Steps // How to Replace a Broken Baluster
1 ×

Pry Off the End Cap

 
Step One // How to Replace a Broken Baluster

Pry Off the End Cap

Mark Powers pries the end cap off a stair tread
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Use a utility knife to cut through the finish in the joint between the stair tread and its end cap, then insert a small pry bar and gently work the cap free, as shown. Pull out any nails, using nippers, and remove the old finish in the joint, using a pull scraper.

Shown: TOH senior technical editor Mark Powers pries the end cap off a stair tread so that he can fit a replacement baluster into the tread’s mortise.

 
2 ×

Measure Length and Angle

 
Step Two // How to Replace a Broken Baluster

Measure Length and Angle

placing a folding rule against the upstairs side of an existing baluster
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Place a folding rule against the upstairs side of an existing baluster that occupies the same position on the tread as the one you’re replacing. Measure from the top of the tread to the underside of the handrail, and mark that measurement near the top of the new baluster. Next, place the handle of a sliding T-bevel against the upstairs side of an existing baluster, and swing the T-bevel’s blade flush with the underside of the handrail, as shown. Tighten the T-bevel’s nut to secure the blade.

 
3 ×

Cut the Top

 
Step Three // How to Replace a Broken Baluster

Cut the Top

Mark Powers cuts a miter in the new baluster
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Set the T-bevel’s handle against the miter saw’s fence and line up the saw’s blade with the T-bevel’s blade. Remove the T-bevel, rest the new baluster against the miter-saw fence, and cut a miter at the mark made in Step 2.

 
4 ×

Fit the New Baluster

 
Step Four // How to Replace a Broken Baluster

Fit the New Baluster

Mark Powers drills an angled pilot hole from the upstairs side into the rail
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Apply wood glue to the baluster’s mitered end, then slip the tenon at the other end into the tread’s mortise. Center the mitered end on the underside of the handrail, and drill an angled pilot hole from the upstairs side into the rail, as shown. Here, the drill bit is an 8d finishing nail with a nipped-off head. Hammer an intact 8d finishing nail partway into the hole to hold the baluster in place, then go to the other side of the rail and drill another angled pilot hole that crosses the first. Drive an 8d nail partway into that hole.

 
5 ×

Set the Nailheads

 
Step Five // How to Replace a Broken Baluster

Set the Nailheads

Mark Powers taps both nailheads slightly below the wood surface with a nailset
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Using a nailset, tap both nailheads slightly below the wood surface, as shown. Wipe away any glue that squeezes out at the top, then cover the nailheads with wood filler.

 
6 ×

Replace the End Cap

 
Step Six // How to Replace a Broken Baluster

Replace the End Cap

Mark Powers nails the cap back in place
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Put the end cap back, flush with the top of the tread. Drill two pilot holes through the cap into the tread, and nail the cap in place. Set the nailheads and apply wood filler. Your stairway will be gap-free and safe again.

 
7 ×

One Good Turn

 
Step Seven // How to Replace a Broken Baluster

One Good Turn

milling a custom baluster
Photo by iStock

The biggest challenge of this project may be finding a new, matching baluster. If you’re lucky, the exact piece you need could turn up in an Internet search. If not, then millwork companies that specialize in making stair parts can turn custom balusters for you (shown). You’ll need to provide an intact baluster for them to copy; just make sure it’s the same length as the one you need. It won’t be cheap. According to Peter Murray of , which provided the custom millwork for the TOH TV project in Arlington, Massachusetts, a paint-grade baluster made of soft maple would cost about $100, due mostly to setup costs. A stain-grade baluster made from a specific wood species would come in even higher.

 

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