How to fix a wobbly stair handrail

Written by mark morris
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How to fix a wobbly stair handrail
Fixing wobbly handrails is a safety issue. (Town on the rock, stairs and house. Amalfi. Italy image by Daria Miroshnikova from

Fixing a wobbly stair handrail is a safety issue that should be dealt with as early as possible. Handrails, as opposed to banisters, are typically simple wooden rails attached to the wall stair rail brackets. The brackets are attached from the underside of the rail. You'll need to check the connection between the brackets and the wall and between the rail and the brackets. Make sure to check each bracket, even if they seem firm, for loose screws or damaged pieces.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Wood screws
  • Drill
  • Replacement handrail brackets
  • Stud-finder
  • Concrete screws

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  1. 1

    Tighten the screws in each bracket starting at the top of the stairs. Use a screwdriver rather than a drill or impact driver to help prevent stripping the screws or damaging the screw heads.

  2. 2

    Check for damage on each bracket. Look for bent or broken brackets and stripped or missing screws. Remove damaged brackets and take them with you for comparison when purchasing replacements. Simply remove the screws from the wall and the underside of the handrail.

  3. 3

    Replace new brackets in the same position if possible. Where wall damage prevents reattaching in the original position, shift the bracket up or down the rail to the next wall stud and install. Use a stud-finder to locate the stud. Set the new bracket into position and mark the screw holes on the wall and the underside of the rail. Drill 1/8-inch pilot holes into the wall stud and 1/16-inch pilot holes 1/4 inch deep in the bottom of the rail.

  4. 4

    Attach brackets to brick or concrete wall with Tapcon-style concrete anchors in place of screws. Set the bracket in place on the wall and rail and mark the screw holes. Drill the pilot holes in the rail with a 1/6-inch wood bit. Drill pilot holes in the masonry with a 3/16-inch rotary mason's bit. Drill the holes to a depth of 1 3/4 inches. Set the bracket in place and attach to the rail first with wood screws. Use a screw driver to drive the screws into the pilot holes. Attach the bracket to the wall by driving a 1 1/2-by-1/4 inch Tapcon-style concrete screw through each hole in the bracket into the wall with a drill and screw bit.

  5. 5

    Fix stripped screw heads by removing with an ease-out tool. Follow manufacturer's directions for best results. In general, tap the ease-out tool into the screw head and twist it counterclockwise with locking pliers to back the screw out. Replace with a matching screw. Tighten with a screwdriver to avoid damaging the new screw.

  6. 6

    Repair stripped screw holes by installing a screw 1/8 to 1/4 inch longer than the original. Drive the screw into the original hole. Use a screwdriver to tighten the screw until it is tight against the bracket.

  7. 7

    Repair severely wallowed out screw holes by shoving the end of a wooden matchstick into the stripped hole. Break, or cut the screw off flush with the surface of the rail with pliers or sharp scissors. Drive a screw back into the original hole. The matchstick will provide friction, allowing the screw to tighten. Do not over tighten.

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