Brought to you by my super-smart husband who figured this out as he did it. I just took pictures…
When we moved into our house, the newel post was crooked and moved about as much as a stick shift in a car. This wasn’t our highest priority, but due to its everyday annoyance factor we finally got around to it after we refurbished the staircase.
Since I had no idea how to this, I reviewed a couple how-to’s online that we re pretty much useless (I’m hoping this post is actually useful to people!) I also searched around on Craigslist and the local salvage store to try to just find a replacement, all to no avail. Finding one that was a similar styling seemed to be quite the task so I decided I would take it out, assess the damage and then go from there.
Removing the Newel Post
Removing it was fairly easy. I was able to remove the quarter-round trim around the base which made it clear that the post was just attached to the stair with some flooring nails at the base. It also was attached to the banister by a few nails at the end of banister. After carefully prying the newel post free from the banister, I was able to lean it side to side pry it off the stair tread without causing any more damage.
Fixing the Newel Post
As with every project on a 150 year old house, there is always some level of unexpected damage to things. Turns out that one side of the base was cracked in half, probably from wobbling back and forth for the last 50 years or so. I then carefully removed this face plate and cut a piece of oak 1×10 shelving to the correct size and shape. I attached with with some wood nails and sanded down the corners and painted it so it matched the other sides. The rest of the newel post was structurally sound.
In my research, I found that a popular way of securing a solid newel post is to drill a hole in the bottom of it and a matching hole in the stair tread (or floor) where it is mounted. Then, using a large dowel rod, nails and wood glue – basically secure the two together. This wouldn’t work in my situation since my newel post was hollow for the bottom 10″ of the base. After some thought I decided that my best bet would be to secure a large block of wood to the stair and have that fit snugly inside the base. Once the newel post slid over this block, it would make the base much more secure. Then all I would have to do is screw through the newel post (and wood block) to secure it to the stair tread.
Reattaching the Newel Post
After careful measuring of the inside of the base, it was just under a 6”x6” square. I cut a 6”x4” piece of lumber to the appropriate length of just under 6” and test fitted it. The nearly 5.75”X6”x3.5” cube fit nearly perfectly into the base, with a small shim on the one side. (Be sure that the newel post fits snugly over the wood black – you want as little space between the two as possible.) I then set the newel post on the stair with the cube support inside of it and determined its final position by making sure it was level and plumb and lined up appropriately with the banister. If you need to add shims or shift the post over from it’s previous location so it fits – that’s fine.
Once I had my final location set, I carefully removed the newel post and marked where the cube would go. I secured the cube by pre-drilling holes through it and fastening with 5 x 3/8”x 5” hex lag screws. Next, I placed the newel post back on its support with a shim on the one side and it fit pretty snug prior to fastening it. I made sure that it was level and plumb again and then secured it to the banister with some 2 5/8” wood screws and then the cuboid support base with the same hardware.
The final step is to add another piece of quarter-round to the bottom of the post to hide the screws. But as so many projects go – we’ll get to that detail step eventually!
At the end of the day our newel post is now much more secure and this was a cheaper/easier fix than having to buy a new one.
I hope this was helpful to anyone trying to do the same thing – all newel posts are different so there isn’t always a clear solution. If you have questions about how I did any of these steps please feel free to leave a comment below.