How to Install a Stair Handrail
Video Installation Guides
Showing you how it's done is sometimes even better than talking you through the process. We have video installation guides for three of our main styles of handrail. Even if you're not building one of these handrails, the video guide may help you learn what to do.
The Surface 518 is our most popular Simple Rail handrail. It is easy to install and can be used on almost any set of stairs. This railing is great for insurance compliance on the stairs of your home or any other area where you need handrail accessibility.
The Hybrid 518/570 allows you to attach to a wall on one end and the ground on the other. This is helpful when you need to ascend out of a basement area or attach to an existing wall on one end while allowing the railing to be free standing on the other end.
The Surface L160 is more difficult than some of the other Simple Rail stair handrails to build, but it has an elegant, finished look. Whether you are building the railing in steel or aluminum this video will show you how the step handrail goes together.
Step By Step Handrail Installation Instructions
Not every handrail installation requires the exact same processes. This area is designed to provide general installation instruction for the common elements of handrail installation.
Get the Correct Measurements
Remember what your Dad told you "Measure Twice, Cut Once" You know the the phrase! Figuring out the measurements for your handrail requires some attention to detail. There are two ways to figure it out the dimension for your grab rail and how you do it probably depends on how much you like math.
This simple way to do this is to have someone stand at the bottom of the steps holding the end of the measuring tape. Walk to the top of the stairs while each of you hold the measuring tape 3 feet off the ground. Record the length when you have positioned the ends where you want the railing to begin and end.
The mathematical way of calculating would be to measure the rise and run of the steps and then calculate the length of the railing by the following formula:
Railing Length = √ height2 + length2
The square root of the height squared plus the length squared will give you the proper length of your railing.
Clean Mounting Surface
Whether you are mounting to the wall or to ground, be sure that the area is cleaned so that it can receive the base flange or railing bracket without obstruction.
Mounting Base Flanges
Anchoring to Concrete or Masonry
- Align Flange and Mark Holes - Set the base flanges where they need to go and mark the holes with a marker.
- Dimple Holes with a Nail Set - Before drilling, make a dent in the surface to prevent the drill bit from drifting.
- Drill Holes for the Anchor - Use a hammer drill and the appropriate masonry bit to make a hole for the anchor. Follow the instructions for drilling the hole from the anchor manufacturer.
- Remove Dust from Holes - Use a air hose or shop vac to get the debris out of the holes.
- Attach Flanges with Anchors - How you will do this depends on anchor style. But if you use hammer-in anchors, then put a nut on the end of the threads to protect the threads while you hammer the anchor into place.
- Cut off Excess Bolt - If you have excess bolt that is exposed after tightening the anchors, use a hack saw to remove the excess.
Anchoring to Wood
- Align Flange - Set the base flanges where they need to go and mark the holes with a marker.
- Drill Pilot Holes - Drill a pilot hole appropriate for the size lag screw that you are using.
- Attach Flange with Screws - Use a socket set to screw the lag screw into place.
Mounting Wall Railing Brackets
- Align Bracket and Mark Holes - Begin by placing the bracket against the wall and marking the holes.
- Drill Pilot Holes - Drill a Pilot hole for the screws that will be used to attach the brackets. A hammer drill will be required if you are drilling into concrete or masonry.
- Attach Brackets to Wall - Attach the brackets with the appropriate kind of screw for the material that you are anchoring into.
In most cases this is as simple as slipping the upright into the base flange and tightening the set screws in the fittings. Use a level to ensure that the post is plumb.
Attach Brackets to Uprights
This will be different for each kind of railing. The key here is not to attach the fitting too tightly. Attach the bracket or fitting just enough, so that adjustments can be made. You will probably not want to make your final tightening until after the railing has been attached.
Attaching Railing to Brackets
When it comes to the differences in the handrail kits, attaching the railing to the handrail brackets is where there is the most diversity. Some railings will be much easier to attach than others.
- Attaching Directly to the Fitting - Some railings were meant to slip through a hole in a fitting. If this is case, then the job is easy! Simply slip the pipe through the hole in the fitting and tighten down the set screw.
- Drilling into Pipe - Some railing brackets are designed to connect to the pipe with screws. If this is the case, then make pilot holes with a drill before attempting to screw into the pipe. Even if your screws are "self-drilling" we recommend making a pilot hole. Pilot holes can be made by aligning the grab rail on the brackets and using a marker to mark each hole. Once the hole is marked, take the railing off the brackets and pre-drill the holes in a stable location. After you have made the pilot holes, set the railing on the brackets and attach with the appropriate screws.
Pound in Pipe Caps
Once your entire railing is assembled, you'll want to pound the pipe caps into the exposed ends of the railings and posts. It is best to do this with a rubber mallet. If you don't have a rubber mallet, then cover the cap with a piece of cardboard to protect the metal from scratches while you pound it in with a standard hammer.
Now that you're done building the railing, it's best to go back through the railing and make sure that everything is tightened appropriately. If your railing is painted, touch up any paint you have nicked during the installation.