Need ideas for stairs

gmp3July 17, 2011

We are purchasing a house that has a dated stair case and bannister. Any ideas on how we could update this to get rid of the railings that overlap the drywall without replacing everything? I'd like to keep the handrail, and probably restain it darker. The problem is that the railings are offset from the floor. This looks so dated and it is the first thing you see when you walk in.

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I presume you are referring to the balusters (the vertical posts that support the railing). The problem is that they are screwed in at the base to provide support for the whole structure, so you can't just move them or cut off the basees. Stairs and railings are complicated things and you often can't easily make modifications. The only thing I can suggest is to install a nice, stained-to-match 1 X 10 over the base of the balusters with the top edge level with the carpet. This might be a visual improvement in that it would look cleaner. However, I'm not sure this same treatment would look as good on the stairs going up. The honest answer -- which I know you probably don't want to hear -- is that you need to totally replace them with something new to get rid of that look.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 3:25PM
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I've been thinking about you think something like this could work?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 5:42PM
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I was thinking the same thing but the existing balustrades could remain if you are willing and able to cut the bullnosed wood flooring edge around them. In any case, I agree that the carpet should stop before the railing and not wrap the edge.

If you are planning to replace any of the railing I would recommend replacing all of it. If you replace the existing structural balustrades you will need to bring some kind of post element down into the floor framing to provide the required lateral load resistance at the top of the guard rail.

Will the stair risers still be open? If so, they might have to meet the maximum sized opening test. Some inspectors will not allow that to be achieved by making the tread excessively thick and some codes are unclear on that issue.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 11:37AM
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Your new version looks a lot cleaner, but I think you may want to give up on trying to save the handrail and install a new one. You are going to spend a lot of time trying to salvage the old one without damaging it, and it may go faster to just install a new one when you do the project. Yes, it's a little more money, but it's probably fewer hours of aggravation. Your call, though...

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 2:02PM
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I think we will keep the open risers but carpet them in a chocolate brown flat carpet with a monochromatic pattern. Behind the stairwell is a large palladium window and the risers let light through. I would love dark stained wood, but it would be a fortune and I never even considered code issues.!

I'll look into replacing the handrail.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 6:37PM
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