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Tips on Building the Classic Wooden Staircase

The Classic Wooden Staircase

*** Please note that these are general tips for your stair remodeling project. Please check commercial, residential, and all other building code before proceeding to install yourself. If needed, please hire a licensed stair-building professional to help.***

Tips & Tricks:

If your desired handrail and baluster is made of wood, your handrail options may be limited depending on the type of the baluster; choice of baluster may affect design of the handrail.

Taper-Top Wood Balusters like the Colonial 5015 can be installed onto wood handrail such as the 6010 and 6310, and Square-Top Wood Balusters like the Colonial 5141 are compatible with plowed handrails which require fillet to be secured; strips of fillet will be placed between each baluster to secure them in place. If the baluster is square-top, then your handrail needs to be plowed at the exact width of the baluster to create the perfect amount of room for it to sit on – thus, maximizing structural load support from each baluster to the plowed handrail and resulting in the perfectly built staircase.

Step size is an important factor to consider when purchasing the treads and risers for your staircase. Stair Parts Depot supplies treads that are 11-1/2″ wide: Qwiktreads, Plain Treads, and Redi Treads.

Not all visually appealing handrails may be allowed to be installed onto your staircase. Please make sure your handrail’s size is compliant with your local, state, and federal building code. Handrail height is also an important variable to consider (please check your residential or commercial building code for handrail size).

Check local building code for all technical specifications.

Newel Posts:

  • Count one Newel Post to start each section.
  • Count one Newel Post every time the stairway section joins a landing.
  • Count one Newel Post every time the stairway changes direction (excluding bending railings or spiral stairways).
  • Ball-Top Newels are for Starting Posts and Landing Posts.
  • Pin-Top and Taper-Top Newels are used for continuous sections of handrail (some cities and states allow Ball-Top and Box Newels when going up the stairs for a post to post system).
  • One Newel should be used at least every 8 feet of handrail. If handrail is over 8 feet long, one intermediate post is required in the middle of the handrail section. For example, if handrail section is 12 feet long, an intermediate post is required at the 6 foot mark.


  • Check local building code for all technical specifications.
  • Baluster spacing is generally 4 inches apart
  • 4” sphere cannot pass through the balustrade.
  • Shoes for bottom and/or top of metal balusters.
  • Shoe size matches baluster width.

Handrail & Shoe Rail:

  • Check local building codes for handrail height and sizing specifications. Some handrail models are too wide – others too tall. Limitations on size of the handrail vary depending on local building code.
  • Plowed handrails and plowed shoe rails are for square-top and/or square-bottom balusters.
  • Fillet is for filling in extra space under the plowed handrail
  • Bending handrails are for spiral or curved staircases.
  • Handrails terminating into a wall should be drilled into the wall stud (wooden plank of the building’s framework) to maximize stability. A stud finder device is used to locate wall studs behind dry wall.
  • Handrails can return into a half Newel or a Rosette, which should be attached to a wall stud.
  • If the stairway is less than 5 feet wide, only one side requires handrail (handrail on both sides is optional).
  • If the stairway is over 5 feet wide, handrail on both sides is required
  • Handrails should be continuous so that someone going up the stairs never has to let go of the handrail (this is required in some places – check local building code).


  • Check local building code for minimum width of treads and maximum height of risers.
  • Each tread and riser must be identical height and width going up the stairs.


  • Check local building code for all technical specifications.
  • One rail bolt or lag bolt per handrail end.
  • One bolt wrench or any fastening tool.
  • Wall rail brackets at a minimum of every 4 feet of handrail (excluding either ends of the handrail, which may or may not return into the wall depending on local building code).
  • One Newel bolt per solid Newel Post (more than one is okay but not required), or one Newel Plate per hallow Newel Post.
  • One Wood plug to cover each hole drilled.
  • Optional epoxy to secure metal balusters.
  • Optional shoes for metal balusters.