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Welcome!

 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

  • Claire Douglas

How to install a beautiful (budget) DIY stair handrail

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

DIY stair handrail: Sturdy, stylish & a steal for under £35, this project is a must for the safety-conscious DIYer


interior stairs with a black DIY handrail and a DIY stair runner

When we moved into this house a few years ago, the old stair handrail was falling off and had been noted in the survey as being dangerous so we took it off fully expecting to replace it with something a bit more modern in the coming weeks. As is often the case, more pressing home maintenance jobs took priority and time just flew by. Our stairs are very enclosed with walls on both sides and we just got used to putting a hand on the wall.




wooden staircase with black modern handrail

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, my youngest (4) is coming down the stairs, as usual, I’m walking in front of him as a safety precaution. He looks at me seriously and tells me off because we ‘really should have a handrail - like they do at pre-school’. He had me there, what could I possibly say other than, ‘yes boss, I’ll sort it right away!’


So I started researching where to buy stair handrails and was surprised at how expensive they are, particularly sleek, modern ones. After no luck sourcing one, I decided to make a DIY stair handrail instead.


I knew I wanted to create the following look... sleek, black, modern, and fairly minimalist so read on for how to update stairs on a budget without sacrificing style or stair safety.



For a DIY stair handrail - you will need

the tools and materials to build a diy handrail

Screwdriver

Brackets - I bought these bargain ones from B&Q

Sturdy wall fixings for your wall type

Timber - I bought ours from B&Q

Paint - I used leftover paint but this is a good one if you don't have any.

Paintbrush

Tape measure

Pencil

Masking tape or string

Stud finder (optional but helpful for stud wall)

Wood filler (handy to fill any joins if your stairs are longer than a single length of timber)


Difficulty - Intermediate

Time taken - a morning or afternoon

Cost - low


Method


1. Measure the stairs


staircase with stair runner but no handrail

First, measure your stairs to determine the length of timber you need for your DIY stair handrail.

I opted for this choice of timber at B&Q because it was very good value at £10.97 per 2.4metre, smooth, already primed and good enough quality that there wouldn’t be any issues with it being too rough for hands sliding down the rail.


2. Mark the wall

Decide the optimum height for your DIY stair handrail (90-100cm is a good guide) and measure and mark this height at the top and bottom of the stairs and at regular intervals in between. Mark out the handrail position between the two points you marked, either with a piece of string or masking tape. Check the height at regular intervals along this marked line to ensure its level.


3. Attach the brackets


black wall bracket to hit handrail into

How you attach the DIY stair handrail will depend on your wall type. If you have drywall/plasterboard walls, it is strongly advisable to attach the brackets to the studs, which can be located with a stud finder if you have one, or you can often locate them by knocking on the wall and judging whether there is a solid fixture from the sound you hear. Once you've found the first two, the rest should be at regular intervals (of the same distance) which makes them easier to find. I used my own screws as the ones provided weren't sturdy enough for m liking, hence why they are silver in the above pic. You can give the screws a coat of paint to blend them in (be careful not to apply thickly so as to make them hard to remove in the future) or you can cover over the screw heads with black stickers alternatively. The best option would be to use black screws of course if you can find them.


stair handrail being installed


4. Attach the DIY stair handrail

Once the brackets are on and stable, position the timber and once again check the height at regular intervals. Mark the positions of the bracket screw holes on the underside of the handrail and drill very shallow pilot holes to make the screws easier to fix. Place the handrail back on the brackets and screw it on using the screwdriver. Check the brackets are firmly fixed to the wall. You shouldn't be able to move them even slightly this is very important.


5. Join the lengths if required


stairs with rustic stair runner with black border and unpainted handrail

The timber wasn't quite long enough to complete the DIY stair handrail in one piece so I had to cut and join another to the end. I chose to put the join over one of the wall brackets so that each end (where the join met) was screwed in with one of the two bracket screws, this seemed the most stable way of doing it. I used grab adhesive to glue the pieces of handrail together and I also glued them into the handrail bracket for extra stability. I filled the tiny gap (at the join) along the top of the handrail with wood filler that I had, but you could use any flexible filler if you don't want to buy wood filler for this minuscule job. Once the filler had dried I sanded it and to be honest you could probably get away with just painting and sanding if the join is really neat. Check the join is completely smooth by running your hand over it a few times.

5. Paint

paintbrush painting handrail black

I painted my handrail in situ, but really you should do this before attaching it to the brackets. I was feeling impatient (for a change!) and didn't want to have to wait for each side to be painted and then dry before fixing so I screwed it in and then painted it all in one go. I applied a second coat after the first had fully dried.


And that's it, a stylish and modern DIY stair handrail to complement any staircase and suit any budget. Make sure you check your handrail regularly as part of your general staircase maintenance to ensure it is safe and secure, but as long as you've followed the above steps and used the correct fixings for your wall type you shouldn't have any issues. It might not be a 1-hour DIY, but it's worth the extra time.



stairs with DIY stair runner and DIY handrail


Should a DIY stair handrail go on the left or right-hand side of the stairs?


Technically, there isn’t a right or wrong side and it’s really down to your preference and whether the stairs lend themselves to a handrail on a particular side. I opted to put it on the left-hand side because it would be less conspicuous as you looked up the stairs and I’m planning to make a gallery wall on the right-hand side so thought the addition of a handrail might detract from this feature once it’s installed. Once you've sorted the handrail, why not check out some of these creative DIY stair runner ideas to complete the makeover, or even look into maximising the under-stairs space too!


Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to keep you up to date with future DIY, decorating, interior styling, and upcycling projects, if you would like to receive my (not more than weekly & no spamming I promise) emails then please subscribe (scroll down to the box at the bottom of the page). Where next?


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