Stair railing installation is perhaps the most important part of installing a new set of stairs or trying to update an older stairwell. It is also the area where many DIY enthusiasts make the most mistakes. Installing stair railing is not particularly difficult; however, it does require quite a bit of attention to detail and some careful planning. Properly installing the railing on a set of stairs also requires patience and the ability to perform the installation in a fairly precise manner. So, this article will address some common mistakes and pitfalls that are encountered when DIYers install stair railing.
Don't Go Overboard with Your Design
By far, the most common mistake that DIYers make when attempting to install stair railing is choosing a design that is simply too complex. Although complicated or ornate stair rail designs look very nice, they are not the best choice for DIYers. Especially, for DIYers who have never installed a stair railing. So, when choosing a design for the stair rail, try to keep it clean and simple.
When properly done, even a rather simple stair rail design can be quite beautiful. Instead of choosing a railing that has many bevels or curves in the surface, choose a straight, simple design and place more emphasis on the finishing or painting of the rail. A quality paint or stain finish on a simple wooden stair rail will result in a stairwell that you can be proud of.
Another very common error DIYers make when installing stair railing is simply not measuring properly. When measuring the balusters or spindles in the stair railing, you should always measure two, or even three, times. Lackadaisical measuring is the easiest way to create a stair railing that won't make you happy. Always remember the old carpenter's adage: "measure twice and cut once". Nowhere is this more true than when installing stair railing.
Gluing or Screwing Before Thinking
Installing stair railing can involve a lot of drilling and spacing of holes for balusters or spindles. In fact, drilling holes for the balusters is one of the most time-consuming tasks involved with installing the stair railing. Therefore, before you rush to gluing balusters or spindles into place, you might want to consider dry fitting the pieces first. If your drill holes are off more than a quarter of an inch or so, this will result in uneven spacing for your balusters and spindles that will be noticed.
Although 1/4 inch here or there may not seem like much, the gaps or uneven spacing between balusters or spindles is easily noticed from the bottom of the stairwell. Also, you will find that having to break apart balusters from the railing after they have been glued will result in a considerable loss of time and cause unneeded frustration and stress.
Trying to "Eye" the Stair Railing
Although you may be able to gauge if a picture frame on the wall is fairly level by simply looking at it, you should never attempt this with stair railing. Use a level that supports 30 and 45 degree level angle marks to properly level the slope and angle of the stair railing. It is very difficult to eye the angle of a stair railing without a level. So, don't even attempt it.