Finish Carpenter Staircase Installation Tips for the Home Handyman


Even the most skilled do it yourself home handyman requires the skills of a professional finish carpenter or trim carpenter on occasion. For instance, creating and installing custom cabinetry, custom oak trim, or fireplace mantle construction.

Staircase design and installation is another area often requiring the services of a skilled professional. Especially when a curved staircase or spiral staircase plan with custom staircase spindles is required. In that case, more than a carpenter is sometimes desired. A finish or master finish carpenter might be best, depending upon complexity of staircase design.

Staircase Construction and Design

Even a basic wooden staircase design can be difficult to install for the average family handyman. There is more to stairs than meets the eye. Consider the following staircase components:

  • Stringer - a frame, typically made from 2” by 12” lumber, used to support the treads and rises in a staircase.

  • Treads - the steps themselves.

  • Rise - the panel to the back of one step that meets the nose of the next higher step.

  • Banister - technically speaking, the vertical spindles of a staircase; the term is also frequently used to refer to the staircase's handrail. Note: the modern day carpentry definition sometimes includes the newels and balusters with the banister.

  • Newels - the bottom two posts of the banister.

  • Baluster - the molded shaft or post that supports the handrail.

  • Handrail - also sometimes referred to as a banister, railings are designed to grasp by the hand while ascending or descending stairs; supported by balusters attached to the wall. Most building code requirements state handrails should be set at a height between 34 and 38-inches; when children are the principle users, a maximum of 28-inches high. Handrail dimensions and the distance between gripping surface and wall is also governed by building codes.

Some staircase designs also include a wainscoting panel. Ornamental or tongue-in-groove paneling or skirting board, extending several feet up the wall from the staircase or floor; with molding on the top edge.

Carpentry Tips for the DIY Wood Project Handyman

A special trade contractor such as a finish carpenter or trim carpenter has unique skills and knows “secrets of the trade” for precision work that is always professional looking. Everything from creative wall treatment ideas to building cabinetry; to closet design and construction, to making furniture and designer oak baseboard.

Skilled carpenter work stands out from the norm; work is precise and well worth the added expense. But if hiring a professional isn't within your budget, heed the following DIY tips for installing a new staircase:

  • Purchase pre-fabricated stairs for easier installation and a more professional-looking outcome. A staircase kit includes pre-cut stringers, treads, balusters, newels, banister, hardware and instructions; some kits also include staircase handrails.

  • Start with the stringer; and then treads, banister, newels, balusters, and handrails. Finish by installing a nose plate on the front of the landing, and fill in screw holes with wood plugs. And then sand and stain or paint.

  • When installing stairs in the basement, the stringer should sit on the concrete, not finished floor. If necessary, plunge cut through the finished floor to the concrete; clean the area thoroughly before proceeding.

  • When attaching the stringer, make sure it is level and square with the header and on the floor.

  • Secure the stringer to the header using heavy-duty L-brackets.

  • When attaching the newels, use construction adhesive on the bottoms before screwing in place.

  • Make sure handrail wall brackets are attached to studs; one at the top as close to the second tread as possible, the other at the bottom as near to the second step from the bottom as possible. And then one or two others evenly spaced and no more than 48-inches apart - for the remaining brackets. Note: the end of the handrail should never extend more than 24-inches from end brackets.

  • Pre-drill holes before screwing in brackets.

  • Some building codes require railings on both sides of the stairs; check your local building code to find out whether or not this is true in your area.

Locating a Trim Carpenter or Finish Carpenter in Your Area

If your handyman skills are exceeded by the complexity of your new staircase installation project, or any other type of wood home remodeling project, you'll most probably need the services of a reliable professional.

Finish carpenters are renowned for their wood finish carpentry skills; cabinetry, furniture making, woodworking and building - where exact work and artistry design is important.

A trim carpenter specializes in trim work - exterior and interior; molding trim, baseboard trim, window molding, door casing, and much more.

At, finding just the right trim carpenter or finish carpenter at just the right price is a snap. Whether for interior wood trim, exterior house trim, built in cabinetry, or even custom porch furniture.'s project-owner-to-contractor match-making services help connect you to reliable service providers in your area - quickly, easily, and without cost.

Simply post your project online with our user-friendly tools for FREE, and then sit back and let professional carpenters in your area come to you! Receive competitive bids within days - even hours - after posting.

Critique service provider credentials, licensing, insurance, references, and photo gallery of recently completed projects online at your convenience. And then connect with the carpenter of choice - or none at all. There is no obligation whatsoever to hire anyone; project owner services are absolutely FREE.

Whether looking for an carpenter to install wood baseboard, or a reputable cabinet maker belonging to a Canada carpenter union. Locating a carpenter close to you has never been easier, nor more time and cost effective than at

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