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How to install a staircase handrail

Updated November 21, 2016

Staircases are common fixtures in many homes, and a proper handrail is necessary for safety. You can install a sturdy wood handrail with materials available at most home improvement centres. Most affordable wood railings are made from pine or oak, but cherry and other high-end woods are also available. You can purchase railing in precut sizes or in lengths that require cutting to size.

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  1. Determine the location for the staircase railing on the wall. Standard railing height is 90 cm to 1.2 m (3 to 4 feet) above the stairs and running at the same angle. Measure a point straight up the wall from one of the lower steps, then a point from one of the upper steps. String a chalk line tightly between the two points. Snap the line to mark the guide line for the handrail.

  2. Use a stud sensor to find the location of the wall studs along the chalk line. Do your best to make the marks as close to the centre of each stud as possible.

  3. Position the lowest rail bracket first. Use a level to make sure that the bracket is square to the wall. Place the bracket over a stud mark. Use an awl or small screwdriver to punch small marks in the drywall to denote the place for the holes.

  4. Drill pilot holes through the drywall and into the studs so the bracket can be mounted to the wall. Make the holes with a 3 mm (1/8 inch) drill bit, drilling them straight into the wall without at any angle. Connect the brackets to the wall with 5 cm (2 inch) finishing screws, using a screwdriver or your drill loaded with a driver bit.

  5. Measure and cut lengths of rail to fit the wall, with enough overlap to reach past the wall brackets by a fewbout 7.5 cm (3 inches). Use a circular or mitre saw to make cuts. Sand sharp or rough edges using medium-grit sandpaper.

  6. Position the rail over the brackets and test the fit. Ensure the rail is aligned properly and equally over the brackets. Mark the locations of the holes from the brackets to the underside of the rail. Remove the rail. Drill pilot holes approximately 2.5 cm (1 inch) deep into the wood.

  7. Replace the rail over the brackets. Insert 3.1 cm (1 1/4 inch) screws through the brackets and up into the wood. Use a drill to secure them tightly together. Check the connection of the rail to the wall by lightly tugging on the wood.

  8. Tip

    Have an assistant help with the chalk line and hold the wood rail in place when mounting it.


    Make sure all brackets are secured into the wall studs and not into wall anchors. Wall anchors will not offer enough hold for a staircase railing.

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Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Chalk line
  • Stud sensor
  • Level
  • Awl or small screwdriver
  • Drill and bits
  • 5 cm (2 inch) finishing screws
  • Circular or mitre saw
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • 3.7 cm (1 1/4 inch) finishing screws

About the Author

Beau Keyes
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