Archive for Monday, April 23, 2012


Fix-It Chick: Install a wooden handrail

April 23, 2012


Installing a wooden hand rail is a simple way to make any set of stairs a little bit safer for everyone.

Step 1: Determine the best length for the handrail by measuring the distance from the bottom step to the top step. Purchase a railing section somewhat longer than the desired length.

Step 2: Calculate the proper number of handrail mounting brackets needed by dividing the total length of the handrail by four and adding two to that number. Handrail mounting brackets should be installed as close to each end of the railing as possible with additional support brackets mounted along every four feet of railing.

Step 3: Check local building codes for the appropriate handrail height. Typical handrails are installed at a height of 37 inches. Determine stud locations along the proposed railing line using a stud finder. Use a 4-foot level and a tape measure to mark stud locations along the stairway 37 inches above the top of each stair.

Step 4: Once stud locations have been marked, choose which locations are best suited for handrail bracket installation. Use the level and pencil to draw a vertical line 2-3/4 inches long from the 37-inch high stud location mark down toward the stair top. Use this line as guide to assure the handrail brackets are mounted perpendicularly at the correct height.

Step 5: Start at the bottom point of the stairway and align the bottom of the handrail bracket with the bottom of the vertical line. Mark the screw holes and drill pilot holes into the stud before mounting the bracket.

Step 6: Once the bottom bracket has been installed, repeat the process for the top handrail bracket.

Step 7: Position the wooden handrail atop the newly mounted brackets and install the corresponding mounting hardware onto the underside of the railing.

Step 8: Temporarily attach the handrail in position and use it as a guide for mounting any additional handrail brackets.

Step 9: Once all the brackets have been installed, mark the ends of the handrail. Remove the handrail and use a miter saw to cut each end at a 45 degree angle, with the bottom of the cut facing down at the top of the stairway and facing up at the bottom of the stairway.

Step 10: Paint, stain or oil the wooden handrail, mount it in place and relax, knowing your stairway is just a little bit safer.

— Linda Cottin can be reached at


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 1 month ago

Current code calls for a mitered return of the handrail into the wall at both the top and the bottom ends of the handrail. Supposedly this is to prevent a catch point for firefighters in the event of fire.

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