Tag Archives: baluster

Making Balusters

I find that when I make a blog post with goals and plans, we get more done that weekend. So here we go: last weekend we did make a lengthy trip to Lowes to investigate our stair options. We measured our stairs, and realized we only need 2 x 8′ pieces of plowed handrail to cover the sections that will have balusters, and 1 x 12′ piece of unplowed handrail to cover the walled section that won’t require balusters. Plowed handrails basically just have a small groove on the bottom, to hold the balusters in place and hide that junction. There is also a little slat of wood that slides out of the bottom of that groove, called a fillet, and I think you can cut this to fit between each baluster to get them spaced evenly and further secure them in place (fillet shown in the right picture):

Image result for unplowed vs plowed handrail Image result for plowed handrail

Our plowed groove is only 1.25″ wide, so that will be the width of our square balusters. The ones we have upstairs are currently 1.75″ and they feel too bulky, so I think the 1.25″ will be a nice, airy upgrade.

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So the two plowed 8′ railings were $47 each and the 12′ unplowed one was $57, totaling $151. Unfortunately, after all the effort of getting the 12′ one home sticking out the trunk, we realized we bought a 12′ plowed one ($20 more expensive!) so we’ll have to return that and get the unplowed one. To mount that one to the wall, we’re not sure the plowed bottom will attach to the brackets correctly, since they’re designed to attached to an unplowed rail.

Speaking of brackets for that handrail, we bought some new ones that are a bit more attractive and substantial since this railing is heavier than our previous one. Those were about $18 total. We also bought two oval wooden wall plates for where the banister hits the wall, $14 total. Not sure those are both necessary yet, but we can return them if they’re not needed.

Finally, we headed to the lumber section to see what we could use for balusters. We found 2″x2″x36″ pieces of poplar or oak that were nice quality wood – but $6 each! We need 28, so that would be $168. Too pricey. So we wandered further into the lumber section and found plain 2×6 white pine boards (actual size 1.5″ x 5.5″ x 8′ length). Some were bowed or had bad knots, but after about 20 minutes we had selected 4 satisfactory boards. We measured that we could get out 8 balusters per board, and, best part, each board was a little less than $5, totaling $19, and leaving us with 4 extra balusters for when we inevitably mess some up. That savings almost pays for our table saw that we used to cut them all!

So on to the cutting…Nik first cut them to length with the miter saw, leaving some extra length for figuring out the exact height that will be on the slanted section of our new railing area:

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Code is 32-38″for balusters on steps, so since they should all be the same height here with a knee wall vs. individual steps, we’ll aim for 34″. Then he used the table saw to rip one edge off the board and make it a fresh, flat cut. Then we ripped the remaining 3 sides on each baluster to get them to 1.25″ (remember, theĀ  boards are 1.5″ thick and we wanted a fresh, sharp cut on each side).

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So I think it was a total of 8 initial rip cuts for the original pieces of wood, then 3×32 cuts on each baluster. Over 100 table saw cuts certainly took a while and the noise potentially annoyed some neighbors on a Sunday evening. It looked like we’d been snowed on afterwards, but we got them all done!

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This Saturday we’re finally having a yard sale in the morning to clear out some pre-wedding housewares and other clutter we’ve collected, but the afternoon should be warm and lovely – a perfect time to get out the paint sprayer! We use this one from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Critter-Spray-Products-22032-Siphon/dp/B00006FRPJ.

Critter Spray Products 22032 118SG Siphon Gun

It is cheap (but requires a good air compressor), and is only practical for small painting projects (trim or cabinets – not walls, for example). It screws right on to cheap pint sized mason jars, and we always strain the paint first, then thin it a little bit with floetrol and water for water-based latex paints, to prevent clogging.

We also bought more crown molding while at Lowes last weekend, so we’ll cut the remaining pieces we need to finish off the living room walls, then do a massive paint sprayer session on all the crown molding and all the balusters. We might do a protective clear coat of water based polycrylic on the balusters after they are installed, depending on how durable the finish feels with the paint sprayer. On Sunday we’ll do more paint spraying if we don’t get it all done Saturday, and hopefully get the remaining sections of crown molding installed.

The next steps will be caulking, filling, and doing touchup paint on the crown molding. For the stairs, we’ll need to sand, stain, and seal the new handrails, remove the old banister/balusters upstairs, and move on to installing the new ones…then caulking, filling, and doing touchup paint where needed. The sooner we get these projects done, the sooner we can start thinking about our master bath renovation – that’s good motivation for me!

 

Finding Inspiration

The last few weeks have been pretty stagnant at our household. We’ve made some progress cutting crown molding for the entire dining room and about half of the living room, but it hasn’t been nearly warm enough outside to paint with our sprayer and I’m not up to the challenge of painting all that trim by hand. So that project is on hold for a bit.

I did get around to spreading out new garden soil in our flower garden, and added some accent pieces, including a corner ceramic pot, and a garden gnome. My family had a garden gnome growing up and Nik seemed to like the idea of one. We just hadn’t found the perfect one yet. Then I came across this little guy – and he felt like the perfect addition.

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He has been named Sinclair, and in the several days he’s resided in our garden, he’s experienced a variety of weather conditions – including the dusting of snow we got on Sunday morning!

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So back to renovations…this spring has been slow going. Before starting on the master bathroom, plans this spring were to get the crown molding installed downstairs (on hold for warmer weather), build a kitchen island, and finish the stupid stair banister. That last one has been nagging us for months now, and we keep discussing it, running into problems, deciding we don’t know what to do, and then putting it off.

This is the area that we now need to install a railing/balusters, since we opened up this wall:

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Previously, that was a solid wall, and there was a simple railing running down that side of the stairs screwed into the wall.

So what are the problems? I think the biggest is we have railing upstairs on the landing with a light poplar railing and white wooden balusters, and you can see it from downstairs:

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Not my favorite railing/baluster combo, but I think we came to the conclusion we should attempt to match the new railing/balusters to what is upstairs. I like metal balusters, but they’re pricey (as I remember, about $8-10/piece) and then we’d need a lot of them to do the new opening downstairs and replace all the ones upstairs (~26-28 of them).

We then thought the balusters weren’t too atrocious, and I could purchase ones that are a pretty close match for the new opening, but the light wood railing is awful. So I wondered if it could be stained dark to match the floors. We have the railing still sitting in our office that was removed from the other wall, so I got to work sanding a portion to see if we could get a nice dark color:

The general answer was no. Sanding was difficult (curved edges) and the wood was very smooth and dense so it definitely didn’t take up stain well. It would be hard to ever get it to the darkness I like, and it would never have the rich grain/texture of a red oak railing.

So then we thought, can’t we save the balusters upstairs, and just replace the two railings? It’s possible…but we can’t really figure out how the upstairs balusters are attached to the railing and I’m pretty sure we’d ding them up trying to remove the old railing. And then I remembered I don’t really even like the shape of those balusters, but its costly to buy new balusters…you see how these problems escalate? At this rate, there will never be a railing.

But then we were watching Fixer Upper last night, and there was a staircase they did that caught my attention because of how beautiful and simple it was:

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I love the dark oak railing and those balusters – just straight cut pieces of wood! I love the simplicity. No shapes, fancy carving, and most importantly – inexpensive! So now I’m inspired again to see if we can make this happen.

To change the railing, we will have to buy new oak railings and get them home safely. A 12′ plowed railing is about $70, and we’d need probably 2-3 of these. I don’t exactly understand the difference between plowed and un-plowed railing and why the plowing is needed for some balusters, so we still need to go to the store to figure that out. The unplowed ones are cheaper, and there are also 8′ lengths available that would lower the cost if we don’t need a full 12′. We will reuse the newel post that is there, but paint it white. Then we can either buy pieces of wood to cut to a 1.25″ square baluster, or they sell pre-cut plain square balusters for about $5 a pop. I’m not sure what’s special about the premade balusters – some of the descriptions say they have some sort of removable pin, so we also need to figure this out at the store. Even if we buy these, plus the railings, the total price is reasonable, at a little over $300. If we can make our own balusters, I think that price will be a lot lower.

At any rate, I’m feeling newly inspired about this. It won’t be an easy or fast project, but I think we’ll end up with a stairway we really like, vs just trying to make the style that was previously there work with our new floors. I think we need to start by acquiring and cutting the required pieces, and perhaps when I spray paint our crown molding (if spring decides to ever come back), I can spray the balusters too and really get this project going. I didn’t see myself ever being this excited about my stairs!