Content supplied by Dominic Amariei, George Quinn Stairparts Plus

Your staircase plays an important role in your home — both as a design statement and a way to move from floor to floor. In this tutorial Damien Reilly, Staircase Renovation Specialist at George Quinn, shows how to renovate your staircase, or build a new one.

STEP 1: Plan for renovating your stairs

As in any other job, planning is crucial in a staircase renovation project.

When renovating a staircase, you first need to decide if you want to change just your newel posts, handrails and spindles or if you want to refurbish your steps and risers also. After this, you will need to decide which stair parts you want to order. Take into consideration: the design of the stair parts and the number of stair components required. You can order the stair parts needed online.

  • Get the length of the handrail and base rail by measuring the distances between your newel posts. Total them up.
  • To calculate the number of spindles required: count two spindles per step, taking in consideration that the distance between the spindles should not be higher than 99 mm.

STEP 2: Replace the steps and risers

After you have ordered the stair parts that you need, start renovating the staircase from the steps and risers. Begin by removing your old carpet and any protruding nails or screws, and then proceed to measuring and cutting your steps and risers. The secret is to first install the first and the second riser and only after that to install the first step. To finish up, cover any gaps between the steps and risers with mouldings.

STEP 3: Renovate the landing area

To renovate the landing area, you will need winder steps and winder steps’ extensions. First, calculate how many of these steps are required for your staircase. Do this by measuring the landing area from the back to the front, adding on 30 mm to this measurement for the nosing of the winder step.

Second, measure, cut and test-fit the winder steps and the winder steps’ extensions. Start with the front portion of the landing, and use a winder step to cover it. When you are happy with how these fit, go ahead and install them: use polymer adhesive, some would glue, and secure them with some brads around the outside edges. Cover these margins with skirting boards, mouldings, or with the next riser.

STEP 4: Replace the newel posts

To replace the newel posts, you will first need to remove the old handrails, base rails and spindles. Then, you need to cut your old newel posts. First, determine at what height to cut them:

  • Place a straight edge on the nosing of two or three steps and mark the pitch-line.
  • From the pitch-line, measure 900 mm up the newel post and mark it – this is the minimum height required when installing handrails on stairs.

The remaining part is simple. If the posts that you bought have a dowel, bore a 50 mm hole in the centre of the remaining newel base and then you can glue your newel post in place. To hide the gaps between the posts and the bases, use a newel base connector (this needs to be installed before fitting the new posts).

Finalise this step by securing your posts: fix a screw directly through the base and the dowel of your newel post and then cover the remaining hole with a small piece of wood.

STEP 5: Fit the handrails and the base rails

If you haven’t done so already, you need to decide if you want your new staircase to have spindles (made of iron or any timber) or if you want a glass staircase. This is important because there are different handrails and base rails for these two solutions. Luckily, the process of installing them is the same in both cases.

After you have ordered the correct handrails and base rails, you will need to cut them to the angle of your stairs and to length. Keep in mind that if your newel posts and newel bases are the same thickness, these measurements should be the same for both the handrails and the base rails.

First, proceed to cutting them to the angle of your stairs (use a sliding bevel to find this angle). Then, put your base rail in place, resting it on top of the string, line it up at the top, mark it and cut it to length. Use this measurement to cut the handrail to length also.

Next, glue and screw your base rail in place, making sure that you centre it on the newel bases and on the string. To install the handrail, remember the minimum legal height requirement mentioned in the previous step (the handrails must be installed at a height of at least 900 mm). To help hold the handrail in place for installing it, you can clamp a spindle to each newel post and use them as support when test-fitting the handrail. When you feel that the handrails fit correctly, install them using glue. Secure them by fixing a screw in them through the newel post.

STEP 6: Install the spindles or the glass panels

You should now be ready to install the last parts of the staircase: the spindles, or the glass panels, depending on what you chose.

To install spindles

First, calculate the number of spindles required, using the method mentioned in the first step of this project: calculate two spindles per step and take into account the legal requirements (the distance between the spindles should not be greater than 99 mm). Next, cut your first spindle to the angle of your stairs.

When you ordered your handrails and base rails, you should have received slips/fillets. These will help you to create the spaces between the spindles. Before installing the first spindle, cut these fillets to the angle of your stairs and create the first space between the newel post and the spindle. After glueing the slips in place, you can start to install the spindles. Don’t forget to cut them to the angle of your stairs and to test-fit them before installing.

To install glass panels

Installing glass panels depends on their type and their designs, says Damien. You can order panels that need to be clamped to the handrails and base rails, or you can find panels that fit directly into them. The next solution is for the latter.

Start by calculating the number of glass panels that you will need. Do this by dividing the length of the base rail by 350. Just as in the case of the spindles, you will need to use fillets to create the spaces between the glass panels. Cut these to the angle of your stairs and install them before each glass panel. Keep in mind that the legal requirements remain the same: the distance between the glass panels must not be greater than 99 mm.

Finishing this last step should find you with a new, beautiful staircase. In the video below, you can watch the short version of how to renovate a staircase presented by Damien. Enjoy!

Read more about George Quinn Stairparts Plus in our Sourcebook

Our Sponsors