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How To Build a Stair Railing

With the right tools, you can do almost anything around the house. You'll need instructions to make sure nothing's overlooked because a stair railing looks funny when some of the balusters are missing.


  • TIP: Depending on ordinances, a 4-inch spacing of balustrades should be safe enough to keep kids from getting caught between or slipping through them.
  • Step 1: Drill the holes at each mark, tread, and rail, using a spade bit to size. Attach the top with glue; set the rail into position, matching the biscuits on each newell, and glue.
  • Step 2: Toe nail the bottom of the balusters or set in a shoe rail. Sand and finish the railing using paint or stain. Now you can rest assured knowing that you've safely installed your stair railing.
  • FACT: Total construction spending in the United States dropped more than 12.2 percent in 2009 and is projected to drop another 4.6 percent in 2010.
  • Step 3: Set the square bottom of each baluster on its tread, figuring the rail angle plus 1/4 inch to enter the rail underside. Cut carefully and never assume the measurements are the same; mark where each will be set, spacing them evenly.
  • Step 4: Build the railings by cutting out the vertical mortise, or slot, with the biscuit cutter to receive the tenon, or "biscuit." Measure the rail and cut the angles for meeting the newells; dry fit the rail to be sure of fit.
  • TIP: Remember that the International Residential Code (IRC) on handrail height is 34 to 38 inches.
  • Step 5: Measure 1 to 2 inches below the newell's turning, on the flat and square part, using a framing square, and mark. Mark where you lay the long side across the steps; cut off the bottom of the newel post.
  • Step 6: Drill holes for lag bolts or screws, and secure the post; install the upper one. Score both posts vertically with the pencil where the biscuits will go.
  • Step 7: Install an open stair railing for the main staircase, first by measuring the height you want for the two newell posts, and allowing for the riser on the lower landing one.

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