Monthly Archives: September 2014

Replacing Wood Balusters With Wrought Iron (Sort Of)


We recently had a dishwasher leak in our kitchen that necessitated the wood floors being patched and re-finished.  We had always wanted to extend the wood floors through our entry and into the dining room, so we decided to just pull the trigger and have it done along with the kitchen floor.  It pains me to hire this work out, but insurance was covering the kitchen floors and it was just easier to have it all done at once.  In order to extend the wood flooring, we needed to rip out the stair railing that was holding my kids back from parachuting to the basement.  My wife reminded me that we had a project on “our list” to replace the beat up wood balusters with wrought iron.

Congratulations to me!!!!! I had a new project to work on… and it needed to be done quick!

Here is a picture of my new canvas.

The new wood flooring is in, but there is an 8 foot drop for my kids to find!

The new wood flooring is in, but there is an 8 foot drop for my kids to find!

I didn’t have many pictures of the existing railing (fully in tact), but below you can see what I was replacing.  Anything white on the railing was coming out!

I didn't take many pictures of the old railing, but this shows what it looked like.

I didn’t take many pictures of the old railing, but this shows what it used to look like.

My plan was to:

  • Replace the painted white plate that runs down the stairs with an oak plate stained to match the floors.
  • Replace all the balusters with the wrought iron (actually, they are aluminum…. but look like wrought iron) that I found at Home Depot (link), including the decorative shoes and knuckles (link).
  • Re-finish the hand rail using Minwax Polyshades.  Using Polyshades should make re-finishing go much faster because I did not need to sand down the hand rail to bare wood… just scuff it up with some 400 grit sandpaper.

*** I considered replacing the entire hand rail and newel posts with new oak rails and posts, but it would have added an extra $1,000 (or more) to the job and I decided it just wasn’t worth it.

There are some pretty good YouTube videos on replacing balusters, so instead of giving a full description, i will just give a few links if you want to do this yourself.

Video 1

Video 2

Really… if you are only replacing the balusters, it is a pretty easy job.  You will need a mitre saw, cut-off blade (for metal) and a drill.  I would estimate this job could be completed in a single day if you are ony replacing the balusters.  The picture below shows some of my progress where you can still see the old balusters, hand rail and posts as well as some of the new ones.

Too bad my kids can't parachute down to the basement anymore.

Too bad my kids can’t parachute down to the basement anymore.

Below is a good shot of the new bottom plate that runs down the stairs.  It almost looks like it has been there the whole time!

New oak bottom plate.

Everything has a new coat of stain!  Polyshades is quite a bit more difficult to work with than regular stain and my first pass came out a little blotchy.  I was trying to avoid going too dark, and a second coat of Polyshades would have made it too dark.  I ended up using a brush to “touch up” the blotchy areas and even out any areas that were too light.

Almost done

Almost done, just need to cover up those newel post anchors.

The railing is a little “bumpy” after the Polyshades.  I had heard about a trick to rub down your finish with cardboard to smooth out those bumps and it worked like a charm.

Close up of the re-stained hand rail

Close up of the re-stained hand rail

After covering up the newel post anchors and putting on some finishing touches, this job was done.  My kids are just going to have to climb the railing if they want to parachute down to the basement.

Some final pictures:

Railing - Final 1

Railing - Final 2

Railing - Final 3

This project definately gave our entry way a much needed boost!  While the balusters are not real wrought iron, they seem pretty durable and have a nice look to them.  They are also pretty easy to work with.  The only thing I would do different on this project would be to stain the hand rail and newel posts before installing the balusters.  Unfortunately, time (and safety) did not allow me to leave a big 8 foot drop into the basement.  My kids had already began fabricating their parachutes so I needed to move quick!

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