Iron spindles, also known as iron balusters, can be replaced to upgrade and beautify your home. There are quite a few different styles available online.
Interested in doing it yourself? Installation is easier than you might think, especially if you are replacing existing wood balusters. The following steps take you from concept to completion!
Visit a design center to decide on styles and materials needed.
Indital USA’s website offers a virtual staircase builder. If you go to the physical showroom of a local stair builder, lumberyard or home store that carries iron balusters, bring a rough draft of your plans, or, better yet, a photo of your existing staircase. Count how many spindles that you need and decide what design and color you want for your new iron pickets.
There are many decorative coatings in the marketplace. Replacing softwood, carpeted treads with a hardwood tread may impact your color choice for the baluster coating, as well as the length of the balusters needed. Also, remember to consider spacial limitations in your choice of baluster. For example, the iron scroll design looks great but might not fit in some installations if the balusters are too closely spaced.
It is not necessary, from a mechanical or aesthetic point of view, to replace the bottom post on your wooden railing. Leaving the original base post, rather than replacing it with an iron post, will keep your railing system as strong or stronger than the original!
Next, choose the correct size spindle shoes. The shoes will cover up the rough, damaged or unfinshed areas at the top and bottom of the baluster left from removal of the original wooden baluster. The width of the shoe must cover that space. Shoes come with different size holes to fit the diameter of the spindle.
Now that you have your materials, time to remove the old balusters.
After placing a drop cloth/masking to protect furniture, home décor and electronics from sawdust, cut the wood balusters in the middle using a jig-saw or reciprocating saw. Hold the wood baluster firmly when cutting to prevent damage to the stair tread or underside of the railing. Wiggle and/or twist the cut baluster to loosen it, as it may be glued and/or nailed, depending on the original contractor’s preference.
Examine the holes for any nails, wood filler or glue. Use pliers to remove any nails. Depending on the baluster size, you may need to use a chisel or drill to clean our residual wood, filler or glue. Any small defects still visible after the iron baluster installation can be repaired with colored putty or wax.
You can use your existing rail (if it is a simple hole; not a plowed rail with filet) or for new rails drill based on local spacing code requirements. You can use a pencil to mark on the new rail after using a measuring tape. Drill holes to accommodate no deeper than ½ on the rail and the tread.
Important: Always cut the new iron baluster approximately 1½ inch longer than the distance from the tread to the rail to accommodate the insert portion of the baluster into the rail and tread. Cut from the bottom to fit to size depending on the rake of the stairs or balcony height. Never cut at the pin-top or doweled end, which is the top. When in doubt about the precise length, play it safe and cut the baluster a little long and trim it if it doesn’t fit. They won’t grow back!
Use a high-grade, thick 2-part epoxy for the top rail hole and bottom tread hole.
Choose an epoxy that is a putty when mixed, not a flowing liquid, to keep the mess to a minimum. A brand used with success on many projects is PC Woody, a two-part epoxy that is thick enough to hold the balusters straight without clamping but allows repositioning for over a half-hour, depending on the temperature. Common denatured alcohol will remove any uncured epoxy. It is neither necessary nor desirable to fill the holes to the top with the epoxy. Just put enough to stabilize the baluster. After the epoxy sets, you can finish filling the upper or lower holes with more epoxy or another wood filler, if desired.
Insert the doweled or pin-top end into the rail portion first and then the bottom part into the tread. (If installing an upper shoe, be sure to put it onto the baluster before inserting it!!)
Prior to fastening the bottom to the tread slip an iron shoe over the spindle. Once the bottom is fastened, slide the shoe down to fit tightly against the tread. Usually the shoes come with set screws that can be tightened with an Allen wrench against the spindle. Use pitched shoes for rakes with pony walls or flat shoes for cut stringers or balconies.
Check the level of the balusters before the epoxy sets, usually within an hour, though check the label on your epoxy to be sure of the setting time!
You’re done! Enjoy your remodeled staircase!