How to Fix Loose Stair Handrails

Try this simple way to install a strong handrail

Fix a wobbly railing by first attaching it to a board and then screwing the board solidly to the wall.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Mount a handrail solidly to a wall

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 1x6 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.

  • Hammer
  • Miter saw
  • Stud finder
  • Drill/driver, cordless
  • Nail set
  • Level
  • Drill bit set
  • Router
  • Wood glue

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

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