How to Renovate Your Staircase in 6 Steps

We spend a lot of time running up and down our staircases and probably don't give them the attention they deserve, but they play a major role in the look and feel of our homes. There are so many staircase designs around nowadays that we can find ideas almost everywhere. So, depending on our design styles and the style of our home, we can go for a traditional staircase or a contemporary one.

A popular trend is for having a glass staircase, but this choice is something subjective and you need to take into account if glass is really the choice for you.

George Quinn staircase, Urbana staircase collection

There are also many ways of improving a staircase. You can decide to replace it with a new one altogether, or if you have a small budget, you can decide to renovate your old one.

Damien Reilly, Staircase Renovation Specialist at George Quinn, has created some very handy tutorials showing us how to renovate each stair part. The tutorials can help both professionals (carpenters and joiners), and people that love DIY.

STEP 1: Plan

Planning is crucial if you want to renovate your old staircase, says Damien. Start by deciding if you want to change just your newel posts, handrails and spindles or if you want to refurbish your steps and risers also. Then, select a design and order your new stair parts. One of the places that you can use is George Quinn’s stair parts website. If you are a carpenter, or if you have a design in mind, this manufacturer can also build bespoke staircase parts.

STEP 2: Replace the steps and risers

Start your renovation project from the steps and risers. If you have a carpet on the stairs, remove it. Then, cut your steps and risers to size and test-fit them. Tip: install the first and the second riser first; install the first step after. Carry on installing the next risers and steps and cover any gaps with mouldings.

STEP 3: Renovate the landing area

Some staircases have a landing area. If that’s the case for your staircase, Damien recommends using winder steps and winder steps’ extensions to renovate it. Calculate the number that you will need by measuring the landing from the back to the front (add 30 mm to this measurement for the nosing of the winder step). Just as you have done previously, measure, cut and test-fit these parts and then install them. Start with the front portion of the landing, and use a winder step to cover it. Hide the margins with mouldings.

George Quinn staircase, Erne stair collection

STEP 4: Replace the newel posts

If you haven’t done so already, remove the old handrails, base rails and spindles from your staircase. After this, you will have to cut your old newel posts. When doing this, keep in mind that there is a minimum legal height requirement when installing the handrails (the next step from the project): 900 mm from the pitch line up the post.

Carry on installing the new posts: if they have a dowel, bore a hole in the centre of the remaining newel base. Use glue and secure them by fixing a screw through the base and the dowel. To hide the gap between the base and the new post, use a newel base connector. 

STEP 5: Fit the handrails and the base rails

Another positive aspect about renovating your old staircase (besides saving money), is that you can choose between having a staircase with spindles (made of timber, or fused with metal), or having a glass staircase. Both of these are available solutions and Damien explains that, depending on your choice, you will need to order appropriate handrails and base rails.

After you have ordered them, you will have to do 2 cuts: a first cut to the angle of your stairs, and a second one to length. You can then install them, starting with the base rails. Make sure to fit these correctly and to centre them. Otherwise, it will be difficult when installing the glass panels or the spindles. You can secure them in place with screws or brads.

 George Quinn staircase - Corby collection

STEP 6: Install the spindles or the glass panels

Spindles’ installation: first, calculate the number of spindles that you will need for your staircase (2 per step). Take into account that there is a legal requirement saying that the distance between spindles should not be higher than 99 mm. Second, cut the first spindle at the angle of your stairs and install it. Don’t forget to leave spaces between the spindles – cover these with fillets (you should have received these when you ordered your handrail).

Glass panels’ installation. For this step, Damien gave a solution for panels that will fit into the handrail and base rails. Keep in mind that there are all types and designs of glass panels and their installation may vary. First, calculate the number of panels that you will need: divide the length of the base rail to 350 and you will get this number. Just as in the case of the spindles, the distance between the panels must not be greater than 99 mm. Second, proceed to installing the panels, but don’t forget to measure, cut and install fillets to create the spaces between them.

Below, you can see a finalised staircase renovation project done by Damien Reilly.

If you prefer a video version of the steps involved in a staircase renovation project, you can watch this next tutorial.

To view the full video tutorials, click on: staircase renovation videos.

Buy stair parts.