How to Install Hand Railings for Stairs with Plaster Walls
Handrails improve the appearance of stairs and provide a sturdy place to hold onto while ascending or descending the staircase. If your staircase doesn't have a handrail, installing one takes just a few basic tools. If your walls are made of plaster, you install the railing the same as you would any other wall material by predrilling the nail holes. Pre-drilling pilot holes prevents the plaster from cracking.
Walk to the bottom of the stairs. Place the end of a tape measure flush with the tread on the lowest stair. Measure 32 inches up the plaster wall and mark the spot with a pencil.
Walk to the top step of the stairs. Use the tape measure to locate a spot 32 inches above the top step on the plaster wall. Mark the second spot with the pencil.
Stretch a chalk line between the two pencil marks, with the assistance of another person. Snap the line against the wall to create the vertical installation guide for the railing.
Turn on a stud finder and place it directly over the chalk line on the wall. Slide it along the line until you locate a stud, which causes the tool to light up. Mark the location with the pencil and locate at least one to two more studs, depending on the length of the railing. If the railing is 8 feet or longer, you will need three brackets.
Place the railing mounting brackets at the location of each pencil mark. Use a pencil to mark each of the three screw holes. Set the brackets aside.
Insert a 7/64-inch bit into a drill. Place the bit against each pencil mark on the plaster and create 1-inch-deep holes.
Align the brackets with the holes. Insert the provided screws and tighten them with a power drill until the brackets feel secure.
Set the handrail on top of the brackets already installed in the plaster wall. Ask another person to hold the handrail steady.
Attach a U-shaped bracket to the bottom of each installed bracket. Secure the handrail by inserting the two screws into the bottom of the handrail using a power drill.
- Check your local building code prior to installing the handrail, since installation heights vary between 32 and 34 inches above the stair treads.
Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.