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Installing Stair Railings

- Continued Some builders even use nails to attach the posts. When squeaks do occur, it's usually because the builder has used nails without glue. We prefer wood screws (or long drywall screws) and yellow glue. Screws bring the pieces tightly together, while the glue actually does most of the work.

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Figure 3. Corner landing posts may be thrown out of plumb or square by the drywall and tape. The author checks for plumb and square (top, left and right), then shims or grinds as needed before attaching the post permanently (above, left and right).

Unlike the posts that attach to the stair itself, the landing post upstairs attaches through the drywall into the framing (Figure 3). The post should be perfectly plumb and square so when you install trim around it and attach the railings, all the joints can be a simple square cut. Setting these is a little trickier than setting the ones that attach to the stairs themselves, because the built-up drywall mud may cause the angle to be irregular. I always set this post temporarily and check square and plumb. If it's not right, I back the screws out and shim the post or shave it as needed. If the post is in at the top, I can shim behind it, because the fascia will hide the shim; but if it's in at the bottom, I have to grind the top down — shims at the bottom would show. I test-fit everything until it all looks good, then screw it together for the last time. After all the posts are in, a final check of level is a good idea. If for some reason the floor is out of level, the railings will be too unless you adjust the posts. You could vary the height at which you attach the railings to the post, but it would be noticeable. Instead, if the posts aren't level, I shim up the low ones to even things out (landing tread will hide the shims). Landing tread. The landing treads come next in the sequence. They come with the package, but they have to be cut to length and attached. The landing tread has a profile that matches the stair tread on the front edge and the flooring thickness on the back. It makes the transition from stairs to floor at the mid-landing and top landing. It also serves as edge trim for the flooring around the area that's open to below, providing a visual transition. I predrill and countersink each piece for screws, then glue and screw it to the subfloor, plug the screw holes with matching bungs, and touch-sand them. Treads are usually finished but not painted, so it's important to match the plugs to the tread. Pick plugs that are the same color and species of wood, and align the grain when you insert them. The landing tread helps lock the posts in place, and it also hides any shims you might have used to adjust the post heights because of floor variations (Figure 4).

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Figure 4. The landing tread helps lock in the newel posts, and hides any shims that may have been used to adjust the post (top). The landing tread must be perfectly level so that no cracks appear at the bottom of the balusters. The author attaches the landing tread with 8d finish nails (above).