Monday, January 20, 2014

Home Improvement: Stairway Handrail

When my sister and I were little girls on house hunting adventures with our parents, two-story homes were a rarity.  We grew up in California, in a place with abundant space and excessive heat ——— no one needed a second floor around there.  The two of us always admired two-story homes.  I came to see two-story houses and stairways as exotic; the kind of thing you saw on television and read about in books.  Such things were the domain of the fancy people who lived elsewhere.  Fast forward to 2014 and I live in a two-story house with a stairway of my very own.
 I love the stairs in my house and still think of them as faintly exotic.  They are also an early indicator of the boy moving about because these stairs creak, as one would expect in a home that is more than 80 years old.
As it turns out, not only do the stairs creak but the stair handrail, attached to the wall, after the landing had come loose.  This house has plaster and lathe walls and they can be tricky to work with.  The loosened rail had caused plaster damage on its way out of the wall.  T and I realized a solution must be found and so we set to work.  I forgot to take a before photo with the handrail attached but I can show you this picture made once the hand rail came down.
Up close, you can see how bad the situation had gotten.
Once plaster starts to disintegrate, it can go pretty quickly.  Inside the wall in the section with the problem, the plaster and lathe is to the right.  To the left is the metal post that forms the center of the stairway.  This is a load bearing wall in the center of the house on the only path to get upstairs.  The problem was significant, though still small enough that it wasn’t necessary or practical to take the wall down to the studs and replace the plaster with modern drywall.  But how to fix it?

After some thinking and talking through of the problem, T hit upon a terrific solution.  She carved two neat holes in the wall where the handrail attached.  Then, she cleaned and patched the edges and fit in wood squares about an inch deep into the wall.  Those were secured with deep screws into the study plaster and lathe that remained.  Once in the wall, they looked like this.

The wood had been primed and after some discussion, we decided to paint them to match the wall.  
T then re-attached the railing onto the durable wood squares, using the original railing hardware.  The finished attached railing at the bottom, where the damage was, looks like this up close.
Up top looks very similar.
When you look at the handrail as a whole, the repair is barely detectible.
It looks like a small project but it took a good deal of time and care to get it right and T was a patient and clever carpenter.  Plus, a functioning hand rail is a really nice thing to have.  Though JT has been repeatedly reminded not use the handrail as a gymnastic bar, I think that if he did it would hold up quite nicely.  That's happy!

1 comment:

kamalini roy said...

Good post, handrails is a rail that is designed to be grasped by the hand so as to provide stability or support.