rail). The balusters must be spaced no more than 4 inches apart. When planning for the stair rail, we found it helpful to make a diagram of the proposed rail design, complete with specific measurements, to make sure all the parts would assemble correctly on site. And, of course, style is major concern. The overall design can incorporate a rail that mounts over the newel posts or termi- nates post-to-post against the sides. Will your balusters rest on open treads or mount onto a kneewall? Whereas our project used iron balusters, there is also the option of wood balusters that vary in shape, style and species. Newels vary in design from simple box designs to larger ornamental pieces with decorative trim. Handrails also vary in size and shape, and you want all the asso- ciated stair components to fit against each other in an attractive and proportional manner. Stair rail construction is a com- plicated endeavor, so the best way to plan it is slowly and carefully, with attention to every site-specif- ic detail that might affect its installation. Rather than rehash L.J. Smith’s detailed installation manual, this article will focus on how we applied those instructions to this specific job. Be prepared for each stair project to differ somewhat regarding on-site challenges. REMOVE THE OLD RAIL First step in handrail replace- ment is removal of the old system, which we took out when we replaced the treads. To do this, we used a recip saw to cut the handrail free against each newel. This enabled us to lift the handrail off the stair, and the balusters remained attached to its under- side, enabling us to remove all of them at once. Next, the old newels were removed by prying the trim boards from around the 4x4s and cutting the posts flush with the floor.
PLACEMENT As a general rule for an open- tread stair, the balustrade center- line between newels should be 1/2 of the baluster square inward from the face of the stringer. (On a kneewall stair, the balustrade should be centered on the knee- wall.)
We used a reciprocating saw to cut the old rail off the existing newel.
The balusters remained attached to the rail, and the whole assembly was lifted out as a single piece.