A few weekends back, we took the plunge and replaced our stair railings.
It was our first venture, with a few small things to figure out, but overall went smoothly. To get started, we of course had to remove the old set, loosening the bolts from the underside first.
With the flat side out, we determined our new post placement. Since the old railing was too close to the front door trim, we shifted the posts over an inch.
Ben cut the 4 by 4 inch post to size (38 inches above the floor with 11 inches below), set it in the hole, and cut another post in half length wise and to height for the wall side. Neither were fastened in place so we could first attach the horizontal planks. We purchased 2 by 6 boards, but ran the sides through the table saw to cut them down to 5 inches wide and take away the dimensional lumber look. To save some time sanding, we also ran each plank through the planer for an ultra smooth finish. Once all the boards were cut and prepped, we cut 4 inch spacers to make sure spacing between was even.
While I held the boards in place on the full post end, Ben worked on the half post side. He screwed through the backside of the post, into each board three times to secure it in place without visible holes. Then we shimmied it into place on the wall and fastened it to the wall.
The full post end was only slightly different since we used longer screws. Ben pre-drilled through the post, creating a recess for the screw head, then drove the screws into place while I kept the each board in place.
Working on the flat side was easy enough and went quickly, but the angled side was a bit tricky. Again, removing the old was step number one.
Another 38 inch tall 4 by 4 post was set into the hole at the top of the stairs.
To keep the spacing between the boards even with the flat areas, the post at the bottom had to be taller since the angled cuts make the planks taller. This post had to be notched out to cut around the stair wall before screwing it in at the base.
Then time for the straight meets angled cut to follow the stair angle. Once the angles fit perfectly, Ben applied glue on the angle and drove screws in from the top and bottom to keep everything rigid and in place until the glue dried.
Like the other side, Ben put two screws into each plank.
In that corner, where the stairs meet the small section terminated to the wall, we had to stagger the screws so they didn’t cross. Since the wall section is shorter, one screw in the center held firmly.
After everything was securely fastened on the upper sections, Ben drove 6 inch long screws through the posts and into the wall studs below for maximum rigidity.
For a seamless finish, I filled each screw hole, knot hole, and hairline crack with putty and sanded smooth.
Caulking along the seams and walls was the last step before painting.
When painting over raw wood like pine, sap bleed through can be an issue. For greatest durability and stain blocking, I applied one coat of the same stain I used on our bedroom wall: Sherwin Williams Exterior Oil-Based Wood Primer. It’s stinky, so I built a fire and opened the windows to air the room out.
Knowing white will show any dirt, grubby hand marks, and well, everything else, I needed a paint that could withstand a good scrub. After a chat with my favorite paint guy at our local Ace Hardware, he suggested Benjamin Moore’s Ben Exterior paint in the low lustre finish to avoid a glossy finish. Three coats later and it’s a wrap.
With this checked off the to do list, we can start hanging sheet rock in the basement.
7 thoughts on “Building a Sleek Railing”
Wow, what a huge difference! Your new railing looks so modern and beautiful and fits in so much better with the direction you are taking the house. I love it.
The 4×4’s are also pine?
Yep, the posts are also pine/fir. No nice wood that I wouldn’t want to paint over. 🙂
Found this blog as I was searching for handrail ideas. Your rail looks great! Thanks for taking the time to post, I think I could pull this off.
I’m glad it can be of some help to you! It has made such a big difference in the way the entry and living room feel and look. 🙂
Hi Amanda! Thank you for this tutorial.
How tall is your post that the angled boards went into (by the front door)? Was it still 38″ above what I believe to be called the “stair stringer?”
I would love to do this for our steps. We only need diagonal railings on each side of our steps, none horizontal. I don’t want the posts taller than 38″ above the “stair string”… I am thinking I need only 3 horizontal planks due to the angle and wanting to keep a larger space between planks. Admittedly, this is my first project using geometry and math like this 🙂 So I am sketching like a mad-woman.
Good question! The post at the end of the angled portion is 44 inches above the stair stringer. If you have only three planks, your post would be shorter, obviously. Be sure to check your code requirements, as there are specifications on railing height and spacing for safety purposes. Good luck on your project, and I’d love to see photos when you’re finished. 🙂