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In February-March 2004 we replacing our wrought-iron stair railings, which were pretty dated looking, with new oak railings.  We had planned on doing this to our old home, which had the same type of railings, but never got it done.  When we moved into this home, we knew we'd want to make sure it happened.

We did the work ourselves, and took pictures throughout the project, which you can browse here.  These pictures show Before, During and After. 

Before:

First, some "before" pictures.  The original railing was black wrought iron.  The previous owner went on an almond binge and painted almost everything in the house almond -- all of the oak trim, doors, cabinets, walls-- and this railing.  We have converted most of the almond trim and doors to white, but we left this railing almond, knowing it was just going to be replaced soon anyway.

This war the original railing that separates our upstairs level from our main entry foyer:

Original wrought iron railing          Original wrought iron railing

Original wrought iron railing

 

During:

First newel postOur first task was to remove the small straight railing separating the stairway from the upper level.  We then installed the newel post and half-newel which supports the new oak railing.  To the left, you can see the newel post in place-- the yellow device is a post level.

Installing bottom railThis picture shows the upper and lower rails in place.  Cathy is countersinking some nails which hold the lower rail in place (the nails were toenailed with a pneumatic finish nailer).

Finished small railingHere is the completed small railing, sans finishing.  To get to this point from the last picture, we cut each baluster to the proper length, glued it into the proper position, and tacked it into place with a pneumatic brad nailer.  Then, small "fillet" strips are cut to length between each baluster and fit in the upper and lower rails, giving it a finished look.  Rail spacing is carefully governed by code -- a 4" sphere must not pass between any point on the finished railing.  This required a bit of math and careful calculations, since the spindles are tapered.

Finished upper railingThe next step was to remove the other wrought-iron railing.  This railing was one large piece, making up the straight upper section, and the angled section down the stairs (see the "before" pictures above).  We also removed the trim board underneath the railing, so it could be replaced with a new oak board finished to match the new railing.  We used the same procedure as above to install the small upper railing at the top of the stairs.

Bottom newel postNext work began on the angled railing.  First, the bottom newel post was cut to length and installed with lag screws into the framing of the stairway.  Next, a new oak board was ripped to proper width, and mitered to fit over the top of the stairway framing.  Finally, the bottom shoe rail was installed on top of this board.  

Upper angled railing installedInstalling the upper railing proved to be tricky.  Getting the length and miter cuts just right required a lot of careful measuring.  We practiced with a cheap 2x4 stud and thought we had the technique down.  However, we messed up, and ended up cutting one of the miters the wrong direction.  Since this rail is $6.60/linear foot, we thought this was going to be a very expensive mistake.  Fortunately, Home Depot gave us credit for the remaining length of the board, so we only lost one linear foot, and were able to purchase a new rail and install it properly.

Installed upper railingHere's a view from the entryway of the installed upper railing.  We were quite relieved to have this piece installed properly!

Tim installing balustersHere Tim installs some of the balusters on the angled railing.  Each baluster needed to be carefully miter-cut to the proper angle.  As with the railings above, careful math and codes dictated the spacing between baluster spindles.  

Installing balustersEach baluster was glued, then brad-nailed with a pneumatic nailer.  

Completed railing- pre-finishingThe completed railing system!  This picture was taken right before the stain went on (hence the masking tape in the picture).

Completed railing- pre-finishingAnother view of the completed railing.  If you look carefully to the left of this picture, you will see the almond wrought-iron railing leading downstairs.  This railing was also replaced, but not at the time this picture was taken.

 

After:

Finished RailingThe finished view, from the top!  We used a Minwax stain finish, which matched the color of our floors and related trim.  Then we installed three coats of Minwax rub-on polyurethane.  This was the first time we used rub-on poly, and we loved it.  It was a joy to work with, especially with so many hard-to-reach surfaces to cover.

Finished RailingAnother view from the top, looking at the other top railing.

IMG_0424.JPG (79665 bytes)The view from the entry foyer.  Here, you can also see the new oak railing leading downstairs.  Since this picture was taken, we have replaced the carpeting you see here with new as well.

We hope you enjoyed this before/during/after series of photos on our new stairway railing!

This page was last updated on Wednesday, January 11, 2006

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