How to Install Stair Pickets

How to Install Stair Pickets thumbnail
Balusters, or pickets, fill out a stair railing.

Worn or unsightly pickets, also known as balusters or spindles, can detract from the look of a staircase and make your home's interior less inviting. They also prevent young children from falling off the steps, so balusters that are not solidly attached to both the handrail and the treads can present a safety hazard as well. Installing new spindles on a staircase takes some time and effort, but doing so rewards you with a safe, eye-catching stairway.

Things You'll Need

  • Nippers
  • Pry bar
  • Tape measure
  • Spindles
  • Pencil
  • T-bevel
  • Miter saw
  • Hammer
  • 2 inch nails
  • 2 1/2 inch nails
  • Putty
  • Paint
  • Glue
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    • 1

      Remove an existing baluster from the stairway by taking out the nails at the top of the baluster with nippers. Pry the bottom out of its hole with a small pry bar. Pry off the cap, a small section of wood some staircases have on the side of each step, with the pry bar.

    • 2

      Measure the length of each spindle with a tape measure and mark it down on paper. Contact a local woodworking shop and ask where you can find a woodturner in your area. Take the spindle and the measurements to the woodturner and have him make the number of balusters you need. Ensure that the spindles are left a few inches longer than the measurements, so you can cut them to length at home. This helps to guard against any poor fits or mistakes.

    • 3

      Measure the existing baluster that the new picket will replace. Take the tape measure and hook it to the bottom of the new baluster. Make a mark at the top of the new baluster with a pencil at the correct length.

    • 4

      Find the angle at the top of the baluster to match the rail slope. Use a t-bevel tool and hold the handle against the side the baluster where it meets the railing. Position the blade across the angle of the spindle and lock the blade. Transfer this angle to the new spindle by laying the t-bevel at the mark you made when establishing the proper length. Draw a line against the t-bevel blade where it intersects the spindle.

    • 5

      Cut to the new baluster to the correct angle and length with a miter saw.

    • 6

      Remove the existing baluster by taking out the nails at the top with nippers. Pry out the bottom with the pry bar and remove the cap, if one exists. Take the freshly cut baluster and insert the tongue on the bottom into the hole in the tread. Place the top in position under the handrail.

    • 7

      Hammer two 2-inch nails into the top of the baluster and handrail. Fasten the cap back onto the tread, if your stairway incorporates this design. Place putty over any cap nailheads and paint to match the existing finish. Repeat for each spindle you need to install.

Tips & Warnings

  • Put carpenter's glue over the top of the new spindle before nailing it to the underside of the railing for an even stronger connection.

  • Have the woodworkers make a few extra balusters just in case you accidentally damage some.

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  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images

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