Replacing a Loose Banister

  • 4 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 50
What You'll Need
Power drill
Polyurethane glue
Adjustable wrench
Replacement spindles

A loose banister can be a tremendous annoyance; moreover, it is a serious hazard. Understanding the structure of your banister will enable you to determine the reason for the fault and how it can be rectified without the need for a professional. Follow these steps to easily identify the cause of your loose banister and repair it.

Step 1 - Identify the Problem

To understand why your banister is loose, it is a good idea to initially make yourself familiar with its components. Doing so will allow you to identify the precise cause; furthermore, you will enable you to work out whether a repair or replacement is required.

The newel post, which is the main post at the base of the staircase where coats are draped, will often become loose due to the way it is used. The railing leads off from the newel post and is the part that is held onto when using the staircase. The spindles are the posts that hold up the railing. The spindles run along the length of the banister; they are also likely to come loose.

Step 2 - Locate the Fastenings

The railing and its components will often be assembled using hidden hardware such as wooden dowels, double-ended dowel screws, countersunk screws, or some other type of specialty hardware. Try to find telltale clues as to how it is held together such as oval-shaped wooden plugs hiding screws fitted to the newel posts, larger round plugs hiding specialized locking hardware, spots of putty hiding finishing nails, or the absence of clues where dowel screws have been used.

Once you have determined exactly which part of the staircase is loose, you will be able to repair it. Should you have a basement or crawl space beneath the staircase, check whether you can see and access the base of the newel post and spindles. If so, insert screws upwards on either side of the newel post to keep it secure. Depending on the width of the spindles, use the same course of action as the newel post. You can also use glue to hold it in place. If a repair is required, remove any fastenings that are in place below the staircase.

Step 3 - Remove the Rail

In the event that a full repair is required, or if there is no access below the stairs, you must dismantle the banister at the staircase level. Remove the rail by locating any fasteners that hold it to the newel post and spindles. Remove them. You should then be able to remove it.

Step 4 - Examine Newel Post and Spindles

Removing the rail will expose the spindles and allow them to be removed from their holes. They might also be attached using dowel screws, which is common practice—you just need to twist counterclockwise to find out. You may find that some are completely intact, while others have splintered or split. Use the pencil to number the spindles that can be reused so that they are returned to the same hole. Check the newel post in the same manner and replace it if it has sustained any damage. Brush away any splintered pieces of wood before fitting the replacements without any fastenings to make sure everything fits as it should.

Step 5 - Fit Replacements

If the newel post and spindles were simply slotted into their respective holes, add stability by fitting a dowel. A dowel is a solid tube-shaped pin that fits tightly into the end of the spindle to connect it to the stair tread. Also, use glue within the recess to attach the parts firmly. Put the rail back in place, making use of dowels if necessary.