stair railing question

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Forum topic by jdh122 posted 08-11-2014 04:00 PM 1130 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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995 posts in 2780 days

08-11-2014 04:00 PM

I’m looking for a bit of advice. I just bought a new house (means I get to do a shop the right way) and am busy painting and doing small repairs. I can’t decide what to do with the bottom of the stairs (see pics). I’m going to tear out that funny grid thing you see in the picture and would like to replace it with a short length of railing with baluster and a post. But there’s a short knee wall (if that’s the right word) and I won’t be able to attach the balusters or post to the stairs. I can’t take out the knee wall without a lot of work (and replacing 2-3 of the maple/birch treads).
My idea is to remove the grid, take out the small piece of wood and trim that is along the ceiling and then install a post and balusters onto the top of the little wall that runs a bit higher than the stair treads. Is this a reasonable plan? It’ll mean the balusters have to be angle-cut on both ends, so I’ll lose the tenon on the bottom. And I wonder about how a post will look cut off short like that.

I’d appreciate any technical advice (I’ve never installed a railing other than on a deck) and also design help. Maybe there’s an entirely different solution that’ll look nice. I don’t need the railing (I have one on the other wall) for support. Whatever I install/build there will be made out of birch. Oh, and I don’t have a lathe so will have to buy spindles and post unless I do square.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

8 replies so far

View John's profile


190 posts in 3546 days

#1 posted 08-11-2014 10:23 PM

I think that would look fine. Have to secure the post very well to the lower end of the short wall. I did something similar at my son’s house. Walnut railing, newel post and balusters. Made the top rail from 2 1/2”x2 1/2” walnut and the square balusters 1 1/2×1 1/2. You can see it on my projects page.

-- John, Long Island, NY

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2752 posts in 2259 days

#2 posted 08-12-2014 12:12 AM

You could also just remove that grid and just put a handrail on the wall side. But that’s an aesthetic decision.

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2036 days

#3 posted 08-12-2014 04:20 AM

Dhazelton, more than three risers or more than 32 inches vertical drop must have a hand rail on the open side.

I would attach the post to the end of the knee wall or split the post in half where it goes past the top edge of the wall down. often today there are no tenons on the balusters they are bevel cut to match the angle and set in a trough top and bottom and spacers are installed between. also remember that code requires the opening not pass a 4”diameter sphere at any point except over the top of the hand rail.

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995 posts in 2780 days

#4 posted 08-12-2014 11:33 AM

Thanks for the suggestions. The pictures of your job look good, John, and help me visualize it.
dhazelton: there already is a railing on the other side (not seen in the picture since I removed it to paint the walls and may upgrade it to maple or birch rather than pine anyway.
Thanks for the tip on code, REO. Just to confirm another issue: I have three steps with three risers before arriving at that landing – since this is not more than three I don’t need a railing for that short bit, right?
I’ll do it with the spacers as you suggested.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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2297 posts in 2332 days

#5 posted 08-12-2014 12:02 PM

Last summer I helped a neighbor with a similar situation as you have there, except the stairs doubled back on themselves, instead of ending. We attached the upper end of the railing to the wall using a hanger bolt. We notched out the bottom post to fit over the bottom stair and overhang in front of the riser. We lag-bolted that one in. I set a sliding t-bevel with the handle on the angled portion of the knee wall, and set the metal piece to vertical, using a level. That one setting will allow you to cut all of your angles.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

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928 posts in 2036 days

#6 posted 08-12-2014 01:09 PM

you only have two exposed risers on the lower run.

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Craftsman on the lake

2781 posts in 3400 days

#7 posted 08-12-2014 01:34 PM

Take the framework out, put a railing on the wall only on the two slanted parts, not the platform and leave it open. Easy and it would look good. Open is often the simplest neatest look.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

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526 posts in 1905 days

#8 posted 08-12-2014 02:45 PM

When you remove the grid, hang onto the old pieces to use as a template for the bottom angle.


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