Your grand staircase makes a less-than-grand impression if it's got a broken baluster. Replacing, tightening or repairing a baluster is easy if you understand how it's secured. The bottom end is dovetailed and locked into the edge of the tread before the nosing is applied; or it's doweled and inserted in a hole as it's tilted into place for nailing at the top. The top is toenailed to the railing.
Things You'll Need
- 4d Finishing Nails
- Construction Or Panel Adhesive
- Glue Injector Or Brush
- Wax-filler Stick
- Wood Glue
- Nail Set
- Drill Bits
- Caulk Or Putty
- Caulking Gun
- Electric Drill
- Padded Clamps
- Scraps Of Wood
- Trim Pry Bar
Remove a baluster for replacement or repair
To remove a dovetailed baluster, pry off the cove molding and nosing (see A). (Insert a trim pry bar into the joint on the nosing's underside so the trim will cover any mar.) Then tap out the baluster with a block of wood. To disconnect the top, drive the top end in the upstairs direction with a wood block and hammer.
To remove a doweled baluster, disconnect the top. Then pull or pry up on the baluster to lift out the doweled end.
Glue together a broken baluster
Remove the baluster and use padded clamps to draw the pieces together and test the fit.
Use a glue injector if the baluster is just cracked. If it's completely broken, apply wood glue to the break with a brush.
Squeeze the break closed carefully and apply pressure with a padded clamp every 6 inches (15 cm).
Wipe off excess glue with a damp cloth. Allow the glue to cure overnight before touching up the finish as needed and reinstalling the baluster.
Install a repaired or replacement baluster
Drill two new pilot holes for nails at the top, angling them slightly toward each other so you will be able to drive them in without hitting the adjacent baluster.
Test-fit the baluster. If the dowel or dovetail joint at the bottom fits tightly, apply wood glue and insert the end of the baluster into the tread. If the joint is loose, use construction or panel adhesive instead of glue to fill the gaps.
Drive 4d finishing nails into the new pilot holes to secure the top to the underside of the rail.
Countersink the nails with a nail set, and fill the holes with caulk or putty if you are painting, or wax filler if the baluster has a clear finish.
Tighten a loose baluster
If the baluster is loose at the bottom, remove and reinstall it using construction adhesive in the joint (see "Install a repaired or replacement baluster," above).
A quicker but less reliable way to tighten a baluster that's loose at the bottom is to drill two pilot holes, then drive two nails through the baluster and into the tread.
If the baluster is loose at the top, drill two pilot holes through the top of the baluster, then drive two nails into the baluster's upstairs face (see B).
Countersink the nailheads with a nail set, and fill the holes.
Tips & Warnings
- You may be able to determine whether a baluster is doweled or dovetailed by slipping a playing card between the tread and the baluster and "feeling" for a round or rectangular shape on the recessed pin.
- Always wear eye protection when cutting, hammering or drilling.
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