Are you looking for a simple project with big impact? Replacing wood stair balusters with metal balusters is the project for you. It’s pretty simple, requires minimal tools, and makes a bigger difference than you’d expect.
We first tried this project out at my mom’s house. She always wanted iron balusters, so we thought we would give replacing hers a try as a “welcome to North Carolina” gift (I had been asking her to move to North Carolina for about 5 years and she finally made it)!
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It made such a difference in her entryway and it quickly became a top priority project for when we moved into our new house a month later.
We now have 2 stair transformations under our belts, so we’re ready to help you transform yours. Let’s start DIYing!
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- Saw (An electric saw with a metal cutting blade makes it easier, but we did our first stair renovation with a hacksaw)
- Drill with a wood paddle bit (Size will vary based on which balusters you choose. Ours was 7/8″)
- Small flat-head screwdriver
- Small allen wrench (depending on what metal stair shoe you get)
What You’ll Need
How to Replace Stair Balusters
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Step 1: remove existing balusters
Saw out your existing balusters. If you have a hand saw, you can saw it just enough to be able to snap the current baluster and pull it out.
Remove any remaining nails using pliers that might not have come out with the old balusters. In particular, check the undersides of the handrail.
Step 2: drill holes for new balusters
The holes on the underside of the handrail should be large enough for the new balusters, so you only need to drill holes on the baserails.
After drilling, check that you drilled a large enough hole by placing one of the new balusters into the hole. It’s okay if the hole is bigger than the new baluster. The metal shoes will cover up the hole.
Step 3: sand
Sand where the old balusters met the baserail. Before sanding, you can use a small flathead screwdriver to peel off any large paint globs. Sand until you have a smooth transition between the painted and non-painted sections.
Wipe the surface or vacuum to ensure there is no dust.
step 4: measure
Measure the height for the new balusters. To do this, measure the distance between the top of the baserail and bottom of the handrail and add 1″.
Each baluster should be roughly the same measurement, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check every few balusters. On my mom’s stairs, the balusters needed to be a hair longer with each step.
Step 5: paint
Paint the areas of the baserail that you sanded down. Add additional coats if needed. Once I covered up all of the sanded spots, I finished with a coat over the entire baserail to minimize paintbrush strokes since we were using a high-gloss paint.
While the paint is drying, work on the next step.
Step 6: cut the balusters
Cut the new balusters to the correct size using the saw with a metal cutting blade (electric or hand). After cutting the first baluster, double-check that the sizing is correct.
Once you’ve confirmed you have the correct sizing, continue cutting. You can use blue tape to mark where you should cut the balusters to prevent accidental scratches from the saw blade.
Step 7: install the new balusters
Insert the new balusters into the holes that you drilled in step 3. To do this, slide the shoe onto your baluster, add a drop of liquid nails in the handrail hole, add a few drops into the baserail hole, and insert the baluster into the handrail and baserail holes. Slide the shoe down to the baserail and tighten it so that it stays in place.
That first cut on your old balusters was scary, huh? Every time we start a DIY project, I have a moment of panic, but in the end, it’s always worth it.
Be sure to share your stair transformation photos with us on Instagram (@craftedbythehunts)! Maybe one of these days we’ll remove all the carpet on our stairs…?