How to install a newel post and handrail

Updated June 13, 2017

Handrails and newel posts are decorative but they also serve an important purpose. Handrails help you climb stairs safely. Even one step will be safer with a handrail, especially for people with disabilities or the elderly. Each end of the handrail is attached to a newel post. Handrails and newel posts rely on each other for strength and stability. Correct installation is important in order for the stairway to have structural integrity.

Measure the tread of the stair. The tread is the horizontal board that makes up the step. Write the measurements down as you work.

Install the newel post at each landing by using the level to ensure the post is vertical. Attach the newel post to the floor with the drill and screws.

Use the measurement of the tread to determine the number of balusters needed for each step. the balusters should be closely spaced. The general rule of thumb is for a space to be small enough that a canned good cannot fit through.

Cut the top of the balusters at an angle using a table saw that is preset to the same angle as your stairs. This ensures a proper fit of the handrail.

Measure the thickness of the handrail.

Cut the bottom of the balusters so the railing comes to a height of 75 cm (30 inches) on the tread and 85 cm (34 inches) on the landing when the handrail is installed.

Install the balusters to the string (support piece for the tread and riser) by using mortared and housed joints. The balusters will extend under the capping and into the string.

Attach the handrail to the newel posts by screwing a brass knee plate to the underside of the end of the rail and attaching the plate to the newel post.

Position the balusters so they are vertically level and straight. Use the level.

Attach the balusters to the handrail by putting screws on the long side of the splayed-off baluster top, then run the screw through to the underside of the handrail.

Continue until all the balusters are connected to the handrail.


When selecting a handrail at the supply house, hold the railing with one end on the floor and the other end near your eye. Look down the edge of the rail to determine that it is not warped.


The building codes are different for each area. Check your codes before you begin construction.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Handsaw
  • Drill
  • Brass knee plate
  • Screws
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About the Author

Jennifer Terry is program director for TriCounty Agency for Intellectual Disabilities. As a University of Alabama graduate, she holds a Masters in rehabilitation counseling and a Bachelor in psychology with an emphasis in child development. She also earned an Associate in business management and second Associate in computer information systems from Bevill State Community College. She holds a grant writing certificate from North Georgia College and State University.