How to build a bannister

Banisters are handrails up one or both sides of a stairway. They are supported by vertical spindles attached to each step of the stairs, or by metal ties into a wall. Banisters on spindles terminate at newel posts at the top and foot of the stairs. The whole construction acts as a safety barrier to stop people falling below, adds decorative value to a house and provides entertainment for anyone wishing to slide down.

Check local building regulations for the required minimum height of the banister. In Britain, this minimum height should be 900mm for both stairs and landings in domestic buildings. The openings between the spindles should be narrow enough to stop the passage through them of a 100mm diameter ball. Determine the number of spindles required for the entire staircase on the basis of the maximum permitted spacing between them according to building regulations. This number is calculated by dividing the horizontal extent of the staircase in millimetres by 112. Round up all decimal points in the final number.

Ensure that the newel posts are the correct minimum height for the staircase. Locate one newel post at the bottom of the stairs and one at the top. Ensure that the newel posts are fixed to substantial timbers in the floor. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions fixing the newel posts in place.

Cut the banister with the panel saw to the required length to fit between the newel posts. Use the adjustable bevel to ensure that the joint between the banister and both of the newel posts is cut at the correct angle and is plumb to the ground. Attach the banister to the newel post using handrail fasteners from the building supplier.

Measure one spindle's correct height between the stair base and the underside of the banister. Mark this height on the spindle. Cut the spindle to the desired length using the tenon saw. Use this spindle as a template to cut the remaining spindles to the correct size. Mark out the spacing of the spindles on the stair base using fillets – the wooden spacers. Ensure that all of the fillets are the same length except for the first and last next to the newel posts. These two fillets must be shorter because of the larger size of the newel posts. Fit the spindles into position and glue in place.

Attach newel cap or other decoration to the newel posts using the screwdriver, screws or glue as required.


Enlist a helper for the job to ensure that the handrail fits correctly


Forbid any banister sliding for at least two weeks after installation.

Things You'll Need

  • Newel posts and fastening kit from manufacturer
  • Banister
  • Adjustable bevel
  • Handrail fasteners
  • Pin hammer
  • Panel saw
  • Tenon saw
  • Spindles (also called balusters)
  • Fillets (wooden spacers)
  • Wood adhesive
  • Newel caps
  • Screwdriver
  • Screws
  • Helper
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About the Author

Based in London, Maria Kielmas worked in earthquake engineering and international petroleum exploration before entering journalism in 1986. She has written for the "Financial Times," "Barron's," "Christian Science Monitor," and "Rheinischer Merkur" as well as specialist publications on the energy and financial industries and the European, Middle Eastern, African, Asian and Latin American regions. She has a Bachelor of Science in physics and geology from Manchester University and a Master of Science in marine geotechnics from the University of Wales School of Ocean Sciences.