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A new look for existing stairs

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Changing the stairway to allow greater natural light in the hallway

Some stairways are covered in hardboard, which gives a different look to the hallway. By removing the hardboard, more light can be added to the hallway be using banisters instead. You could uncover a set of attractive spindles, which just require rubbing down and re-painting. There are many spindle designs available from traditional twists to modern designs in wood and some are available in metal. There are many designs on the market and if you have a stairway where some of the spindles need replacing, it should not be a problem matching it.

Choosing the spindles

If you decide to start again and build the stair rail, there are regulations that govern the spacing of the spindles. The space between two adjacent spindles should be less than 100mm at any point. The step on the stairs, known as the tread should accommodate two spindles, while at the foot of the stairs, the first tread should allow for one spindle and the cut out for a newel post.

Choosing the newel post

If you are replacing the existing newel post, the new one must be fixed in the same position. Depending on the newel post you buy, the fixings should be chosen to suit your post. Newel posts must be absolutely vertical and totally rigid.

Fitting the baserail

Once the newel post is in position, fit the baserail. It is always wise to make a template giving the angle of the stairs or use a sliding bevel to measure the slope of the stairs, before cutting the baserail. Measure the length required and cut both ends. Mark the positions for the screws to coincide with the wood on the side of the steps. Use a drill to countersink the holes and then glue and screw the baserail into position.

Fitting the handrail

Cut the handrail using the same angles as the baserail. The newel post selected will probably have fixings to connect the handrail to it. Make sure the handrail is parallel to the base rail before fixing the top end. Check the measurements between the handrail and baserail at the top and bottom of the stairs to check the spindles distance is equal and that the two lengths are indeed parallel, before fitting spindles.

Fitting the spindles

The spindles need to be cut at an angle to fit vertically between the base and handrails. Cut the excess off both ends of the spindle, instead of just one end, to keep the detailed pattern on the spindle central. Take time measuring the first spindle accurately as that one can then be used as a template when cutting all the other spindles. Always check the spindle measurement in its position on the stairs before cutting further spindles.

Fitting the spacers

Spacers or fillets are used to fill the spaces between each spindle under the handrail and above the baserail. Cut the spacers to fit between the spindles and pin or glue them into position. If your measurements are correct, you should be able to fit a spindle followed by a spacer, then the next spindle followed by a spacer and continue along the run.

Quarter turns and landings

There are fittings available to allow for turning in the base and handrails when required, use matching newel and half newel posts (fix to the wall) to complete the run along the landing.


Use a fine glasspaper to smooth the surfaces. Take a damp cloth and wipe all sections to remove all traces of dust. You need to decide whether the stairs are going to be painted or stained and varnished. Consider the decoration of the wood surrounding the stair location. Is the skirting board painted or stained and vanished? Are the doors painted or stained and varnished. Try to visualise different finishes in relation to other furnishings before deciding on the best course of action.

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