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Must See Modern DIY Stair Railing Makeover Tutorial

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Learn how to build a modern DIY stair railing for your staircase.

Good things take forever. At least that’s what I’m telling myself about my recent staircase makeover that I shared yesterday.

After 4 long months, it’s finally done. Today I’m sharing my DIY stair railing makeover tutorial.

I had a vision for this staircase and I’m so glad that it came out even better than I anticipated.

Check out this DIY stair railing makeover. Update your home with this modern DIY tutorial.

I feel like this post needs a few disclaimers. So let’s get those out of the way.

  1. This is a super long post.
  2. This DIY is not for the faint of heart. It wasn’t easy and it made me want to cry a few times. We had to walk away from it several times and come back to it. There are just so many steps and we had to do everything twice since there are 2 sides to the staircase.
  3. When working on a project, I don’t stop to tidy while taking pictures. As a result, my pictures show a lot of messes. Sorry about the real life. 😉
  4. Semigloss Design is not responsible for any accidents or code violations. Please look up your own local codes before attempting projects that could cause bodily harm. Be safe, people.

We recently used a similar technique to create a modern deck railing. Check it out!

Modern DIY Stair Railing Makeover

This post contains affiliate links. By purchasing an item through an affiliate link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Supplies Needed:

Check out this DIY stair railing makeover. Update your home with this modern DIY tutorial.

Making the Newel Post and Handrail

  1. Cut a 4×4 to 4′. It doesn’t need to be the exact size just yet. To fit our stairs, it had to have a portion of it notched out. 
    newel post in progress for modern staircase makeover
    The bottom stair looked like this:
notch in stairs for newel post
Excuse the crappy paint job. It will be covered.
  • Temporarily attach the 4×4 in place with enough screws to hold it steady.
  • Cut your half newel post. Cut your 1×4 long enough to fit between the stair and the ceiling. This will be your half newel post. It fits on the wall under the handrail.
  • Find the correct angle of the stairs. Clamp the handrail to the 4×4 and the wall. 
    making the handrail for the staircase
    Draw under the handrail to find the angle. 
    mark correct angle on newel post
    Also draw the angle on your 1×4 (half newel post.)
  • Remove the 4×4 for cutting. 
    attach newel post to stairs
  • Use a square to figure out what angle your stairs are. Mine were consistently 42 degrees but we still measured every angle since houses are never perfect.
    find angle for stairs
    Find 42 degrees on your mitre saw and make the cut. 
    set miter saw to correct angle
    cut wood with miter saw
    Cut your 1×4 at this time also. The handrail should be somewhere near 36″ high.
  • Attach the 4×4 to the stairs. We used about 5 screws so get it nice and secure. Use a shim if necessary to get it perfectly plumb.
  • Lay the handrail on top of the 4×4 and 1×4. We used clamps to hold it in place so we could screw it in place. Always drill pilot holes so that you don’t split the wood. 
    attach hand rail to newel post
    handrails screwed in place
  • You will find the bottom rail in the same way as the top and then attach it in place also. 
    add bottom rails to stair railing
  • Repeat these steps for the other side. Now the main part of your staircase is built. The hardest part is over!
  • Building the grid panel

    We used 16 gauge fencing for the panels. It seems flimsy on its own, but sandwiched between the frames makes it incredibly sturdy. I highly recommend wearing gloves during this project. Cutting wire can be dangerous.

    ***Each panel consists of 2 panels, so for stairs, we had to make 4 in total.***

    1. Figure out the angles for the panel pieces. You’re probably a pro by now. Ours were 42 degrees just like our stairs, but I would still check it just in case. Our code calls for no spaces over 4″, so we left a 4″ gap between the panel and the newel post. You don’t have to leave a gap, but it gave us plenty of wiggle room for mistakes. (Insert foreshadowing.)
      clamped wood
    2. Drill pilot holes in the top and bottom rails. We lined them up to drill the holes.
      align wood and drill holes
      Once they were drilled, they needed countersink holes drilled. Since the wood is 1 1/2″ thick, you need to drill down a bit so that you can use a shorter screw.
    countersink holes in wood
    Not sure why there are scribbles? Hubby felt artistic???
    staircase makeover in progress

    Make sure you’re drilling into the bottom of the top rail and the top of the bottom rail because you will be attaching the pieces from the panel side into the handrail and bottom rail. We don’t want to have a million screw holes on the handrail and the bottom rail is going to be hard to access from underneath. 

  • Make the frame. We attached it with small brad nails and reinforced it with staples on the corner edges. We dry-fitted it and it fit perfectly. 
    frame for grid staircase panel
  • Lay the fencing on top of the panel frame. We wanted ours to be parallel to the wall, not the handrail. This left little open triangles of space at the very top and bottom corner, but we went with it.
    cutting grid fencing to size
  • Staple the wire in place. We stapled on one side and then pulled it tightly across the the other side, keeping it lined up right. 
    stapled grid in place
  • Cut the wire to fit. We used tin snips and wire cutters because that’s what we had on hand. Bending it where it needed to be cut made maneuvering around it easier. 
    cut metal fencing with tin snips
  • Bend any loose end over with pliers to hide the sharp edges. 
    finished panel
  • Make another frame, but leave one side off. Unfortunately, pulling the wire taut slightly warps the frame, so this is our attempt to get them to align correctly. Clamp those 3 sides in place and screw them to the other frame. You’ll need screws that are shorter than 1 1/2″ long or they will go through to the other side. 
    add outside edge to panel
  • Attach the last piece of the frame, using clamps where needed. Screw it to the other frame like you did in the last step. 
    making panel for staircase
  • Repeat steps 1-9 for the other side. 
  • Attach the grid panel to the stair railing

    1. Attach the panel to the bottom rail first. Remember that wonkiness I talked about? It’s about to become clear. 
      attach panel at bottom
    2. Despite fitting perfectly during the dry fitting, getting the wire night and tight warped the frame a bit and now there’s a gap. Womp womp.
      a bit of a gap in panel
    3. Use deck screws to screw into the railing. Good screws and a strong drill will force the panel and the railing to come together. 
      fixing gap with strong deck screws
    4. That almost fixes it perfectly. However, the corners don’t quite meet. 
      building staircase panels
    5. I decided to hide the last bit of wonkiness with trim. I used lattice boards because they are very thin and minimal. If you aren’t painting your stair railing, use real wood lattice. The lattice boards were attached with a nail gun. 
      hide gaps with trim
    6.  The stair railing is done at this point and is ready for the finishing steps. I know, more work. 
      finished modern staircase waiting to be painted

    Finishing the DIY stair railing makeover

    1. Fill all the screw and nail holes with wood filler. 
      fill screw holes
    2. Sand them smooth.
    3. Caulk all the edges. 
      caulk all seams on staircase
    4. Paint! Because I really know how to party, I found a tiny paintbrush to get between the cracks of the 2 panels. 
      modern staircase makeover with metal grid fencing

    Whew! So much work, but so worth it. I’m thrilled with the results! Maybe just easy projects from here on out! 

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    modern stair railing makeover

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      1. We had to walk away from it a few times. My ORC floor made me lose it this weekend. I wanted to cry and give up. Thank goodness for stubborn husbands.

    1. Pretty sure we have the same color walls!! I am curious about what other projects you have in your house to match??

      1. The roll of fencing cost about $50 (we have a ton left and plan to redo our deck with it) and the lumber was probably about $30. We already had the tools and paint for the project.

      1. Hi Harry. The roll of fencing cost about 50, so with the lumber it was probably about 75 total. We already had all of the tools.

      1. We had to search the websites for our local hardware stores to see who carried non-pressure treated 4x4s. It ended up being a Home Depot, instead of our closest Lowes store.

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