The Rail World

David hired me to repair a stair rail that had pulled out of the wall during a furniture move. His tenant had patched two of the holes where the brackets attached to the drywall, and it fell to me to finish the job.

Stair rails take a lot of abuse. People lean on them, knock into them, and pull and push as if they could carry the weight of the world. They can’t. Like everything else in the house, a stair rail is only as strong as what it’s attached to. For the best chance of withstanding abuse, the rail has to be anchored in the structural wall behind it.

So I was relieved when I cut out the remaining two rectangles of drywall and found solid wood behind both of them. (Normally I could use a jab saw to cut out drywall, but in this case the wood prevented me from jabbing through, so I made several passes with a utility knife pushing hard.) I measured my openings, cut new drywall slightly too big, sanded the new pieces down until they just fit, and secured them to the studs with drywall screws. Then I applied spackle, waited a day, sanded, and repeated the process.

When the wall was smooth, it was time to reinstall the rail. (I didn’t paint because David plans to repaint the entire wall sometime soon.) The top end of the rail returns into the wall, and that connection dictated its height. David helped me hold the rail up so I could mark the bracket locations; it took a couple tries to get it right. Then I drilled holes for the toggle bolts we’d use to distribute load where the bracket didn’t quite line up with the stud. Finally, I changed my drill bit to Phillips head, and with David holding the rail steady again I buried the screws.

IMG_0112

David reattaches a stair rail bracket to the wall.

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