A banister, sometimes referred to as a stair banister, is the structure of uprights, or balusters, topped with a handrail, at the side of a staircase. A banister begins with a newel post, at the bottom level of the stairs, and there are usually newel posts at the top and at any corners along the way. Some people prefer the term "balustrade."
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Where one or more balusters have become split, this can cause a stair banister to wobble when the handrail is grasped. Squirt good quality wood glue into the split, making sure it gets to every mating surface. Press the two parts of the baluster together firmly by hand and wipe away any glue that squeezes out. Ask a friend to wrap plenty of masking tape around the baluster while you hold it together. When the glue is dry, remove the masking tape. Repeat for all broken balusters.
Where the balusters are rocking in the stair mortises, this often indicates gradual wear. The banister's looseness will tend to aggravate the problem, making the mortises slightly bigger every time someone uses the handrail. Following Reader's Digest advice, squeeze good quality wood glue into the mortises and knock in small wooden wedges to fill the spaces, thereby removing any room for movement. This will firm up the balusters and stop them rocking. So that the wedges are not an eyesore, make them flush with the stairs.
Wobbly bottom newel post -- one solution
In some staircase designs, it's fairly easy to get underneath the stairs. You may have to remove the outer stringer, which is the diagonal piece of wood covering the ends of the stairs. You may have to remove part of the wall panel too. Locate the base of the newel post, beneath the stairs, and fix a 90 degree steel bracket to that and the bottom stair riser, the first horizontal piece of the stairs.
Wobbly bottom newel post -- another solution
Where access to underneath the stairs is impossible or likely to be too difficult, you may be able to firm up the newel post another way. Lift any carpet to get to the exterior base of the post. Fix a 90 degree steel bracket to that and to the floor. So that the bracket is not an eyesore, fix it in such a way that it is not visible when the carpet is replaced.
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