How to Make Hand Rails


Handrails are a necessity for any stairway, inside or outside, up to a second floor or down to a basement, on a porch or on a raised deck or porch. They may be made of various types of wood, metal or vinyl and may be very simple and utilitarian or ornate and decorative. What is common about handrails is that they need to be securely fastened, to a wall or to upright posts, and have a secure railing that slopes with the stairs at a height that is comfortable for users to hold onto.

Things You'll Need

  • Screw gun
  • Long screws
  • Drill bits
  • 2-inch pipe
  • Angle connectors and screws
  • Bolts and nuts
  • Concrete or mortar (optional)
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Screwgun
  • Screws
  • Aluminum or vinyl railing kits (optional)
  • Railing lumber (2-by-4-inch, 2-by-2-inch, 1-by-1-inch, 1-by-4-inch)

Indoor Hand Rails

  • Make indoor stair handrails of wood. Buy railing material at a building supply store, in round, half-round or decorative style. Buy brackets to fit the railing for use against walls and spindles or balusters for railings on open sides. Get end posts and center posts to make a railing for an exposed side.

  • Install rails on a wall with brackets attached to the railing. Some screw into the bottom, some go around the railing. Match the brackets to the railing. Screw brackets into studs on the wall with long screws and a screw gun. Put one bracket at each end and others spaced about 6 feet apart up the stairs. Make sure brackets are solid and will not pull away from the wall. Space brackets the same height above the stair treads.

  • Make rails for exposed stairways with posts mounted securely to stair treads at appropriate intervals, with spindles or balusters between the posts to support a top rail. Use rails with flat bottoms. Drill holes for the spindles in the rail bottoms and stair treads with a bit to match the spindles. Secure spindles with glue and screws. Look for pre-formed railings for short steps, from one living level to another.

Outdoor Metal Rails

  • Make metal railings for stairs outdoors, from a back door or up from a basement. Build railings with 2-inch pipe with corners mitered for the slope of the stairs and welded or with angle connectors. Some angle connectors are threaded and the pipe screws into them. Others have corners which slip over the pipe and are secured with screws in holes drilled into the pipe.

  • Assemble the railings and install them with posts at each end. Dig holes in dirt or concrete and set poles in concrete. Make the holes at least a third the length of the post, 2 feet for a post that will sit 4 feet above the ground. Make sure posts are plumb and let concrete set several days before using the railing.

  • Secure posts in metal brackets, if drilling holes is not an option. Secure brackets to a concrete slab by drilling holes to hold 4 upright bolts.

  • Set the bolts in mortar with the heads buried and threads up. Space these to match holes in the bottom plate of the brackets. Fit the plates over the bolts and secure with nuts.

  • Weld pipes to the bottom bracket plates or use brackets that have upright holders for the railing posts and attach with screws

Decorative Railings

  • Make decorative railings of wrought iron, fake wrought iron, aluminum or vinyl. Real wrought iron requires welding skills, but ornate railings can be assembled from straight spindles, circles and other decorative elements which can be bought at building supply or fence stores.

  • Use fake wrought iron, which looks much like the real thing but can be assembled without welding. Buy top and bottom railings and posts and round or square spindles. You can find these at some building supply stores with pre-drilled holes.

  • Assemble sections by putting spindles into the railing holes, then securing the end posts set in concrete or in special holders fastened to either wood or concrete.

  • Buy an aluminum or vinyl railing kit, which comes with railings, brackets and spindles and with holes pre-drilled. Assemble these, following the directions, and mount with brackets secured to a wall or floor.

Deck or Porch Railings

  • Build deck or porch railings of wood to match the deck or porch. Put posts at all corners; use the corner posts of the deck or porch if possible. Make railings of 2-by-4-inch board tops and bottoms with 2-by-2-inch spindles between.

  • Nail or screw spindles in place, spaced evenly. Add 2-by-4 uprights in the center of long spans, fastened to the deck or porch.

  • Make hidden spindle joints by building "gutters" of 1-by-1-inch trim, nailed or screwed to the top rail. Attach spindles with nails or screws through the bottom board and through the inside 1-by-1, so no nail or screw heads are visible on the top railing.

  • Make an alternative wooden deck or porch railing with 1-by-4 boards instead of spindles, spaced farther apart, or with 2-by-2s formed into boxes which then are stacked atop and beside each other to make a more open space railing.

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