How to Remove Wood Stair Railing

Lead Image
  • 5-6 hours
  • Beginner
  • $0-40
What You'll Need
Hammer with claw end
Rubber mallet
Utility knife

A wood stair railing is a highly decorative piece of the stair system. If you have four or more steps anywhere in your home then you need to have a wood stair railing installed to meet minimum code. There are just two kinds of wood stair railings that you may come in contact with. The first wood stair railing is the kind that is fastened directly to the studs in the wall. These are very common on steps leading to the basement or a recessed floor. The other type of wood stair railing is found on larger staircases. They are attached to balusters and newel posts. This type of wood stair railing is more decorative than the other and is also somewhat harder to remove but this article will show you how.

Step 1 - Save it or Throw it Away?

Before you remove the wood stair railing you need to decide if you want to keep it, throw it away, or donate it. What you decide to do with it will determine how the wood stair railing should be removed. If you decide to keep it you can trim it down and use it in another part of the home or shop. Throwing the wood stair railing away, assuming it is not damaged, is a waste of materials. Instead, donate to Habitat for Humanity or a similar organization.

Step 2 - Throwing it Away

If you have opted to throw away the wood stair railing then removing it is very easy to do. Removing the wood stair railing without damaging the newel posts or balusters is when the job becomes more complicated. If the whole job is a throw away then merely cut the wood stair railing in sections between the posts and then cut off the top of the posts.

Step 3 - Keeping the Wood Stair Railing

deck with a railing

Saving the entire wood stair railing and the posts is a much more daunting job. A wood stair railing is often nailed to the newel posts and glued to the balusters. Glue is sometimes added to the newel posts as well for extra support and stability. Be aware that if any of the posts are loose you may have them come up with the wood stair railing. If this occurs they can easily be put back and nailed into the stairs.

Look at the underside of the wood stair railing where it meets with the balusters. Look for excess dried wood glue. Use the utility knife and score around the baluster to weaken the hold of the glue. If the newel posts are also glued then do the same thing.

There's nothing you can do about the nails holding the wood stair railing in place. Work methodically or you could damage the wood. Take the mallet and, while holding the wood stair railing, strike the bottom. Do this for each post several times until it pops free.