Every stairway needs a strong bannister for support and safety. Bannisters are also good for style and decoration in every home. In order for a stairway or bannister to maintain symmetry and style, it needs sturdy newel posts for support. Newel posts are positioned at the top of the stairway or right at the bottom. They are also found in places where stairways change directions. They are very important to the formation of the stairs because they act as the support systems or poles that bear the weight of the stairway.
For every direction that a stairway takes, there must be a newel post to help with that turn. It is for this reason why it is important to learn how to make a newel post sturdy in order to maintain a strong stairway.
Understanding newel posts
Some people mistake newel posts for balusters but the two are very different. While balusters are closely placed together on a stairway, newel posts only appear where there is a juncture. The main function of the newel post is to hold the weight of the stairway or banister and give it its symmetrical shape and maintain its strength. Balusters too help with the stairway support and they are more in number as compared to newel posts. Balusters fill in the gaps between newel posts, which further helps with the stairway strength.
Newel posts come in four different types. The four types are standard newels, pin-top newels, stabilizer newel posts and landing newels. Standard newels are used in situations where the handrail has an even height. Pin-top newels are used in situations where the handrail has a continuous run. This type of post is also used at the bottom of the stairway where the handrail has a volute. Landing newels are used in the upper and middle landings of the handrail. In most cases, they are used when there is level change of the handrail. Lastly the stabiliser newels are used where there is a long run of rails. They are used for extra support of the rails.
All the above types of newels come either as turned newel posts and box newel posts. Both the two types of posts serve the same purposes but come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Box newel posts are larger than turned newel posts but whatever type you want for your stairway will depend on your preferences and style.
Newel posts also come in many different designs. They range from mid-century, antique, Victorian, handcrafted and modern day bespoke designs. Depending on your taste and style, they can transform your stairway into a luxurious and classy part of the home as well as increase safety to the stairway and bannisters.
Different ways to make a newel post sturdy
When you have a wobbly bannister, then in most cases the reason for this would be a loose newel post. A lose bannister is not safe which makes the whole stairway very unsafe for use by anyone. However you can make this right by making your newel posts sturdy to avoid any accidents. Let us look at different ways on how you can make a newel post sturdy.
Before you go about repairing the newel post, first check if it is sturdy enough. You can do this by shaking the post at the bottom of the stairs to affirm if its firm enough, if it is loose, then do the following things to make it sturdy.
Tighten the bolts
Having a wobbly bannister is a sign that something is loose. In most cases, this could be the newel post. If you notice this, then you should check the status of your newel post immediately. Look for the bolted section of the post at the joist underneath the floor. You will see the place where the newel post protrudes vertically from the floor. Once you have located this, check the status of the bolts or lag screws.
While both the lag screws and bolts serve the same purpose, they do not look the same. They have the same kind of heads, but lag screws do not pass through to the other side of the wood whereas bolts do. Tightening lag screws may be harder than tightening the bolts so you have to be very keen.
The wood around the lag screws sometimes wears off completely which will force you to drill a whole set of holes for fresh lag screws. You either can do that or get rid of the old screws, make new holes through the wood and drill in new screws through the joist and post. Another option is to replace the lag screws with bolts that have nuts and washers for more sturdiness.
Use timber locks and ledger locks
When you are fixing the newel posts, using timber locks or ledger locks would be a better option than using screws and bolts. This is because they are stronger and they make the newel posts sturdier. The two are heavy-duty screws and they do not require any prior drilling on the wood or floor. Timber locks have a tapered head that easily sinks into the wood and it comes in different lengths depending on the thickness of the newel posts.
Use glued wood
Drill a hole onto the joist where the newel post is bolted. Then take a piece of wood and apply wood glue on it. Take the glued piece of wood and push it into the drilled hole until the wood is on the same level with the surface of the post. Do not leave the place looking dab but paint it to have a uniform look.
If you still shake and the stairway still feel loose, drill another hole on the stair frame and secure the newel post again but this rime in a different spot. If that still does not work, go the next juncture of the newel post and repeat the procedure, make sure you glue some wood on all the junctures with the newel posts until the stairway stops to shake.
Use a steel mounting plate
another permanent installation procedure to ensure you have a sturdy newel post that will stand the test of time, is by using a steel mounting plate. For this, you will need a drill, drill bits and an epoxy. Take your newel post and determine what length of the post you need above the floor. Add another 6 to 7 inches to the length you need and insert the mounting sleeve on this length. Use a band saw or a chop saw to cut the newel post from the bottom. Mark the newel post location and with your drill bit make a hole on the surface. Using a jigsaw, make a square outline and make sure whatever outline you cut will accommodate the sleeve of the newel post.
After you are done, take your newel post and slide it into the mounting sleeve making sure you fit it well. Tighten the setscrews into the holes on the sleeve of the post using an Allen wrench. Then with the newly attached sleeve, slide in the post into the hole and secure it further with 4 other anchoring screws. The four screws will attach the post to the mounting surface permanently. After this you can then use epoxy to secure the collar of the newel onto the surface of the mounting. With this method, you can be sure to have found a permanent solution to having a sturdy newel post.
Check the handrails
If you try all the above methods or any one of them and you feel that the bannister still wobbles, then check the handrail. Rails have different sections all connected together with bolts running all the way to the newel post. If the handrail is shaky, check where it joins the newel post especially the places underneath it. Check if there are any plugged or open holes. Using a nail-set tool and a hammer, fasten the star shaped nuts by turning them.
If the handrails are fastened to the wall using brackets, check if the brackets are loose and tighten them up. Also check for spindles on the handrails and if they are loose, use wooden wedges coated with glue to fix back the spindles. If the spindles are completely damaged, it would be a good idea to remove them completely and replace them with new ones. With a firm handrail, then you can rest assured that your newel post will stand the test of time.
Wrapping it up
A wobbly bannister or an unsteady newel post are all accidents waiting to happen. Fixing a newel post does not require much and it is something you can DIY. However, if it is too tricky, do not hesitate to call an expert to diagnose and fix the problem for you. To avoid any problems, make sure during the construction of the stairway, the attachment of the newel post is done by an expert using the correct hardware and tools. It will make the difference between safety and opening up the top or bottom of your stairway later for repairs.