Installing a stair railing can be a tedious job. Stair rail balusters, the vertical elements that support the rail and attach it to the stair treads, must be spaced no more than 4 inches apart, which means that a typical staircase requires a lot of balusters. Each of those balusters must be drilled to accept a fastener, and each tread that a baluster attaches to must be drilled as well. Having the right tools for the job can make all that drilling go fast.
The most important tool you'll need for the job is, obviously, a drill. You'll need to drill holes in the stair treads and in the bottom of the balusters where fasteners will secure the balusters to the stairs. This drilling can be done with any standard electric drill, and a specially designed stair bit will make the job easier by both drilling the hole and cutting a thread into the hole that the baluster fastener can screw into.
Baluster Fastener Driver and Fasteners
Baluster fasteners are special double-ended screws that are driven into both the bottom of the baluster and the stair tread, securely attaching one to the other. Because they don't have a conventional screw head, baluster fasteners can't be installed with a standard screwdriver bit. A baluster fastener driver, which attaches to a standard drill, holds the fastener and drives it into the bottom of the baluster, after which the baluster can be attached to the stair tread by hand.
In situations where a large number of evenly spaced holes must be drilled for baluster fasteners or connectors, such as in the installation of deck railings, a drilling jig can save time and help make sure that the connectors are spaced accurately. You can make this jig yourself from lumber or PVC material, ideally using a drill press to make precisely angled locator holes at the intervals at which the connectors must be installed.
Dedicated stair rail drilling tools such as the one manufactured by Genuine Tools are designed to significantly speed up the process of baluster installation. Genuine Tools' Railmaster clamps to the stair railing, and an electric drill is mounted in the tool. The operator then positions the tool and uses a handle to drive the drill bit into the rail, drilling the hole into which the baluster will be installed. A built-in level and laser sight help to quickly and accurately position the tool.
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