How to Install a Stair Railing

  • Transcript

    Building codes require all staircases to have a handrail. Installing a railing is a quick straightforward job, but to ensure safety, it has to be done correctly. This project walks you through how to properly mount a railing into wall studs at the right height and angle. Here’s what you’ll need for this intermediate-level project.


    • Measuring Tape
    • Level
    • Chalkline
    • Electric Stud Finder
    • Drill/Driver
    • Drill Bits
    • Quick Square
    • Carpenter’s Square
    • Handrail
    • Brackets

    When taking on this DIY task, be sure to equip yourself with the proper safety gear.


    Measure for rail length. Measure from the nosing of the nosing of the lowest step to the nosing of the upper step. If you plan on making handrail returns, purchase a railing at least one foot longer than your measurement.


    Determine diagonal rail thickness and length. Before installing brackets, consult local building codes to determine how high your railing should be. To determine the diagonal thickness of the railing, lay it along the stair nosings with about four inches of overhang beyond the bottom step. Place a quick square on the bottom step and measure straight up from the edge of the bottom stair nosing to the top of the rail.


    Measure bracket. Place a stair bracket along the inside corner of a framing square and note the distance from the top of the bracket to the bottom of the screw hole.


    Mark rail height on wall. To determine the rail height, add the screw hole distance to the diagonal rail thickness, then subtract the total from the height you’ve chosen for the top of the rail. Mark this length on the side of a four-foot level. Place the level on the bottom tread, with the marked side flush along the nosing. Confirm the level is plumb and mark the wall according to the mark on your level. Repeat this process at the landing nosing.


    Snap a line. Have a helper hold the chalk line at one mark while you hold it at the other and snap a line.


    Locate brackets. Stair brackets should be spaced no more than four feet apart. Three brackets should do the job for most home stair runs. You’ll install one bracket into the stud closest to the bottom of the rail, one into the stud closest to the top, and a third into the stud closest to the middle of the rail. Slide an electric stud finder along the chalk line and mark the center of the three studs for your brackets.


    Install brackets. Predrill holes where the center of the three studs crosses the chalk line. Attach each bracket with one of the supplied screws through the bracket’s bottom hole into the predrilled hole. Predrill through each bracket hole and insert screws.


    Install railing. Put the rail in place on the bracket with the longest part of the railing at the bottom of the stairway. Put the supplied strap over the bracket and mark both holes with a pencil. Remove the rail and predrill the two holes. Replace the rail and fasten it to the bracket. Put each remaining strap in place. Predrill your holes and install screws.

    Your installation is complete!

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