How to Cover Ugly Stair Railings

Updated March 23, 2017

One of the most overlooked areas in a home is the design of the railings along interior or exterior stairways. Chances are, if you rent or have recently purchased a home, you neither picked out these railings nor have the right, cash or equity to replace them entirely. In these cases, you can easily -- and inexpensively -- create custom railing covers for wood rails that can be removed at a later date, if necessary, when you do invest in replacement or move out.

Measure the length and width of the ugly stair railing.

Cut the plywood, using the hand or power saw, following the dimensions of your railing, adding 1/8 inch allowance on either side. This plywood will be used to create a cover for your current railing.

Sand the edges and surface of the plywood, moving from the coarsest grit to the finest, to smooth out any jagged or splintery areas.

Coat the top surface of the plywood with all-purpose glue, applying an even coat using the foam brush.

Press the fabric or wallpaper onto the glue, smoothing out any wrinkles or blisters.

Flip plywood over and apply a 1/2-inch-wide line of glue around the perimeter of the wood.

Fold the edges of the fabric or paper onto the glue around the perimeter. Allow to dry and cut away excess fabric or paper using the utility knife.

Attach the rail cover to the top of a wood railing using the drill and wood screws. Alternatively, you can drill evenly spaced pairs of hole along the length of the cover, thread each pair of holes with a length of twine or rope in a complementary colour, and tie the railing cover onto the ugly rail, securing with a knot beneath the old rail. This method is great if you are a renter and cannot damage the old railing.

Repeat for any additional ugly stair railings you want to cover.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • 3/4-inch plywood
  • Hand or power saw
  • Sandpaper in various grits
  • All-purpose glue
  • Foam brush
  • Fabric or wallpaper in desired colour and design (enough yardage to cover railings)
  • Utility knife
  • Drill and wood screws, or twine or thin rope
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About the Author

A writer and professional lab assistant based in Seattle, Kate Bruscke has been writing professionally about health care and technology since 1998. Her freelance clients include "The Seattle Times,", Reading Local: Seattle, Nordstrom and MSN/Microsoft. Bruscke holds a Master of Fine Arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.