10 Important Considerations When Installing a Stair Railing

Drill into Concrete

Designing, building, and installing your own railing may seem like a difficult task that should be left to contractors and experienced builders. But we're here to tell you that's not true. Over the years, we have sold many stair handrail kits to everyday people just like yourself who have installed their own railing all by themselves.

To help make the task easier and a bit less overwhelming, we've come up with a list of 10 considerations when installing a railing. These are 10 points that can often be overlooked when thinking about installing a railing and we want to make sure you are aware of them before you start.

These 10 points will touch on what you need to know in picking out your railing, what you'll need to install it, and some pointers for the install process. Let's get to it:

Before Ordering Your Railing

Is the Surface Level?

If you are mounting the railing to the ground, you'll want to make sure the surface is level. While most us will probably have a level surface, there are some us who may be unfortunate in that our concrete patio for instance, is starting to slope because the concrete slab has settled into the ground.

While our stair handrail kits will compensate for some amount of slope, if the slope is too steep you may need to buy a special base flange fitting for mounting the railing to the ground. If you think this may the case, simply reach out to our projects team and we can help you sort it out.

Are You a Business that Needs ADA Railing?

If you're a local business, you may be required to have an ADA railing. An ADA railing is a smooth and continuous railing that abides to certain ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines to accomodate for people with disabilities.

ADA Railing

Read more about ADA railings here.

Do You Need to Mount to the Wall, Ground, or Both?

Depending in what type application you are installing your railing, your railing components will differ. A railing that will be mounted to a wall will require different fittings than a railing mounted to the ground. We have different railing kits that make picking out a railing for your specific application easy. Our Surface Mount kits mount the railing to the ground only. Our Wall Mount kits mount the railing directly to a wall. And our Hybrid Mount Kits will mount the railing to ground on one end and to a wall on the other.

Survey your location and decide what will be best for you. Then choose the appropriate kit.

Surface VS Wall Mounted VS Hybrid Railing

Figuring Out Railing Length

In choosing your railing, you will also need to decide how long the railing will need to be. You will want to get this right the first time so you don't end up with a railing that is too short or too long and then have to reorder the railing.

There are two ways to do this. The simple way is to grab a buddy to help you measure the distance of stairs. Have one person stand at the bottom of the steps holding one end of a measuring tape and another at the top of the stairs holding the other end. Make sure the tape measure is 3 feet of the ground and record the length from the top to the bottom of the steps. That will be the length of the handrail.

The other way involves some math. You will first need to measure the rise and run of the steps and then use the following formula to calculate the length of the railing:

The result will be your railing length. If you are unsure what the rise and run of the steps are, see the simple diagram below to get a better idea. As annoying as this may be, it will make sure your railing comes out right.

Railing Formula

The result will be your railing length. If you are unsure what the rise and run of the steps are, see the simple diagram below to get a better idea. As annoying as this may be, it will make sure your railing comes out right.

Rise vs Run Diagram

Prior To Assembling Your Railing

Make Sure You Have the Proper Equipment & Tools

This one may seem obvious but it can be an overlooked aspect of installing a railing. You're eager to get your new railing up, installed, and done with. But when it comes time to actually install it, you don't own the Hammer Drill you need to drill into the concrete or you forgot to pick up screws for mounting the railing. This slows down the process and increases frustration. So make sure you have all the tools you need ready, available, and at your hand when you go to install the railing. Lay all your tools out and double check you have everything you will need.

Tools You Will Need For Installing a Railing

To quickly cover everything you will need for installing an exterior railing, here's what you'll need:

  • A Hammer Drill. You will need a Hammer Drill if you are drilling into concrete, brick, or stone. So if you have concrete steps outside your home like many of us do, you will need a Hammer Drill to create the holes in the concrete to mount the railing.
  • Cordless Drill. You will need a Cordless Drill for drilling into the handrail.
  • A Marker. You will need a marker to mark holes for the flange fittings.
  • Allen Wrench or Ratchet with Hex Bits. You will need this to tighten down the set screws to the railing fittings if you are using one of our railing kits.
  • Soft Edge Mallet or Hammer with Cardboard. You will need this to hammer in the end caps to the railing without damaging the finish or component itself.
  • Extension Cord. You will more than likely need an extension cord for powering the Hammer Drill into a nearby outlet.
  • Vacuum. You will need a vacuum or Shop-Vac for cleaning out the debris from the holes that you will drill for mounting the railing to the ground or wall.
  • Starter Punch. A Starter Punch is not required, but it will be helpful in starting a hole to keep the drill from moving out of place.
  • Hearing protection. This is a major overlooked piece of equipment but personal protection equipment is extremely important. The Hammer Drill is extremely loud and some ear plugs or other sort of hearing protection will keep you from ruining your hearing.
  • Eye wear. Protect your eyes from any debris when drilling into the ground or wall.
  • Boots. Boots are preferred as they will help to protect your feet in case you drop any equipment or any of the railing components.

Tools for Railing Install

Pick Up the Right Mounting Hardware

Another seemly simple but overlooked aspect to installing a railing can be the hardware itself. You will need to use the correct mounting hardware for your specific application. For mounting the railing to the ground, you will need concrete wedge anchors.

Concrete Wedge Anchors Diagram

For mounting the railing to the wall, you will need to use concrete screws.

Concrete Screws Diagram

For attaching the railing to a fitting, like in our Surface 518 Handrail Kits, you will need self-drilling screws to attach the handrail. You will need two screws for each fitting. So if there are two fittings for each upright that will attach to the railing, you will need 4 self-drilling screws.

Concrete Screws Diagram

Painting the Railing

While painting the railing may not be necessary (our railings do not need to be painted to keep rust away) you may want to do it for aesthetic purposes. If this is this case, you may want to paint the railing before assembly to ensure the railing is painted completely.

When deciding on a color, be sure to take into consideration your climate. If you paint the railing black, or another dark color, and you live in hot climate, it's going to heat up and be extremely hot to touch and use.

Once you've decided on a color, you will need to decide if you will be painting it yourself. Our handrail kits have the option to be powder coated so if you don't want to mess around with painting the railing, we can do it for you.

Powder Coating Railing

If you do decide to paint the railing yourself, be sure to pick up a quality primer and paint so it adheres properly to the railing.

Test Fit the Railing

Before actually installing the railing, it's recommended that you test fit the railing. This will ensure the railing will work for your application.

If you're using one of our stair railing kits, have a friend help you out and dry fit the fittings. Hold the railing up like how it would look when completely assembled. This will help you to get a rough idea as to how it will look and to double check everything looks as it should.

Test Fit Railing

Allocate Enough Time for the Install

Depending on your specific railing and situation, it could take 1 to 2 hours to install the railing. Be sure to set enough time aside to install the railing so that you are not rushing. This will ensure you end up with a railing that you are satisfied with and the install process goes smooth.

During Your Railing Assembly

Drilling Mounting Holes Correctly

The main concern when actually installing the railing will be drilling the holes. Assembling the railing using our fittings is fairly straight forward and simple but drilling into concrete, brick, or stone may be a challenge for some. So I want to point out a few things about drilling holes.

First, make sure you have the right tool and drill bit for the material you are drilling into. Like mentioned above, you will need a Hammer Drill when drilling into concrete, stone, or brick. So if you don't have one of these you will need to purchase one or borrow one from a friend prior to installing your railing.

Next, be sure to line up the flange fittings for the railing uprights, or if you're mounting to the wall, the wall mounting brackets, and mark holes through the mounting holes in the fitting. Aligning the holes with the mounting holes on the fittings will be crucial and you will want to make sure to line them up correctly. So marking the holes this way first will ensure they line up correctly.

Mark Holes for Base Flanges

Keep in mind when doing this, you will want to stay at least two inches from any edge. Say you are attaching a railing upright to concrete steps, make sure the fitting being attached to the concrete step is at least two inches from the edge. This will ensure that the bolts mounting the fitting to the concrete will have enough material to attach to once the holes are drilled and will provide for a solid connection.

Next, when it comes time to actually drill the holes. You may want to consider using a Starter Punch to start the hole. This will help to keep the drill from moving out of place when you start to drill the hole.

When drilling into the concrete, brick, or stone be sure to keep the drill straight when drilling into the material.

Drill into Concrete

And finally, once you have the holes drilled, you will need to properly clean them out to ensure the bolts have a solid connection. Clean the holes out of any debris using a Shop-Vac or vacuum.

Clean Debris

We hope this article was helpful to you. If there is anything we missed or you still feel uncertain about, feel free to reach out to our projects team at projects@simplifiedbuilding.com or visit our projects page for free design assistance.

For more information on installing a railing to concrete steps (the process will be the same for brick and stone) view our guide: "Attaching Railing to a Concrete Base or Wall". In addition, for a little inspiration for your railing you can view: "15 Customer Railing Examples for Concrete Steps".

Simple Rail™ Handrail Kits

Like this project? Now building a simple handrail is even easier! Constructed with Kee Klamp fittings, Simple Rail handrails are durable and easy to install. Simple Rail™ kits are great for home owners, business owners and landlords who need to provide code compliant railing.

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