How to Build a Banister for a Staircase

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For many, going to grandma's house and sliding down the banister was great fun. Now it's time to install one in your own house, both for safety and to provide other kids with the same pleasure.


Each state has a building code that calls for a banister to be a certain height. Before you start, check your local code to avoid making a mistake. Once you know what height is required, the rest of your job is very simple.

  • Use a pencil to mark where your banister is to begin, in accordance with local regulations. Some banisters are thicker than others, so you will need to measure its height, then subtract that amount from where you have marked. For instance, if your railing is 3 inches high, you will subtract 3 inches from where you have marked.

  • Go to the bottom of the staircase, and at the next to the last step, place a pencil mark at the same adjusted height as you have done at the top of the stairs. Then run a string from the top to the bottom of the stairs where you have marked, pulling it tight and affixing it on both ends with a thumb tack. The string will show you where to place the bottom of your handrail from start to finish.

  • Buy, borrow or find a stud finder that will locate studs where you will attach your brackets. First, look for one as close to the top of the stairs as you can, then find one close to where your mark appears at the bottom. Then, look for studs that will enable you to evenly space brackets between them. Most building codes do not allow you to attach the brackets more than 48 inches apart. Assuming your studs are 16 inches apart, plan on using every other stud. Since you will be on the diagonal, the brackets will actually be about 38 inches apart.

  • Make your job easier by drilling the holes before you install the brackets. Finally, install the top and bottom brackets first, then the remaining ones. Also, avoid placing the brackets where there are no studs, because they will come loose easily.

  • Place the handrail onto the brackets, making sure that it will not extend more than 2 feet from the two end brackets. Then, attach the U-brackets that keep the handrail in place, using an electric screwdriver to make the job easier. You might consider drilling the holes before you do this.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your staircase has a 90-degree turn, you will need to follow the above instructions twice. Also, depending on the type of handrail you have chosen, it might have to be altered to make the turn by using a miter box and saw to create the proper angle.

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