How to replace Wood and Install Wrought Iron Balusters

Replacing Wood with Wrought Iron Balusters

The most common stair railing remodel is the process of removing wood balusters and replacing them with new wrought iron balusters.  This process can take up to 2 days and can be done by many that have some woodworking background and/or DIY (Do It Yourself) experience. Our attached step-by-step guide will take you through a typical process of transforming your wood to iron balusters.

Tools Needed:

  • Drop Cloth
  • Reciprocating (Saws-all) or Jig Saw
  • Pliers
  • Drill w/ Drill Bit Set
  • Tape Measure
  • Portable Band Saw or Chop Saw with metal cutting blade

Products Required:

Step #1 – Prep Work Area

Cutting wood balusters can be a messy job; we recommend using a drop cloth to cover anything you don’t want covered with sawdust.   Also cover any area below where you will be cutting and/or installing iron balusters with drop cloth and/or other protection to prevent floor damage.

Step #2 – Cut Old Balusters

With a Reciprocating Saw or Jig Saw, cut the wood balusters in half with cutting them at a slight angle. This will help with your next step.

Step #3 – Remove Old Balusters

Slowly move, push and wiggle them around until the nails work loose.  Remove any leftover nails left in top rail or bottom plate with pliers.  If your old balusters did not use nails, but used glue instead, there is a possibility that you could break off part of where the baluster in attached at the top or bottom.  Some options might include cutting the wood balusters at the top and/or bottom; then sand remaining portion smooth.  At times, replacing the top handrail and/or bottom tread/landing tread may be required if damage in removal is beyond repair.

Step #4 – Drill Holes

Some stair railings may contain existing holes left from the previous balusters; others will not and just left with a flat channel surface; typically called a plowed rail.

Make sure the holes in the bottom of the handrail are large enough for the baluster to fit and are drilled at least 1" inch into the handrail.  For the bottom holes on the tread/landing tread, it is best that these are only between ¼" - ½" inch deep.  The diameter of the holes needed to be drilled will vary based on the square size or round diameter of the wrought iron purchased.

If you are not using shoes, make sure your holes are drilled as tight as you can for round balusters. When using square balusters, you can "punch" out a square hole for the bottom tread application after drilling for tightest results; however round holes are typically easiest and the shoe plate covers this area once installation is completed.

The goal is to have enough room up top to slide the baluster in, and then drop it down into the bottom hole.

Step #5 – Cutting Iron Balusters to Size

1st, measure the height from the top of the floor plate, tread or landing tread to the bottom of the handrail vertically for EVERY baluster.  2nd, add 2x the height of the bottom hole depth; so a 3/8" depth would be an additional 3/4″ to the overall measurement; this is how long you should cut this iron baluster.  This should give you enough room to slide the baluster up into the handrail and then drop it down into the tread and still have enough baluster to glue in place.

Using a portable band saw or a chop saw along with a proper metal cutting blade is the best methods to cut your iron balusters.

Most balusters can be cut from only the bottom end and install just fine; however, if you want your pattern to line up at a specific height (see diagram); you need to cut from both ends.  When this is done, your hole size may change due to most wrought iron balusters have a round pin on the top of the iron baluster.

Step #6 – Insert Iron Balusters

First, slide your baluster shoe plate (if used) onto the bottom of the baluster.  Slide the baluster into the top handrail first, and then the baluster bottom into the floor/tread hole.  Note: The deeper hole made into the top handrail gave us the space to maneuver the baluster spindle in place.  Make sure everything lines up and the pattern is correct before adding glue.

Step #7 – Epoxy Iron Balusters & Base Shoes

Now we start the epoxy process.  It is highly recommended and suggested to read any details with the epoxy being used for direction and/or warnings.  We recommend using enough epoxy to fill to the top rim of drilling bottom hole; particularly with the use of shoe plates.  Depending on how snug the top hole is to your baluster will determine if epoxy may be easiest/best by adding some epoxy on the baluster or inside the handrail hole prior before reinserting the baluster. 

If you are also using baluster shoes, slide the shoe down and apply a little epoxy where the shoe will sit on the bottom floor surface or where it will connect to the baluster.  Some shoe plates have set screw to also help connect the baluster shoe with the baluster; either way a little epoxy with the shoe plate can be helpful in the future.

Follow the direction and cure time on the epoxy used.  However, as typical, please allow a minimum of 24 hours to dry and possibly longer to fully cure.  This ensures the best adhesion to not cause breakage in the future.  Best advice is don't breath on your hard work until 24 hours has past!