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Spindles & Railings: A Tune-Up for Your Staircase?

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

Don’t let your staircase be an afterthought when sprucing up your home. Kitchens and bathrooms often get the most attention when remodeling or upgrading, but don’t overlook the wear and tear from everyday use that may make your staircase look shabby.

The most common upgrades to stairways involve the replacement of some of the wooden stair parts, whether it be spindles, railing, stair trim, or some unique part of your staircase.

How to replace a broken spindle

While this may seem complicated, there are only three steps involved in replacing a broken spindle: remove the old one, find a replacement, and fit it in. Sounds simple, and may work for replacing a single spindle. If all doesn’t go that smoothly, or if you are replacing all of the spindles on the staircase, you may need to follow these steps:

  1. Use reciprocating saw to cut wooden balusters in half.

  2. Pull out each end and discard.

  3. Sand railing and stain or paint.

  4. Measure the height for each spindle.

  5. Use reciprocating saw to trim iron spindles to height.

  6. Stick spindle up into top railing.

  7. Add glue or epoxy into lower hole.

Is a baluster the same as a spindle?

A baluster and spindle are actually almost the same thing , but the word spindle is more frequently used because it is easier to remember. The term baluster is more common in contractor or architectural circles. Balusters usually rest on a footing. This could be a step, floor, or deck, whereas spindles are supported by a horizontal rail at the bottom that is attached to the posts.

What is the cost to replace all of the spindles on a staircase?

The cost to replace all of the spindles in a staircase is approximately $1200 to $1600, with the variables being the kind of wood used, the finish, and the ornateness of the spindle.

What is involved in replacing the stair railing?

Replacement of the railing is very simple if you have the type that is attached to a wall with brackets. It can be easily removed and replaced, using a few basic tools and perhaps some minor patching of areas where former holes were made in the wall.

If yours is a railing that has posts and balusters or spindles, you have a bit more work:

  1. Locate the points where the stair railing is connected to the posts and balusters or spindles by screw fasteners.

  2. Unthread any screw fasteners that secure the top of the balusters or spindles to the bottom of the rail. Don’t do anything if the balusters or spindles have no visible fasteners and are housed inside drilled holes in the rail.

  3. Move to the posts that are secured to the rail. Remove the screw fasteners with a screwdriver or screw gun equipped with the correct-size bit. Use a reciprocating saw to cut the area between the wood post and the rail only if you're unable to find any fasteners; some stair railings are constructed with adhesive or screws that are covered with wood putty.

  4. Pull the rail up from the balusters or spindles if they're housed inside the drilled holes at the bottom. Tap the rail from the bottom using a hammer if the rail is adhered to the balusters or spindles by staples or finish nails.

  5. Place the old rail next to the new one if you need to drill spindle holes. Stretch a tape measure out along the old rail and measure the location of each hole down the entire length. Transfer each hole measurement to the new rail, checking for holes where the rail was secured to the post as well. Drill each hole the same depth, diameter and angle as the ones in the old rail.

  6. Compare the old rail to the new one to ensure that they're the same length and that the hole, if balusters or spindles are present, match. Place the new rail between the rails just above the balusters or spindles. Have another person align each spindle while you hold the rail in place.

  7. Check that the spindles are plumb using a level before securing the end of the rail to the post. Use the rails' old or newly drilled holes to secure the rail into place. Drill new holes through the post or rail to accommodate new screw fasteners if needed

What does it cost to replace the railing?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $700 to $2,500 for replacement of your railing.

Are there other ways to perk up a “boring” staircase?

You can paint the staircase, add a unique stair trim, add a runner, or replace the carpeting with a contrasting color (different from the one in the room surrounding the staircase). You can highlight your staircase as a focal point in the room by painting the riser a powerful color, or even using contrasting or varietal wall covering on the risers. Either of those make a signature statement that your staircase is anything but boring.

Safety comes first…

When replacing or refinishing steps, always make sure that any paint or runner or carpeting used is done with adherence to all safety standards. No loose fabrics or treads, no slick surfaces, no moving rugs.

Staircase and stairway accidents constitute the second leading cause of accidental injury second only to motor vehicle accidents. And torn or frayed carpet or cracked flooring on stairs is one of the most common causes of stairway falls.

Count on the professionals at Advanced Trim and Kitchens not only for staircases but for all of your custom millwork needs.

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