Are you looking for a simple project with big impact? Replacing wood stair balusters with metal balusters is the project for you. It’s pretty simple, requires minimal tools, and makes a bigger difference than you’d expect.
We first tried this project out at my mom’s house. She always wanted iron balusters, so we thought we would give replacing hers a try as a “welcome to North Carolina” gift (I had been asking her to move to North Carolina for about 5 years and she finally made it)!
It made such a difference in her entryway and it quickly became a top priority project for when we moved into our new house a month later.
We now have 2 stair transformations under our belts, so we’re ready to help you transform yours. Let’s start DIYing!
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I earn a small commission, but it won’t cost you a penny more)!
- Saw (An electric saw with a metal cutting blade makes it easier, but we did our first stair renovation with a hacksaw)
- Drill with a wood paddle bit (Size will vary based on which balusters you choose. Ours was 7/8″)
- Small flat-head screwdriver
- Small allen wrench (depending on what metal stair shoe you get)
What You’ll Need
- Stair balusters (we used these satin black metal balusters)
- Metal stair shoes (look at stairs to determine if you need flat, angled, or both)
- 80-220 grit sandpaper
- Paint (a sample size will be more than enough)
- Liquid nails
How to Replace Stair Balusters
New to DIY? Download our free 5 Steps to Getting Start with DIY guide!
Step 1: remove existing balusters
Saw out your existing balusters. If you have a hand saw, you can saw it just enough to be able to snap the current baluster and pull it out.
Remove any remaining nails using pliers that might not have come out with the old balusters. In particular, check the undersides of the handrail.
Step 2: drill holes for new balusters
The holes on the underside of the handrail should be large enough for the new balusters, so you only need to drill holes on the baserails.
After drilling, check that you drilled a large enough hole by placing one of the new balusters into the hole. It’s okay if the hole is bigger than the new baluster. The metal shoes will cover up the hole.
Step 3: sand
Sand where the old balusters met the baserail. Before sanding, you can use a small flathead screwdriver to peel off any large paint globs. Sand until you have a smooth transition between the painted and non-painted sections.
Wipe the surface or vacuum to ensure there is no dust.
step 4: measure
Measure the height for the new balusters. To do this, measure the distance between the top of the baserail and bottom of the handrail and add 1″.
Each baluster should be roughly the same measurement, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check every few balusters. On my mom’s stairs, the balusters needed to be a hair longer with each step.
Step 5: paint
Paint the areas of the baserail that you sanded down. Add additional coats if needed. Once I covered up all of the sanded spots, I finished with a coat over the entire baserail to minimize paintbrush strokes since we were using a high-gloss paint.
While the paint is drying, work on the next step.
Step 6: cut the balusters
Cut the new balusters to the correct size using the saw with a metal cutting blade (electric or hand). After cutting the first baluster, double-check that the sizing is correct.
Once you’ve confirmed you have the correct sizing, continue cutting. You can use blue tape to mark where you should cut the balusters to prevent accidental scratches from the saw blade.
Step 7: install the new balusters
Insert the new balusters into the holes that you drilled in step 3. To do this, slide the shoe onto your baluster, add a drop of liquid nails in the handrail hole, add a few drops into the baserail hole, and insert the baluster into the handrail and baserail holes. Slide the shoe down to the baserail and tighten it so that it stays in place.
That first cut on your old balusters was scary, huh? Every time we start a DIY project, I have a moment of panic, but in the end, it’s always worth it.
Be sure to share your stair transformation photos with us on Instagram (@craftedbythehunts)! Maybe one of these days we’ll remove all the carpet on our stairs…?
If you’re looking for a project to spruce up your entryway even more, check out our DIY Woven Leather Bench tutorial and how to paint your doors. A colorful front door can be so much fun!
Your railings are perfect, exactly what I’ve been searching for! Where did you purchase the railings?
Hi Traci! We purchased ours in-store at Lowe’s, but there are some on Amazon that are very similar: https://amzn.to/35Mb0u4
Great job! Looks fantastic. What color stain did you use for your rails?
Thanks Bill! I’m no sure what color the builder used
That color is lovely!
Beautiful! I have been looking into doing the same in my home renovation. The only question I have is: how do you get the balusters into the top and bottom holes you drilled without moving the handrail? If the rods are an inch longer than the height distance, did you not have to lift the railing to fit them in?
Hoping to do this project in the next week or so and that has been my concern because I can’t take off the railing. I’m also in NC. 🙂 Thank you!
Hi Ivana! You can start by inserting it into whatever hole is deeper (either the top or the bottom) at a slight angle. Then move the baluster into the second hole.
If you get stuck, you might need to drill the bottom hole slightly deeper or cut your baluster down more. Hope that helps!
Did you not have to screw the baluster to the rail and base?
We did not!
This is a very useful article. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Did you not have to remove the corner posts or the handrails?
Hi Sololmon! We did not have to remove the corner posts or handrails
I’ve been getting all of my supplies and I’ve read your post a thousand times! Just cut the first baluster and mine was screwed unto the base 🙁 so I have a huge screw sticking up from the base now (it looks like yours was possibly nails?). Obviously I can cut the screw off flush but I don’t know how I can possibly drill to get a hole for the new baluster… any suggressions?
Hi Kristi! Oh no, I’m sorry about your surprise! You can cut the screw flush and then use screw in shoes like these: https://amzn.to/3wPeOb3. You’ll need to double-check that those will fit with your balusters.