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staircaseAre your stairs dangerous? Photo: Getty Images

Stair railings are meant to keep you safe -- but when they're loose, they can do just the opposite.

You know that wobbly old stair railing? The ones that's become loose after years of being pulled, pushed, and leaned on? You don't have to live with this potential household hazard. A loose stair railing is easy to fix in just a few steps.

A stair railing is made up of a banister (hand rail), balusters (the vertical members that run the length of the staircase), and a newel post (the large vertical column at the bottom of your staircase). On the wall side of the staircase, you may have a banister only.

First, if your banister is attached to the wall with wall brackets, check to see if the wall brackets are loose. It might be a matter of simply screwing the wall brackets back into the wall. If your banister does not have brackets, but isclose enough to the wall, you might consider purchasing brackets and using those to help stabilize the staircase.

If you have reinforced the banister at the wall and it is still wobbly, or the hand rail is too far from the wall for brackets, then you probably have to reinforce the newel post. Here's how.

Tools & Supplies

- Wood dowel that is a 1/2" in circumference and 3" in length
- Cordless drill
- 1/2" drill bit
- Wood glue
- Construction adhesive
- Masking tape
- Rubber mallet
- Pencil
- Protective gloves (for protection from splinters!)


1. Disassemble the stair rail: If the railing is attached to the wall, remove the brackets. Next, check the underside of the banister for any screws that attach it to the newel post, and remove those screws.

2. Remove the stair rail: Using a soft mallet, gently tap the underside of the hand rail in between the balusters (the repeating stair posts) until it can be removed. Once the banister is removed, individually remove each baluster and number them by placing a number on masking tape so you know the original order. Check the newel post for any points where it is screwed to the steps. If no screws are detected, gently rock the newel post until it can be dislodged from the floor.

3. Level the underside of the newel post: Once the newel post is removed, check the underside to determine if the surface is smooth. If not, level any bumpy spots or old glue with sand paper. Then mark the center of the bottom of the newel post. If the bottom is square, you can draw a line between opposing corners to form an x. The intersection will mark the center. Take a half inch drill bit and drill 2 inches into the center of the newel post. Make sure to measure two inches from the tip of the drill bit and put a piece of masking tape around the bit to prevent you from drilling to far.

4. Prep the surface of the floor where the newel post was by removing old glue or screws: Then, mark the center using the method described above. Using a 1/2" drill bit, drill a one inch deep hole. It is okay if you drill through the subfloor, just don't go too far down!

5. Glue the newel post in place: After you have your holes drilled, take a wood dowel and slather it in a generous amount of wood glue. Insert the dowel into the bottom of the newel post. Then, place construction adhesive on the bottom of the newel post. Next, insert the newel post into the floor, making sure to align the dowel with the hole drilled in the floor.

6. Reattach the railing.
At this point, the newel post should be firmly fixed to the floor. You can now reassemble the railing. Remember to make sure to glue the balusters in place with wood glue, wiping off any excess glue that squeezes out. Replace any screws that may have been removed.

Tip: you can use the same procedure to fix any loose balusters, adjusting the circumference of the dowel accordingly.


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