How to Change a Newel Post
Changing a Newel Post
Replacing a newel post can alter the overall appearance of just about any staircase. This project is much less drastic and expensive than replacing all the balusters and handrails. Swapping, for example, a contemporary square post with a classic turned newel can soften what might otherwise be seen as a boxy design.
Changing newel posts is a popular project and is often accompanied by changing baluster spindles. Larger DIY stores now offer a wide selection of newel posts that are specifically manufactured to replace existing posts.
Tools for the Job:
- tape measure & pencil
- wood chisel & mallet
- cordless drill/driver & bore bit
- Measure the vertical height of the existing handrail adjacent to the existing newel. It is important to do this before you start work on removal of the old newel as you will need this measurement at a later stage.
- Cut the top off the old newel squarely, about 10mm (1/2in) above the level where the handrail enters the post. You should be able visually to estimate where to cut. If not, draw a line as a guide around the newel and cut along the line.
- Do the same below the handrail, but leave 25mm (1 in) on the inside of the newel post to cut later.
- Use a wood chisel and mallet to split away the timber carefully on either side of the newel post in order to expose the tenon.
- Do a little at a time and be careful not to damage the tenon as you get closer to it, since you will need to slot it into the new newel post.
- Square a line around the remaining newel post 25mm (1 in) above where the string enters and cut at this point. Be accurate as the new post will sit on top of this cut stump.
- Use a sharp chisel or plane to flatten the stump of the existing newel post. Check the surface is flat with a square so that the new newel post will fit properly on top of the old base. If the stump is perfectly flat this will make the job of drilling for the dowel a lot easier. Draw diagonal lines across the top of the stump and bore a hole 25mm (1 in) in diameter about 75mm (3in) deep at this centre point. Ensure the drill bit goes in upright.
- Mark and chisel out from the new newel post the mortise for the handrail tenon. Transfer measurements from the existing tenon to the newel.
- Measure the height you took in step 1 and transfer this to the new post less the distance left on the stump. Before cuffing off the waste from the bottom of the new newel, double check your markings by holding the new post up against the stump. Measure across the diagonals and drill.
- Fit a 25mm (1 in) dowel 140 mm (5-1/2in) long to hold the base of the newel. Carry out a dry run to make sure that all the parts fit together. Take it apart and the newel in position with wood or epoxy resin. Once the job is completed, sand the new newel post and apply your chosen finish. If you are replacing the newel post, then the finish should match as closely as possible the balusters and handrails.
Tips of the Trade
If you are at all unsure about your marking out, tape the new post alongside the old one while it is still in position and transfer the positions of the handrail, string and 25mm (1in) high cut line prior to removal.
The strength and durability of resin is unsurpassed, however people may experience allergic reactions to certain products. To this problem wear latex gloves or apply barrier cream when handling these materials.
Tips of the Trade
It you plan to paint or stain your newel post it is wise to sand it before it is installed, as the shape of the post makes it difficult to sand once it is connected to the handrail.