward facing side, with a hole drilled directly through the centre. The centre hole was drilled to prevent the wood from splitting when the bolt went in. Then we had had two drilled on the wall side of the post, where we would screw in the handrail.
Step 7: Screw in the handrail to the half newel post. Again, the critical step, drill a pilot hole in the railing before you screw, this will prevent the screws from splitting the wood. We held the railing in place, and drilled through the hole Dave had already put in the post, so we knew exactly where everything was lined up, to make a mark, then continued just on the railing.
Step 8: At this time, you'll have to take out the fillet, and either router, or use a table saw to cut a channel in the fillet. If you've marked already where the glass is going to fit, I'd actually recommend that you cut 3" off the end of the fillet, and then down the centre of the rest of the piece, cut a channel that is the width of your glass. In doing this, you can glue the fillet into the railing, and you have the small three-inch piece to glue in after. This make it easier for you to slide the glass in once the hand rail has been installed. (We wished we had done his, instead we routered right to the end of the handrail on one side so we could slide the glass straight through.
Step 9: Once you have the handrails screwed in on the wall side post, it's time to mount the post to the wall. We knew two of our 3 screw holes would hit studs, the 3rd, we took two attempts to find the right way to connect it. We tried toggle bolts, but the bolts weren't long enough. Then we tried one of the fancy drywall anchors I have linked above. We had these in our collection, and it was strong enough to hold with the support of the additional two hex-head lag bolts we used. We started with the drywall anchor, then moved on to the bolts.
Step 10: Measure out the location for the full newel post. We wanted to get the rest of the pieces pulled together before we made the official hole in the floor for this post. We traced the post out where we wanted it, then measured out the plate for the mount, and cut around that.
Step 11: Cut the newel post to length. Because the full newel was actually a few inches longer to begin with, we waited until we had everything in position to figure out exactly what the height of this post needed to be. We knew we had 1/8" for the mounting plate, but we also added a layer of plywood (glued and screwed) into the sub floor, for a bit of extra support. (Mainly because we only had sub floor in three of the four corners... our house is a bit wonky!)
Step 12: Screw the mounting plate into the freshly cut newel post. 5 Screws, pretty straight forward, just make sure you drill a pilot hole before screwing in the screws. This is done to ensure you don't split the wood!
Step 13: Carefully slide your glass into the two rails. We did this by jacking up the bottom railing to ensure it was level and supported, this way it wasn't too much weight or pressure on bolt.
Step 14: While one person carefully holds the railing, the other can put the newel post in the hole that was cut in the subfloor. Don't screw it in yet, we'll leave one more step before that.
Step 15: Drill a pilot hole into the railing, and screw the post and railings together. This will hold the glass snug. Make sure your railings are level before you screw them in place.
Step 16: Screw your newel post into the floor.
Step 17: If you did what I said, and cut three inches off your fillet, add the three inches back in on the side of your glass on the top and bottom, and secure with glue to hold your glass in the centre of your railing.
Step 18: Get a 1-1/8" Dowel to fill each of your screw holes. One dowel can be cut into slices to fill the screw holes. You'll need 5 if you do this the same way we did. (3 for the wall mount, and 2 for the full newel post). You can put the dowels in place, then chisel down the dowel so it’s flat
Step 19: You'll have a few trim pieces you need to add around each of your newel posts in order to cover the holes you cut in the floor, and finish off the trim.
Step 20: Sand and Stain. I used a light sand paper to sand down the railing and open up the pores of the wood, it also helped us remove all of the pencil marks on the wood. Once I got it cleaned up, we applied a coat of the oil based stain using a rag (I wore gloves and a mask and had the windows open so we were well ventilated, because the smell is not ideal for pregnant women. (Note: I stained before we did the dowels, just because we had the stain but no dowels at the time!)
This was one of our more challenging DIYs, I would say from a skill level, it's not something I'd recommend if you're not comfortable with basic power tools, but in the end, we're so happy with how it turned out. Although over the holidays, it was home to our lovely Christmas tree, we're thinking next year it may be the play area for the little trouble maker that's coming our way!
Here's a really early before photo, you can see the old half wall by the closet and Front door!