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How to Fix Loose Stair Handrails

Try this simple way to install a strong handrail

FH10NOV_LOOSHR_03-2Family Handyman
Fix a wobbly railing by first attaching it to a board and then screwing the board solidly to the wall.

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Mount a handrail solidly to a wall

Photo 1: Attach the returns with screws

Position the handrail on the board so the space above the rail and below the brackets is about the same, spacing the rail evenly from both ends. Drill pilot and countersink holes and screw through the board into the returns with 2-in. screws.

Photo 2: Screw the board to the studs

Position a strip of masking tape parallel to the stairs with the top edge located so that the top of the rail will be 34 to 36 in. above the stair nosings. Locate the studs and mark them on the tape. Support the handrail board on a pair of nails. Drive a pair of 3-in. screws into every other stud.

Photo 3: Screw the brackets to the board

Complete the job by straightening the brackets and screwing them to the board. Use the screws provided with the handrail brackets.

Whether you need to add a new handrail or firm up a wobbly one, here’s a new handrail hanging method that’s easy and super strong. The trick is to mount the handrail to a board first and then screw the board to the wall. This eliminates the hassle of trying to line up the brackets with the studs, and allows you to securely attach the end returns with screws running through the back side of the board. This method is much easier since most of the work is done on your workbench. And it also hides any damage from a poorly hung existing rail.

Start by measuring the distance from the nosing at the top landing to the nosing on the bottom tread. Add 12 in. to this measurement to find the length of the board you’ll need. We used a 1×6 and shaped the edge with a router and cove bit. Cut the handrail 6 in. longer than your measurement with 45-degree miters on each end. Screw the handrail brackets to the handrail (but not the board yet), spacing them about 4 ft. apart and about 1 ft. from each end. Support the handrail on the board and measure from the tip of the miter to the board to find the length of the returns. Cut the returns. Then glue and nail them to the ends on the handrail. Photos 1 – 3 show how to complete the job. We used finish screws to attach the board to the wall because the heads are smaller and easier to hide.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver - cordless
  • Hammer
  • Level
  • Miter saw
  • Nail set
  • Router
  • Stud finder
Cove bit

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Finish screws
  • Wood glue