Remove and Replace an Old Stair Banister

A carpeted set of stairs in a house.
  • 6-12 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 300-700
What You'll Need
Railing System or individual banister pieces railing, newel post, spindles
Carpenters glue
Rail bolts
Painters tape

Replacing a stair banister is a project that you can tackle on your own once you learn about each part, what its function is, and how they all work together. If your banister is damaged, worn, or you just want an updated look, replacing it is the best option. Follow these steps to get started, and transform the look and feel of your stairway.

Step 1 – Select a New Banister

Go to a home improvement store and choose what kind of banister you would like. Updating your current banister from a wood to a wrought iron one or vice versa can give your home a striking new appearance. Look at your options and select something that suits your home’s character and your tastes.

Step 2 – Measure Your Banister

Measure the size of your existing banister to get a feel for how large your new banister will need to be. In most cases, you will have to cut the banister to size so it is a good idea to buy a little more than you need.

Step 3 – Remove Your Existing Banister

Remove anything delicate or easily breakable (such as ornamental plates, clocks or small furniture) from the area around the banister in case pieces fall as you remove them. If you're worried about falling pieces chipping your flooring, put a heavy blanket or tarp on the floor. Make sure anyone else living in the house (especially small children) knows to stay out of the area while you're working.

Now that you've secured the work area, use a chisel to remove the existing stair banister, beginning with the handrail. If you are planning on reusing the spindles, remove them very carefully be sure not to damage them. This is a good option if you want to save money, as long as the spindles are in good shape and match the new handrail.

Step 4 – Remove the Newel Post

Remove the existing newel post along with the screws or dowels holding it in place. Clean any splintered wood if the dowels are broken.

Step 5 – Install Your New Newel Post

Put your new newel post in place to ensure a fit and use dowels, screws, glue and rail bolts to firmly secure it. For the best hold, you will want to remove the subfloor, anchor the newel post to the floor joists below, and then attach it to the stair stringer. It is very important to ensure that the post is securely attached, as it is the cornerstone of the whole stair railing. If you have other people living in your house, make sure everyone knows not to touch it until you've finished securing it or the glue has dried.

Step 6 – Lay the Groundwork for the Handrail

Drill a hole into the side of the newel post at the level where the handrail will go and insert a long screw.

Step 7 – Secure the Bottom Rail

Use carpenter’s glue to secure the bottom rail and then begin replacing the spindles in the reverse order that you took them apart. You will be using the carpenter’s glue to attach the spindles at their base. Place painter’s tape around the top of the spindles to prevent glue from dripping on them.

Step 8 – Secure the Handrail

Attach the handrail, using carpenter’s glue on the spindles. Use a drill to drill screw holes in your wall and attach the handrail brackets to the wall. Place the rail on the brackets working your way from top to bottom, placing the railing on the spindles as you go down.

Step 9 – Finishing the Railing

Let the glue dry and remove the painter’s tape.

Replacing an old stair banister is important because it is more than just a decoration, it is also an important safety feature. You are not only saving money by following these nine steps, but are also preventing future injuries!