Remember when I said if you had the choice between one project or four you should always do four? Well that doesn’t always apply. Unless you’re renovating, then it almost always applies. When we ripped out the hardwoods and carpet to put in our gorgeous new flooring we were left with the decision of what to do with the big railing between our entry and living room.
When we moved in, it was a bit of an eyesore (understatement). Then I decided that maybe all it needed was a coat of black paint.
The black paint definitely helped. But I knew in my heart of hearts that I wouldn’t be happy if the railing stayed when the rest of the floors were all new and shiny. Plus the nose and trim on the inside of the rail was the same gross butterscotch shade as the hardwoods and I was pretty sure in order to remove it, the railing would have to go too (spoiler – I was right).
We took out all the existing balusters and handrail and left only the support posts (newels) behind. Then came the real fun. Once I had a blank canvas there was the added challenge of putting a railing up on a laminate floor. The existing rail was nailed right into the hardwood floor beneath it, but with laminate you have to leave a gap for the floor to expand and contract which means no nailing or screwing directly into the floor. After a LOT of brainstorming (like 4 weeks worth) I came up with a solution.
I started by installing the nose that matched the laminate along the drywall ledge above the stairs and then installed trim underneath that. Side note – do you wanna guess how fun it was walking upstairs with no railing here for weeks? Especially when you’re trying to get to the kitchen in the middle of the night for a drink of water. SO. FUN. Also, probably don’t want to do this project if. you have kids.
Once the nose and trim were installed I screwed down a poplar board that was the same thickness as the laminate to the subfloor, being careful to leave my required expansion gap all the way around.
Next up was trimming out the existing posts to bring them into this century. Did you see those existing finials? They don’t exactly match the style I’m going for in our house. I cut down some more poplar to trim out the tops and bottoms of the newels with these little craftsman trim boxes.
I capped off the tops, filled the nail holes, and sanded everything smooth before giving everything a coat of black paint so it would all match!
…and then came the railings. I built them out of black round spindles and poplar for the rail and base. It’s a lot of boring math and measuring and marking and rechecking and remeasuring to make sure your spindles end up straight up and down. Once you know where they go, you drill pilot holes and secure them into place. I hid the screws attaching the railing to the floor underneath the spindles – win! – and used a kreg jig to countersink my holes securing the railing to the newels.
What I really hope these photos are illustrating is how much of a mess I make when I get into a project. Especially when Zac isn’t home and I just get into a work zone. Tools and stuff everywhere!
In the end though, the mess is always worth it because it produces things like this beautiful railing. In total, this took just me working consistently for a weekend (with a couple of breaks for tacos) to get the whole project done.
For my first railing, I don’t think it turned out too bad. I should also mention that before I took this project on I read over our local building codes for railing restrictions to make sure the sizing and spacing was all up to par. Our old railing actually wasn’t up to code but our new one combines all the safety with the pretty aesthetics. I hope this post inspires you to build a giant railing in your own home – or at least tackle a smaller project. 😊
Thanks for reading,