01-16-2011 03:12 PM
Replacing spindles (balusters) is not only a great way to update a stair, but also a very rewarding process when you look back on what you’ve accomplished. This is a rather involved project but the key to it as with most things is proper preparation.
One of the first things to be done is settling on a design for your new balusters. Look around at shops, neighbors, and online to help give you an idea of what’s possible. You might even consider mixing multiple railing patterns together to achieve your look. After choosing a design it’s time to calculate how many balusters you’ll need. Remember that if you are using scroll style balusters simply ordering 1:1 will not work as they will be slightly wider, adjust accordingly. Now this next bit I cannot stress enough “order EXTRA material!” Whether it’s unforeseen damage, an error in layout, or a miss cut, not having extra material on hand can turn a simple DIY project into a nightmare. Depending on the amount of work you need to accomplish taking a minute to look the project over can be a great help. If you have a lot of balusters to replace consider breaking the job up into multiple sections. 1 section equaling whatever you can get done from start to finish in an allotted amount of time. This prevents you from getting overwhelmed by the task and keeps your house in a somewhat ordered state throughout the project.
Tools and Materials:
- Iron balusters
- Baluster shoes
- Tape Measure
- Protective eye wear
- Painters tape
- Jig saw with metal and wood cutting blade
- Epoxy Glue
- Hex wrench (for set screws on baluster shoes)
- Drill and bits
- Glue gun fitted to hold epoxy glue
- Reciprocating saw with metal and wood blade
Fun stuff: Cutting out wooden balusters
- Since we will be cutting wood during this phase it’s a good idea to lay tarp out to protect furniture and flooring.
- Removing the existing wooden balusters starts with cutting them in half. This can be done with reciprocating, jig or hand saw.
- Pull and twist each half to remove them from the hand rail and stair tread.
- Take a pair of pliers and remove any nails (and glue if present) left in the hand rail or stair tread.
Not quite as fun but no less important stuff: Measure, measure, cut
- First task is to inspect the holes left by the wooden balusters in the hand rail and tread. If the iron baluster is a ½” square shape then the holes for it need to be around ¾” in diameter. As far as depth most sources agree a minimum depth of 1 ¼” for the hand rail and no more than 5/8” for the stair tread hole.
NOTE: Use these measurements as a general guide and be prepared to make adjustments where necessary for your particular setup.
- Time to find our needed length for the iron balusters. Measure the distance from the bottom of the handrail to the top of the stair tread adding 1 ¼” to the resulting dimension. This gives us the overall length that the iron balusters need to be at.
- Mark this length on the baluster using a wrapping of painters tape. Tape provides a much more visible point of reference for when you cut.
NOTE: Mark and cut excess material from baluster bottom.
- Secure the baluster to a sawhorse (or another stable work surface) using C-clamps to keep it from moving about while cutting.
- Cutting the balusters to length can be accomplished in several different ways. My recommendation is to use either a jigsaw with a fine metal blade or an angle grinder with a metal cutting wheel.
NOTE: Cutting the balusters will produce a lot of sparks. Wear eye protection.
- Repeat this process for ever baluster in the section you’re currently working on.
Installing new balusters: One skill multiple applications
- Test fit each baluster into its spot one last time to confirm fit then remove them.
- Place the bottom shoe on the baluster and temporarily hold it out of the way using tape. The top shoe can be placed and left to sit. You will want to tape around the baluster where it meets the hand rail to prevent any glue from staining the finish.
NOTE: Shoes have set screws in them, be mindful of which direction they face for ease of access and uniformity.
- Apply the epoxy into the holes in the hand rail and stair tread then insert the baluster first into the hand rail then lower it into the tread hole.
- While the epoxy is still soft make any final little alignments you desire as this will be your last chance.
- Once the epoxy has fully set, raise and lower the shoes into position and secure them with the set screw.
- Repeat this process for remaining balusters.
I know this may seem like a lot to take on but remember that all you’re doing is repeating the same process multiple times. After completing one section each progressive one will be that much easier to accomplish and get done that much faster. I hope I gave you some helpful info here and if you have any other questions I encourage you to post them up for the community to help with. We’re all here to help and learn from each other after all.
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