Stair Banister Renovation Using Existing Newel Post and Handrail

Beautiful stair railing renovation using the existing newel post and handrail | TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic #makeover #staircase

I really love seeing the tutorials and projects we share here used in your homes. We poured so much love and energy into our stair remodel — I am just beaming that Trish took  inspiration from it when she wanted to redo her builder-grade basic stair railing. But, rather than remove the newel post like we did, she just built a new style newel post right around it! And then replaced the spindles, leaving the existing handrail. Talk about working smarter! Here’s Trish to give you full dish on her stair banister renovation:

 how to build a newel post around an existing banister - TDA Designs featured on @Remodelaholic

 Stair Banister Renovation
by Trish from TDA Decorating and Design

I want to start off by saying thank you to Remodelaholics for having me here today, I am so excited!  My name is Trish and I am visiting from TDA Decorating & Designs.  I am a stay at home mother of four, and married to the most patient and supportive man who constantly puts up with my never ending projects and redecorating.  Over the years, friends and family would ask for my help in redecorating their homes, which led me to starting my own decorating business back in 2008.  More recently, my interest in building things picked up which has allowed me to explore my creativity and save money in the process.  My mother has even started calling me, “her little Gepetto”.

One of my very favorite projects to date is the custom cabinets I made for my laundry room here.  All for only $200 dollars!

before — after

laundry before Laundry room after

However, today I am excited to share with you my most recent project that has turned into one of my favorites as well…my stair banister makeover.

 I had been drooling over Cassity’s Park House Staircase ever since I first saw it, and knew that was exact style I wanted in our next house.

When we moved into our “new to us” home in March of 2013, this was what our stair railing looked like:

old banister before DIY newel post - TDA Designs featured on @Remodelaholic

It definitely isn’t bad, just not the style I was hoping for.

I had a contractor come and give me a bid for this short section of stairs.  It was going to be $900 for two new craftsman style newel posts and square ballisters.  With the remodels we were doing around the house, and the desire to finish our basement…there just wasn’t $1,000 around to throw into it.  Not to mention, the price seemed SO high when I just knew there had to be a way for me to do it for much less.

I seriously stared at this bansiter in thought for months.  I knew I could build newel posts myself, or even buy them at Home Depot, but I just couldn’t find a reason to disrupt and tear apart this perfectly stable and secure railing that was already in place.

That’s when I got the idea to try to build AROUND the existing newel post.

Which led me to end up with this:

how to build a newel post around an existing banister - TDA Designs featured on @Remodelaholic

how to build a newel post around an existing banister - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

I was able to complete this project for about $150 (price includes the gel stain and top coat to finish it).

I started by measuring the existing newel post and figuring out where to start and stop the different thicknesses in the new post I was creating.  I also had to figure out how to cover the “ball” on the top of the original newel post because my hubby didn’t like my idea of taking a chain saw to it like Clark in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”.

To keep the cost down, I decided to use MDF material instead of real wood.  Since I wanted the new posts white, I knew the MDF would be the cheapest and easiest option to paint.

I cut out the following for each of the newel posts:
(x2) of 3/4″ MDF) 4″ x 18″
(x2) of 3/4″ MDF) 5.5″ x 18″
(x2) of 1/4″ MDF) 4″ x 32″
(x2) of 1/4″ MDF) 3.5″ x 32″
(x2) of 1/4″ MDF) 3.5″ x 4″
(x2) of 1/4″ MDF) 4″ x 4″
use MDF to build a newel post around an existing banister - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 1 – Start by placing the 1/8″ thick 32″ long pieces around the base of the newel post.  Prior to clamping, add Liquid Nails to the edges and added supports on the inside with wood scraps and paint sticks.  Then nail them to the post from the outside. –

how to build a square newel post around a banister - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 2 – Enclose it with the last 1/8″ thick 32″ long piece and use clamps and wood glue to hold it in place while nailing it. –

building a new newel post - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 3 – Now it is time to build up the base of your squared newel post.  Do this by adding the 3/4″ thick 18″ long mdf around the very bottom, and follow the same steps of wood glue, clamps, and nails. –

diy newel post with existing banister  - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 4 – To cover the “ball” on the end of the post, put together a smaller box of the 1/8″ thick mdf.  Use wood glue, clamps, and small 3/4″ finish brad nails to hold the box together until the glue is dry.

building a chunky square stair newel post  - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic
Step 5 – Once your box is dry, use an outdoor fence post cap from Home Depot and liquid nail it to the top of your box. –
newel post topper - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 6 – Before using your nail gun or hammer and nails to attach it to the existing “ball”, put some liquid nails inside.  Make sure to nail gun the top of the cap onto the “ball”, as well as the sides of the box into the rest of the post. –

DIY stair newel post tutorial - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 7 – Now that your newel post is square, you need to add molding to close the gaps and beautify it.  (I found that I didn’t need to nail these pieces on.  I simply cut them to fit, liquid nailed them in place, and used some painter’s tape to hold them in place until the glue was dry.)

Put the same two moldings where the 3/4″ MDF box ends, as well as where the 1/8″ MDF box ends.

You can use your choice of molding; however, I used cove and panel molding.  Here is the specific info for both of those:

Panel SD186 HEM 1/2 x 1 -1/16

Cove WM100 HEM 11/16 x 11/16

update a banister with DIY newel post and spindles - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 8 – Add a small molding like the one below at the base of your top box.  (I found the one I used in Home Depot’s Molding aisle in the little bin sections with other small molding that comes about 3 feet long.) –

molding for new stair banister newel post  - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Here is a closer look at the molding in place at the base of the top box.

newel post DIY  - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 9 – After finishing the new newel posts, move on to replacing the spindles. Use a jig saw to cut the spindles in half and remove. –

how to remove stair banister spindles - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 10 – Next, cut the top of the spindle off  (where there is no varnish, making it flush with the rail when inserted) with a miter saw and use liquid nails to glue it back up inside the top rail.  (I did this to have some solid wood for my screw to go into when I put the new spindle in.)

replacing stair banisters - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

When I removed the old spindle, I unscrewed it off this screw which ended up being helpful in re-screwing my new spindle back on to. –

how to replace stair banister spindles - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 11 – Cut your new spindles to the desired length needed allowing them to fit snug between the top and bottom rails.

Step 12 – Next, find the center on one end and drill a hole into it so that it can be screwed into the screw pictured above.

(yes, I do know that I didn’t quite hit my center below 🙂

prep a new stair banister spindle - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 13 – Lastly, use a Kreg Jig to make a pocket hole on the opposite end of where you drilled the other hole:

pocket holes to install stair banister spindles - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 14 – Add Liquid Nails to both ends and screwed the spindle on to the bottom screw.  Once in place, put a 2 1/2 inch pocket hole screw in the top attaching it to the top railing.

diy stair banister refacing and renovation  - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

replace stair banister spindles and newel post DIY  - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 15 – Caulk the newel posts and the tops and bottoms of the new spindles. Glue pocket hole plugs into your pocket holes, and use wood filler to fill any nail holes, gaps, and seams on the new newel posts and spindles.

Step 16 – Paint the newel post, bottom rails, and spindles first. (I used the same white I had on hand that matched the moldings in my house.)

painting and staining a stair banister - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Step 17 – After those were painted, I followed the steps and tutorial from Confessions for a Semi-Domesticated Mama on using General Finishes Gel Stain in Java on the hand rail, and top rail.

stair banister makeover - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

And here it is all complete! –


stair banister before makeover - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic


DIY stair banister with new newel post and spindles - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

Here are a couple more shots at different angles

stair banister redo with new newel post and spindles - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic
stair newel post built around builder-grade banister - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic
Total cost, $158.
Here is the breakdown:

$60 – For all MDF pieces, AND moldings for BOTH newel posts
$14 – 2 outdoor fence post caps
$64 – 16 square Home Depot Spindles
$20 – General Finishes Java Gel Stain

After completing the shorter section of railing on our main floor, I decided to tackle our upstairs railing.  I followed the same steps and can’t think of anything I would do different to make it simpler.

stair banister before - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic
stair banister renovation build around existing newel post and handrail - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic
banister before - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic
banister after replacing spindles and building newel post around existing - TDA Decorating and Design featured on @Remodelaholic

I hope this helps anyone wanting a similar look on a very low budget!!

how to build a newel post around an existing banister - TDA Designs featured on @Remodelaholic


This is wonderful, Trish! Thank you so much for visiting today and sharing with us!

Remodelaholics, make sure you pay Trish a visit over at TDA Decorating and Design — she and I have a shared affinity for built-ins 🙂 Check out her built-in home organizer, built-in shelving, and built-in wall ironing board

Plus, be sure to subscribe to follow Remodelaholic by RSS or email so you don’t miss a single one of our amazing holiday guests (plus our other awesome posts, of course!)
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Lorene has been behind the scenes here at Remodelaholic for more than a decade! She believes that planning projects and actually completing them are two different hobbies, but that doesn't stop her from planning at least a dozen projects at any given time. She spends her free time creating memories with her husband and 5 kids, traveling as far as she can afford, and partaking of books in any form available.

We love hearing from fellow Remodelaholics, so let us know what you like about this and leave any questions below in the comments. If you've followed a tutorial or been inspired by something you've seen here, we'd love to see pictures! Submit pictures here or by messaging us over on Facebook.

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  1. Wood pieces needed list calls for 1/4 MDF . . . all your instructions say 1/8 MDF . . . . I’m confused. Please help!

      1. Could you leave links for where you found the items? I tried finding the items online and I cannot find the spindles or anything else.

  2. Could you please comment on the molding and how it was applied to the area that did not have a box made around it. ie; just below the railing.

    1. There are two different types of molding pieces just below where the railing is. The bottom one is glue directly onto the thin box, and the second molding above it is glued onto the actual original wood newel post.

  3. I have a hand rail and spools on one side of my staircase. After removing the carpet, how do I install wooden floors with 2 spools on each of the 13 steps???
    Thanks and am anxious for your reply!
    Elayne Powers

  4. How were you able to get the new spindles on the existing bolts then under the banister? That step seems to be missing. If they were cut to size how did you have room to get them on the screw?

    1. Bryan,
      I didn’t realize they don’t respond to people, including me! (the first questioner)
      Anyways, we couldn’t figure that out either, even with the kreg jig, after agonizing for hours . . . we cut the screws off the banister and spent a little more $$ on wrought iron and it was so easy to install and so worth the extra $$ spent.
      If you post your email address we will send you before and after pics of ours.
      Annie & Scott

      1. Hi Bryan and Annie! Sorry about that. Since this is a post from a guest, I’m not much help in telling you anything more than what is in the post. I will go check in with Trish and see if she can come answer your questions!

      2. I apologize for not getting back to you on here, I assumed people would contact me through my original post asking questions and did not think to check back here for questions.

        I cut the spindle to size, and tilted it so that the bottom screw started to thread through my drilled hole. After twisting until the top was flush and in place I then used the kreg jig hole to screw it in through the top. Hope that helps! – Trish

  5. I’m going to giove this project a try! Gorgeous! What is your wall color at the top of the stairs and white trim color?Sincere thanks! Tanya

  6. AWESOME…absolutely perfect. Exactly what I’m looking to do. Thanks for the great detail and info.

    Next project after the basement is complete!!


  7. I absolutely LOVE what you did here, and plan to do something similar to my newel posts. I was wondering if you’ve ever seen the same thing done to a fireplace mantle?

  8. My husband and I are also in the middle of a major renovation and the budget is exhausted. The staircase – which terminates in our living room — is a mess with painted colonial style spindles, a yellow bannister and grey industrial-type carpet (the kind with the different coloured specks in it). The house was listed as Arts and Crafts style (heavy emphasis on the word “style”) and so this is driving me crazy (I won’t even mention the little “Victorian” style curlicues that bracket all the outdoor posts…sigh). In any case, like you, I tried to conceive of some way to build Arts and Crafts newel posts around the existing posts but then drew a blank on the spindles. Your solution is wonderful. I now face two problems….a lack of tools and opposition to me using my carpentry skills. I am a contractor’s daughter but he trumps me as an architect used to hiring professionals. I’ll find a way to do this….somehow….so thank you for the inspiration. I think it looks fabulous and I also think everything is entirely within scale. Yes, spending thousands of $$$ would have yielded a perfectly proportioned staircase but for your investment, well, you have achieved perfection. I salute your creativity. This is inspirational.

  9. How was she able to use square balusters on the handrail that’s designed for pin top balusters? We’re in the process of redoing our steps and our contractor said this would be difficult to achieve.

  10. This is amazing banister renovation, it really looks great and awesome. you have a good taste. I surely love this design of yours, thank you for sharing this one.