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How to Set Handrail for Stairs

Updated February 21, 2017

Part of steps and staircases around the world, handrails are installed to help increase the safety of users walking up or down the stairs. Handrails come in a variety of materials, styles and colours, with an overall installation method that remains the same regardless if you are installing wood handrails or metal. Once you have installed the handrail, you can rest assured that your steps are not only as safe as they can possibly be, but are also accented by your chosen design.

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  1. Measure up from the top and bottom stairs 30 inches (or whatever your desired height is for the rails) and use the level to mark a plum line. Snap a chalk line between these two points and use your tape measure to get the measurement needed for the length of the handrail.

  2. Cut your handrail to fit with the chop saw, or cut the end off at a 45 degree angle if you need more than one piece joined together. Cut the joining piece's end off at a 45 degree angle as well, so they will slide together at the angle cuts.

  3. Take the stud finder and work your way down the chalk line, marking studs as they come up. Use the hand drill and wood screws to mount the brackets into the studs along the chalk line, working your way from the bottom to the top.

  4. Mount the handrail itself onto the brackets. For longer sections, apply wood glue to the end of the two angled pieces prior to pushing them together, and then C clamp them tight while you finish the installation. Screw the handrail into place on top of the brackets.

  5. Allow the glue time to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions. Remove the C clamps and sand the surface down around the edges of the two cuts. Repeat the sanding for the entire rail if you are using wood and are preparing to paint or stain the railing.

  6. Tip

    All materials and tools can be purchased or rented from your local home improvement store.


    Always wear protective gear when working with power tools.

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Things You'll Need

  • 4 foot level
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk line
  • Chop saw
  • Handheld drill
  • Wood screws
  • Brackets
  • Sandpaper
  • Stud finder
  • Wood glue
  • C clamps
  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses

About the Author

Tim Anderson

Tim Anderson has been freelance writing since 2007. His has been published online through GTV Magazine, Home Anatomy, TravBuddy, MMO Hub, Killer Guides and the Delegate2 group. He spent more than 15 years as a third-generation tile and stone contractor before transitioning into freelance writing.

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