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Saturday, March 16, 2013

DIY Iron Baluster Upgrade - Angled Handrail

Another gem in the range of DIY luxe upgrades is the Iron Baluster Staircase Rail. Builders offer this feature as a premium, but why pay a premium price if you dont have to?

This is quick project as long as you have the right tools.

Time: Approx. 1 hour per 10 balusters
Cost: $4-$8 per baluster / $1 per bottom shoe - for the Ravenna the total was about $200 shipped for upstairs and main floor
Difficulty: Easy to Medium

Tools Needed:
- Drill with 5/8" Spade Bit & 1/4" Wood Bit
- Hand Saw, Reciprocating Saw or Jig Saw
- Allen Wrenches
- Small bolt cutters (for screw heads)
- Large bolt cutters (not the cleanest but effective) OR some type of saw to cut the iron to size. 
This is typically completed with a Portable Band Saw, Chop Saw or Reciprocating Saw with Metal Cutting Blade

Materials Needed:
Wood Glue
Painters Tape

This will be the most terrifying part for those with weak dispositions to cutting things and commitment, but this is actually the most fun part. Take your saw and chop right through the middle.

For the small slanted portions like these here you can cut them all at one time. If youre working on a long run with 8 or more balusters just cut a few at a time for stability.

The top of the wooden baluster is typically attached with some glue and a pin nail. Grab the top half with two hands and twist, it will easily release and fall right out.

The bottom requires a little more delicacy to make the end result cleaner as there is a screw attached to the bottom that is very brittle and will snap in half easily, making your job a little tougher.

For the angled riser potion of the stair, pivot the bottom half back and forth with mild force repeatedly. Once you have a lot of free motion, pull straight up and hopefully the screw shaft will be left.

For the straight run of balusters, you just need to pull up and unscrew the bottom halves from the screw shaft, this technique doesnt work on the slanted parts.

Complete Screw Method
If your screw shaft is still there, and it is off-center from the square area that is now revealed, all you need to do is use your bolt cutters or a reciprocating saw to chop the shaft off. getting it down to about 1/4" height is fine. You should put down some painters tape just to protect the area around the screw so you dont mar the surface.

screw was off center in the square which gives us space to drill a new hole

Broken Screw Method
If the screw shaft broke or if the screw is in the middle of the lighter square area, this will require a little more effort to deal with it. We need a hole at least 1/2" wide in the center of the square to hold our new baluster but we cant do that if the screw is in the way.

In order to extract the screw the easiest way is to drill three holes in a triangle shape around the screw to loosen its grip and simply pull it out..

Dont worry, as long as you stay within the lighter square while drilling, the holes will be hidden by the baluster shoe.

Alternate Broken Screw Method
With a 3/4" hole saw you can create a hole surrounding the screw shaft and with some other flat long tools coax the middle cylinder of wood out. You can skip the spade bit if you use this method.

Now use your 5/8" Spade Bit drill a shallow 1/2" deep hole in the center of the square.

Now you need to cut your balusters to size. This is a personal preference but your baskets or other ornamentation should be centered in the height of the rail, so you will most likely need to trim some length from both ends of the baluster.

Tip: If you cut your baluster a little too short and you are not satisfied with how it looks, you can insert a plug cut from one of the wooden pieces to create a small platform in the hole.

There is about 2" of clearance up in the hand rail so you have plenty of room. Be cautious and cut long and then trim until you get the right fit.

Thread your shoe (remember to use an angled one if your on the riser part of the hand rail).

Insert the baluster into the top first. Initially it will appear to be too long, you will need to use force to push it up into the handrail and then it will drop nicely into the hole if your cut was accurate. If its too short, use the plugging technique described above.

Tip: We suggest doing dry fits to be sure you are happy with how the whole thing looks before using the epoxy which may mean inserting them all first, because the epoxy sets almost instantly and is nearly impossible to release.

Once you are satisfied, drop a dime sized bit of epoxy on the top of the baluster before you insert and also in the bottom hole

Insert, adjust the placement quickly as you do not have more than a minute or two. Secure the shoe to the shaft using allen wrenches.


For the straight part of the handrail, the process is a bit simpler.

Good luck!


  1. Looks great! Maybe "Easy" for you but I felt queasy just at reading the words reciprocating saw.

  2. Awesome step-by-step tutorial for those confident enough to take on the project! If I didn't see this post, I would have thought you paid the extra $500+ to Ryan for the option when building. I agree with Stuart that "easy" is a relative term, and I'm not sure my wife would trust me performing this upgrade.

  3. You all are lifesavers! We saw these in Lowe's for just a few bucks and told my husband to put this on his Hunny-to-Do List because I really don't like the white. I want to get the smoky grayish color for contrast. Now this is a project I am ready for HIM to tackle. lol Our flooring company has some really nice selections and we may get them from there and still SAVE big time!! Thank you so much!!

  4. Im with Stuart. You lost me at saw... But it looks beautiful! Any time you decide to come to the Charlotte area, feel free to bring your tools by just in case you decide you want to work on a Verona.

  5. Haha, thanks guys. Its really less intimidating than it sounds. Ive updated the instructions to include a bolt cutter solution that will keep you from sawing metal. Youll still get the same result with less of a reliance on power tools.

    Since hand rails come in all different heights you will definitely need to shorten the balusters from the factory to fit your installation.

  6. I'm reading and wondering - is shipping super costly? Because I have the Ravenna and the rails at the bottom only - I count ten. So if they are $8 +$1 each = $90. You said about $200. Did you have rails to do in the basement, too? Or was shipping as much as product? (Or am I missing something?)

    1. Hi Tammi, thanks and yes ok I guess that looks a bit confusing :) The $200 cost covers both floors of balusters (up & main) so 46 in total. I just only took pics of the beginning of the project.

      I have a business account so I ordered these direct from the factory and paid around the $4 price, the $8 price reflects about what you would pay at a home store, some that are more ornate cost even more. I want to say the single twists are $5.71 and the basket ones are $7.29 at my HD. There are nice large scroll pieces that are about $18 which I can get for about half of that. I would be glad to get them for you, just contact us via email.

      We weren't offered these either during sale. Shipping was about $35.

    2. I'm not sure if I want to see them upstairs or not - I'm torn. We took the half wall upstairs so I would only need to do them down on the main floor. Thank you for the offer. I may take you up on it!

  7. Also! Great job! And Ryan never offered us an option like this - I would have wanted it.

  8. I think it looks great but would have to pay someone for that task. Actually torn between these looks, white is best for my place.

    1. Yes we agree that the perception of the contrast will vary upon your decor, we have a lot of black pieces on our first floor, so this adds to the motif :)

  9. Looks great! This is so much easier than I thought it would be.

    1. Yeah, Steve & Erica have a tendency to make things look easy!

  10. Just gotta say you guys are amazing!! We are still working on our chair rail project and we are exhausted!!,....just watching your projects every week inspires us to get moving lol! Great job!

  11. Thanks for the DIY project. This is something I could do, I just have to decide if I care. Maybe I can buy then and ask RH to install them for me instead of the the white ones they offer.

    1. Depending on where in the build process you are that wont be an option. This is an upgrade that RH offers on some models, and installing these into handrails is more labor intensive than just screwing your white baluster handrails in. In addition I believe the upgrade starts @ $500 without the oak staircase which is another almost $2k, good luck.

  12. I think it looks great but would have to pay someone for that task. Actually torn between these looks, white is best for my place.
    wooden cladding

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  14. Great write up! Midwest Stair Parts out of Naperville, IL seems to have the best prices on iron balusters.

  15. I would like to order the balusters, can you provide the information so i can order?