Replacing Balustrading

If your wooden balustrade is damaged in several places it is possible to replace individual components or, if you cannot find balusters to match your existing ones, you can buy a full kit to replace balusters, handrail, base rail and newel posts.

Before you start you should decide which parts need replacing. Often, even when the balusters are worn or broken, the newel post and handrail are sound, or the handrail is worn but the balusters are in good condition. The less parts you have to remove and replace the better, but do make sure that parts you are leaving in place or reusing are actually sound and do not just look sound. You should also make sure that you have all the tools you need to complete the job. Silverline offer a wide range of power tools and accessories, from saw blades to cordless drill drivers.

Removing Balusters and Base rail

Saw through each baluster at an angle and pull each part away from the rails. When all of the balusters are out of the way, prise out the fillets of wood that space each baluster. Remove any remailing nails and prise the base rail carefully away from the string. You can use the old baserail as a template to cut the new one, remembering to cut make the cut at an angle so that the end of the base rail will sit flat against the newel posts at the top and bottom of the run.

Removing the Handrail

The handrail will either be screwed directly to the newel post through a angled hole at each end, or it will have a small bracket attached to the end, which is screwed to the newel post. In either case, remove the screws and lift the handrail away. If you cannot unscrew the screws, there may be a nut hidden behind a plug of wood on the other side of the newel post. If there is, prise the plug of wood out and use a socket to hold it while you undo the screw.

Assembling the new Balustrade

Hold the baserail in position and fix it to the string using 50mm wire nails, spaced no more than 300mm apart. As with the base rail, you can use the old handrail as a template to cut the new one. This then needs to be attached to the top and bottom newel posts, either with 75mm woodscrews or by using L-shaped brackets designed for just this task. If the base rail and handrail are in the same positions as the old ones, you can then use one of the balusters as a template to trim your new ones to length. If the height of the handrail has changed (lowering a handrail too much may be against building regulations) you will need to hold a uncut baluster against the handrail and baserail, make sure that it is perfectly upright and mark the length and angle on it before trimming it to size.

Either cut new fillets from wood the same width and depth as the groove in the base rail, or use pre-cut fillets bought from a diy store. Pin these in the groove in the baserail and the groove in the handrail, making sure they are tight against the newel post. Hold a baluster against the fillet in the groove and check it is upright before hammering a pin through the baluster at an angle into the base and handrail. Insert a second fillet top and bottom and repeat the process all the way up the staircase.

DIY Tip

If you plan to paint or varnish your new balustrade, you can apply primer or varnish before fitting the balusters and then simply touch them up when it is all fitted together.