How to replace a stair rail's wood spindles with iron

Written by lisa east hunter
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How to replace a stair rail's wood spindles with iron
Iron spindles can update your staircase. (stairs image by Troy Hostetler from

Updating the look of your staircase is as straightforward as installing a set of iron spindles, a job you can tackle on your own. Make a detailed sketch of your railing before you go shopping for replacement spindles. Your drawing should include the distance between spindles, the number of spindles and the thickness of each post. Find iron spindles the same thickness as the existing wooden balusters. If your stairway's balusters are set close together, make sure that any elaborate scrollwork on the new spindles will fit within the railing.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Jigsaw
  • Chisel
  • Pliers
  • Circular saw
  • Metal cutting blade
  • Iron spindles
  • Iron spindle shoes
  • Two-part epoxy
  • Allen wrench

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  1. 1

    Cut through the centre of a wooden spindle with a jigsaw. Grab onto the spindle and manoeuvre it back and forth until it loosens from the stair railing. Pull the spindle out. Repeat the process for the top half of the spindle. Do this with each of the wooden spindles.

  2. 2

    Examine the holes in the stair railing. The original spindles may have been installed with adhesive, nails, or both. Remove all debris from the holes. Reach into each hole with pliers to remove any nails, loose pieces of wood and adhesive. Loosen dried glue with a chisel and hammer.

  3. 3

    Measure the diameter and depth of one hole in the top rail. Measure the diameter depth of one hole where the bottom of the spindle is mounted -- either a bottom rail or on the stair tread. Most metal balusters are square in shape. For a metal baluster 1/2 inch thick, you will need a 3/4-inch hole. Each hole should be 1 1/2 inches deep in the top rail and 3/4 inches deep in the bottom rail. Enlarge the width and depth of the holes with a drill if necessary.

  4. 4

    Measure the distance from the top of the stair rail to the bottom rail. Add the depth of each hole. Cut the iron baluster to match this measurement, using a circular saw with a metal cutting blade.

  5. 5

    Mix two-part epoxy according to the package instructions. Fill one bottom-rail hole halfway with the epoxy.

  6. 6

    Slide the spindle shoes over the top and bottom of the spindle. Spindle shoes are caps that slide to the ends of the spindle and sit flush with the stair rail. They are secured to the rail with small screws. The shoes cover any glue or small gaps where the spindle meets the rail.

  7. 7

    Place the top of the spindle into the top-rail hole, then slide the bottom of the spindle into the hole in the bottom rail or stair tread.

  8. 8

    Slide the bottom shoes into place and secure the small screws in the shoes with an Allen wrench. Check that the spindles are level. Let the epoxy set.

  9. 9

    Squirt a small amount of epoxy into the gap between the top of the spindle and the stair rail. Let the epoxy set. Slide the top shoes into place and secure with the small screws.

  10. 10

    Repeat Steps 5 through 9 for each spindle.

Tips and warnings

  • Most metal spindles have the ornamental portion at the top. Trim from the bottom to avoid altering the aesthetic of the spindles.
  • City building codes will dictate the maximum distance between each spindle. Consult your city's building codes to determine if you must adjust the spindle placement while you are installing the new spindles.

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