How to remove the newel post and bottom tread, to replace with feature tread and handrail termination.

The stages involved.

  1. Introduction to this article.
  2. How the stairs are assembled.
  3. The dimensions to take.
  4. Making the tread, taking into account the handrail support.
  5. Supporting the stairs before dismantling.
  6. Removing the newel and first tread.
  7. Preparing the stringers for the new tread.
  8. Fitting the new tread.
  9. Making good the stringers.
  10. Make good the soffit.
  11. Fitting the new handrail termination, newel and/or spindles.

1. Introduction.

Here we are going to look at what is involved in and how to go about removing the newel post and bottom tread to replace with a feature tread and handrail.

We will be as thorough as possible but every staircase is different and other considerations may have to be taken in to account.

We will look at how the newel attaches to the stringers.

How the treads and risers are housed into the stringers and newels.

The dimensions required to make the new tread.

Considerations in making the new tread.

How to support the stairs in preparation for removing the existing tread and newel post.

How to dress the existing stringers, to accept the new tread.

Fitting the new tread and tying in the stringers.

Full Videostration coming once I have finished the write up.


How the stairs are assembled.

On most staircases built since the start of the 20th Century, the Sotia detail was applied once the staircase was assembled.

The treads and risers will be fitted from the bottom of the flight up, this allows the tread and riser wedges to be pushed home by hand, then working between the wedges they are knocked home with a mallet or hammer giving priority to the riser wedge. this will pull the tread forward and with the nosing housed into the stringer the tread will lift to the top off the housing while the riser is pushed forward the the rebate line allowed for it.

once the tread and above are fitted, screws or nails may be applied at half a treads thickness up from the bottom of the riser, to hold the riser to the back of the tread.

The glue blocks are applied once the staircase is together.

The bottom tread, riser and scotia will need to be fitted before the post is dowelled into place, this may be prepared in the workshop with final fitting on site.

To dismantle the bottom tread this process must be carried out in reverse order.

Exploded views of the stairs in (dia’ 1) and (illu’ 1).

40MB filesize.

Staircase exploded labelled.
(dia’ 1) Staircase exploded labelled.
Staircase exploded view.
(Illu’ 1) Staircase exploded view.


The dimensions to take.

The initial stage is to open up the underside of the stairs and take the dimensions for making the new tread.

The dimensions that need to be taken in order to make the tread and handrail components ready, are:

  1. Going.
  2. Rise.
  3. Nosing projection.
  4. Tread thickness.
  5. Scotia pattern.
  6. Inside wall string, tread housing to outside of newel string.
  7. Stringer thickness/size make good new panel dims. See here.
  8. Confirm spindle is set centrally over stringer.
  9. Carefully remove a spindle if copies required.
  10. Stringer make good, new panel size.

Print out of the notes above with diagrams to take to site.

Survey-dims.pdf Membership Required: Professional

The riser will normally mask the back of the tread, this can be confirmed from the underside of the stairs.

When the riser is set over the tread, there is no way to measure the thickness of the riser without dismantling the stairs, therefore an allowance will need to be added to the tread going for production.

In most case 19mm ¾” will be sufficient, a larger allowance may be made as this will sit into the housing and should not require trimming back when fitting the new feature tread.

The scotia molding is probably the hardest part to measure, the best way round this is to cut off a small sample from one end, (illu’ 2).

Stair Dimensions to take.
(illu’ 2) Stair Dimensions to take.
Tread housing stringer face dimension.
(illu’ 3) Tread housing stringer face dimension.

Remove sample spindle.

Unless they are turned top the spindles will normally come loose with a stiff knock to the top of them, this is best done by placing a block of timber against the top of the spindles and giving it a thump with a mallet.

When they are a turned top, there is a good chance they have been drilled into the undeersude of the handrail.

In which case it is best to cut through the bottom block, the spindle may pull out once this has been done or you may have to give it a twist to break any pins etc holding it in place if this fails then yoou may have to put the saw against the underside of the handrail and gently cut round the top of the spindle, being carefull of any pins etc. that may be securing it in place. (illu’ 4)

Remove spindle.
(illu’ 4) Remove spindle for matching.
Handrail profile.

A sample or pattern for the handrail profile will be required for making the new components, the best way to get this is to cut a small slither about an 1″ or 25mm minimum, up to about 4″ 100mm is ideal.

The handrail is best tied back in with a batten fixed between the handrail and newel post to make the staircase safe while the new parts are being made.


Making the tread, taking into account the handrail support.

With the dimensions taken, the feature tread can be made in advance of the staircase being dismantled.

There are a number of different feature treads that may be used dependant on the look you wish to achieve.

In this example we look at using a curtail tread with a monkey’s tail set over either a birds cage of spindles or a newel post and spindles.

Making the treads is a subject on its own, we will cover that soon and add a link here, we do have a page showing some of the feature tread options.

An exploede example of a feature tread. (illu’ 5)

As a further note, it is worth while making the return nosing that runs back over the stringer, a separate removable section, to aid in the fitting of the tread.

Preparing the support for a newel post.

Curtail tread exploded view.
(illu’ 5) Curtail tread exploded view.

Option 1.

Traditional newel fixing.

The feature end to the new tread should be of solid construction, this is normal in any feature end to a tread; as this allows for the newel post to be bolted down through the tread to give the stabilty required of said post.

When using a feature tread to replace a newel post, the tread is taking the load from the stringer to the ground, therefore any part of the tread that sits under the stringer, will need to be made of solid stock.

Any part of the tread extending out beyond the string is best made from solid stock, to allow for a secure fixing of the newel post.

Traditional newel posts would have been cast iron, drilled, tapped and bolted down through the tread and floorboards thus allowing for the newel to be tightened by lifting a floorboard close by and tightening the nut underneath if it becomes loose over time. (dia 1)

When this can be done, it is still the preferable way to fix the post.(illu’ 6)

n.b. When using this option, check the position of the joists and trimmers before setting out the tread: as this may change how the feature end is set out to allow for the bolt position.

(pic 1)

Here you can see the solid curtail block, the square block under the newel is a spacer to gain height, the newel may be spun to tighten without moving the spacer block.

Filesize 10MB

Option 1.

Bolted through floor.
(illu’ 6) Bolted through tread and floorboards.
Traditional curtail end.
(pic’ 1) Traditional curtail end.

Option 2.

Under tread newel fixing.

When this can not be achieved the next best option is to rebate the bottom of the solid end, set a nut that has been welded to a metal plate thereby making it captive, then fix this inside the rebate with screws to prevent the plate spinning,

A hole can be drilled down through the tread scotia plate if used and the riser to allow the threaded metal stud to be feed through from above, once the tread has been fitted. (illu’ 7) (dia’ 2)

The newel post can then be spun down onto the thread until it seats onto the tread, therefore it is best to use a post that is round at the base, although square post may be used, it may be necassary to skim the bottom so that the post locks down with a face facing the correct direction.

This may also cuase problems when trying to tighten the post at a later date; as it will have to turn through 90º each time dependant on faces and may damage the tread surface outside of its final seating position.

13MB Filesize.

Option 2.

newel lock nut housed into the tread Underside
(illu’ 7) Newel lock nut housed into the tread Underside
Cut through showing newel bolt.
(dia’ 2) Cut through showing newel bolt.

Option 3.

Flush mount newel fixing.

This is not a recommended way but may resolve the situation if either of the first 2 options are not allowed for.

A plate the same as in option 2 may be set into the top surface of the tread, with a block set inside the tread to allow extra material for screwing the plate onto.

When a plate is fitted to the top of the tread in this way, it is best where possible to pre drill a tolerance hole through the floorboards, this will allow the base of the threaded bar to pass through this hole and provide additional stability.

Make sure the rebate for the fixing plate or rose is smaller than the base of the newel post.

Care must be taken when drilling the holes to keep them vertically aligned. (illu’ 8) (dia’ 3)


Option 3.

(illu’ 8) Flush mount newel fixing.
(dia’ 3) Flush mount newel fixing.


Supporting the stairs before dismantling.

The bottom of the stringer where the newel post is to be removed from will require support while the bottom tread and newel are cut out.

This support is normally temporary, as the stringer will be supported back onto the new tread, once fitted.

Basically, as long as the staircase is supported so that it can not drop will surfice,

The strongest horizontal position to support the stairs is under the riser.

Option 1.

A simple dead leg set under the 3rd or 4th riser should be adequate to carry the load back to the floor.

Setting the prop back a few treads will give you room to work on the lower end of the stringer.

make sure the dead leg is secured to either the back of a riser or the inside of the stringer, to prevent accidental dislodging.

Place a load spreading plate under the deadleg, this plate should at least, span the two joists either side of where the deadleg touches the floorboards. (illu’ 9)

Dead leg support.
(illu’ 9) Dead leg support.

Option 2.

A small box frame may be made, this is still best set under the riser rather than a tread, the box may not be square dependant on floor levels and any movement or settlement that may have happened to the staircase, especially on older buildings.

The frame should be wide enough to set across at least two joists, when the joists run in the same direction as the risers a ply board of 3/4″ or 19mm may be used under the box frame extending to cover the closest joist either side of the box frame.

On older properties when the staircase has sagged away from the wall string, some levelling may be carried out slowly but it is not advisable to try jacking the stairs to much as this may result in creating more issues. (illu’ 10)

Box frame support.
(illu’ 10) Box frame support.


Removing the newel and first tread.

With the staircase supported removal of the newel post and bottom tread may be carried out.

Remove spindles and cut back handrail.

The first few spindles may be removed and the handrail cut.

See: Remove sample spindle.

The new handrail, feature end, can be made with additional straight on it, to meet the original handrail. So the handrail can be cut about 100mm 4″ away from the post, this will hopefully avoid cutting into any bolts etc. and can be squared up later to take the new section of handrail.(illu’ 11)

Try to keep the cut fairly close to the newel, to ensure the new part will reach to the existing handrail.

When you already have the new section of handrail, you can offer it up, to see how much you may be able to cut off from the existing.

At this stage it is stilll advisable to leave the existing handrail over length.

Cut handrail.
(illu’ 11) Cut the handrail.
Remove wedges.

Remove the wedges holding the first tread and riser, sometimes the riser is screwed from the back rather than being wedged, check and remove screws if there.

The wedges may be chopped out with a chisel, the tread wedge is best spilt from the end, the riser wedge will have to be slit from the side. (illu’ 12)

chop out wedges.
(illu’ 12) Chop out wedges.
Drill out draw dowels.

Even when the newel post is painted, you can generally tell where the draw dowels are located.

There will be 1/2″ or 12mm cuircular divets in the paint.

When you can not see the dowels, you may have to scrape the paint off, in order to locate them.

You do not need to go all the way through the newel, as long as you drill past the tenon, this can be done with a flat bit of 15mm or 5/8″, make sure to keep the drill in line with the dowel. (illu’ 13)

Drill out draw dowels.
(illu’ 13) Drill out draw dowels.
Remove the newel post.

Unlikely but at this stage you could try gently rocking the top of the newel post and knocking the bottom with a block, set alongside the stringer, to see if it comes loose. (illu’ 14)

I have had some success with this; so it is worth a go.

Most likely it will not come loose and you will have to use one of the two options below.

Rock N Knock newel.
(illu’ 14) Rock N Knock newel.

Option 1.

Put a saw cut down between the back of the new post and the stringer shoulder line.

A panel saw will do this, working from the tread side of the stringer. (illu’ 15)

Should you cut into the tread during this process, it will not harm as the tread is to be removed next.

When you have a multitool or oscillating saw, such as a fein, it will be easier to cut from the landing side of the stringer.

Cut btween newel and stringer.tenons.
(illu’ 15) Cut between newel and stringer tenon.

Option 2.

Cut the newel stub at the same height as the top surface of the stringer; where it’s connected to the back of the newel. (illu’ 16)

Then chisel from the top down, to split the newel stub off sideways. Working from the landing face towards the tread. (illu’ 17)

Cut top off newel post.
(illu’ 16) Cut top off newel post.
break newel block out.
(illu’ 17) Break newel block out.

Remove the tread to riser fixings.

To remove the tread and riser, check the bottom of riser 2 at the back of the first tread, there is a good possibility of a mechanical fixing being used at this point, these will normally be screws but may be cut nails.

When possible remove any fixings that are holding the riser to the tread.

The glue blocks may also be removed by chiseling them off or apart. (illu’ 18)

Ther is a possibility on older stairs, that the riser is rebated and the tread has a tounge, if this is he case you will not know until you are removing the tread, a chisel down between the back of the tread and the riser face may aid in its removal.

screws and blocks.
(illu’ 18) Remove screws and blocks.
Remove the tread and riser.

With any mechanical fixings, tread and riser wedges removed, the tread and riser should release, if they are still rigid, standing on the back of the tread will normally release them.

Should the tread not wiggle out, a final cut through the tread, from inside the newel rebate, through to the back of the tread, this will allow for the tread to be removed.(illu’ 19)

Be carefull not to catch the nosing of the tread above, the last few strokes will require the saw to be used upside down to get as far as possible under the next riser, the last bit will snap out.

cut tread out.
(illu’ 19) Cut the tread out.


Preparing the stringers for the new tread.

With all the original parts of the stairs that need removing, removed, the next stage is to prepare the stairs to accept the new parts. (illu’ 20)

The new parts to fit.
(illu’ 20) The new parts to fit.

Stage 1.

Cut the bottom of the stringer.

The bottom tread will be picking up the load from the landing stringer, therefore you will need to prepare this ready to sit back onto the tread.

  1. Working from inside the stringer, transcribe the top of the tread housing to the outside of the stringer.
  2. Measure or using an offcut of tread, mark down from this line the thickness of the tread, to the top of the scotia plate or top of the riser curtail block if a scotia plate is not being used.
  3. Cut the bottom of the stringer away.(illu’ 21)

The transcribed cut line around the stringer should be a level horizontal line, some times when the stairs are old this may have moved off level a degree or so, when not certain carry the line around the back of the stringer to ensure it lines up with the top of the housing at the back of the tread.

Although this may not be 100% level, it is generally best to work to the housing line rather than the horizontal.

26MB Filesize.

Stringer bottom cut.
(illu’ 21) Stringer bottom cut.

Stage 2.

Calculate the stringer end cut position.

To get the end cut position of the stringer, there needs to be enough material left in front of the second riser, that when cut, the material left unlikely to break off, we also need to be, behind the last spindle, on the bottom tread; so as not to interfere with its seating.

When a curtailed tread is used, the best position is along the straight section of the return nosing. (dia’ 4)

This is why it is best to make the return nosing as a separate removable section.

Before cutting the stringer, take into account the stringer capping: as this will run back down the face of the stringer and also needs to clear the last spindle on the bottom tread.

Stringer end cut diag 4.
(dia’ 4) Stringer end cut.

In (illu’ 22) you can see (dia’ 4) overlayed onto a ghosted view of the staircase, this shows the end cut postion against the stringer.

(illu' 22) Stringer end cut overlay.
(illu’ 22) Stringer end cut overlay.

Stage 3.

Trim the stringer capping.

With the stringer end cut position calculated, the stringer capping can be mitred through.

To do this, bisect the pitch angle and the verticle, the set this line to cross the stringer that is still fitted where the inside face of the capping crosses the stringer end cut position.(illu’ 23)

Cut through the stringer capping at the bisect angle, untill the rebate face or stinger cut line is reached.

Once the cut line is reached, cut the remainder of the capping coming in from the sides, untill the stringer is reached.

The offcut of stringer capping will fall free.

Capping bisect cut.
(illu’ 23) Capping bisect cut angle.

Stage 4.

Cut the stringer end.

With the stringer capping cut back. the stringer end may now be cut off. (illu’ 24)

Cutting upwards from under the stringer to the underside of the capping, the end will probably break away before you get to the capping mitre face, the last bit of material may be removed gently with a fine cut saw or paired off with a sharp chisel.

Cutting the stringer end.
(illu’ 24) Cutting the stringer end.

Stage 5.

Cut off the remaining tread housing.

With the stringer cut to length, the tread housing that is left in front of riser 2 can be cut away to allow the tread to be fitted. The top face of the tread housing may be used to guide the saw, be careful not to cut into the riser.

This will need to be a clean cut as the bottom edges will be visible once the tread is fitted.

With a tenon saw or fine tooth saw cut upwards through the stringer, tight against the front of riser 2 until you meet the top of the housing and the piece of stringer falls away. (illu’ 25)

Removing the tread housing.
(illu’ 25) Removing the tread housing.


Fitting the new tread.

Stage 1.

Prepare the wall string.

When fitting the new tread with a scotia plate, the wall string housing under going 2, will require adjusting, to accept the scotia plate.

This is due to the original tread being housed in as a stadard tread, with a wedge holding it in place. The new tread as a feature tread, will be fitted in a non standard way.

When the riser is at the correct height for fitting, the easiest way to do this, is to offer the tread up to its seating position in the stringer housing, hold the scotia plate up underneath it and mark on the stringer, just behind where the riser 1 wedge will seat.

From this point draw a line parallel to the bottom of the tread wedge, to the next riser housing, thereby droping the wedge face to allow for the aditional thickness required for the scotia plate.

With a tenon saw, put a cut through this line and either chisel or router the mataerial to be removed, down to the same depth as the rest of the tread housing. (illu’ 26)

This may be cut a bit lower; as a wedge will be used to fit the new tread.

Drop wedge line.
(illu’ 26) Drop wedge line.

Stage 2.

Fitting the riser.

The tread components will more often than not, be left over length for final dressing in, to be carried out on site.

So at this stage, offer up the riser and trim accordingly, to set it in the correct position.

On a curtail tread riser, the face of the riser under the return nosing, will be flush with the face of the stringer from which the newel post has been removed, allowing the return nosing to run smoothly from tread end to stringer face. (illu’ 27)

Make sure the front of riser 1, runs parallel with riser 2. A few pencil marks on the floor once lined up will help confirm the position when final fixing the riser.

Trim riser to length.
(illu’ 27) Trim riser to length.

Remember: When you have the chance to use an underfloor nut, offer the riser up, mark through the bolt hole, remove the tread and drill the floorboards, replace the riser, put a the nut and washer onto the bolt then drop the bolt down through the curtail block and floorboards.(illu’ 28)

Confirm the riser sits in the correct alignment with the stringer before fixing down, it is a safeguard to leave the bolt set in place while fixing the riser.

When you have a long shaft drill bit, it is possible to fit the riser down first then drill though, the drill bit will need to be about 300mm 1′ long, to be able to do this.

Drill newel bolt hole.
(illu’ 28) Drill newel bolt hole.

Stage 3.

Fixing the riser down.

The easiest way to do this is with fixing blocks.

At the wall stringer end, trying to get wedges in the wall string with it already being fitted in place can prove difficult, therefore a block screwed into the stringer behind the riser is an easier fix.

At the curtail end, we have cut away most of the stringer above the tread and the wedge area below the tread, hence there is nothing left to fix to.

So by using fixing blocks, we can resolve both issues.

It is easier to prepare the curtail end while on the bench, before setting the riser into place.

Curtail end preparation.

Before setting the riser in place, screw and glue a block of at least 38mm 1 ½” to the inside face of the curtail end, set this about 2mm 1/16″ above the bottom of the tread, this will allow the screws to pull the curtail end down tight to the floor. (illu’ 29)

Curtail end fixing block.
(illu’ 29) Curtail end fixing block.
Wall string end, riser fixing.

Using a traditional staircase glue block or a block off at least 38mm or 1 ½” square cut through at 45º and no taller than the riser itself, set tight behind the riser and against the stringer.

Drill pilot holes from the hypoternuse face, and angled so they project through the face that will sit against the stringer, so that the blocks pull in tight when screwed into place. (illu’ 30)

With the blocks prepared, the riser can be fitted into place, glue and fix the curtail end first; as this has to be 100% accurate in its positioning.

Glue and screw the riser/stringer fixing block into place.

No fixings are needed to hold the block to the riser, as the fixing blocks and the area on the back of the risers onto which they make contact, are glued.

Riser stringer end, fixing block.
(illu’ 30) Riser stringer end, fixing block.

Stage 4.

Prepairing the tread.

With the riser fixed down, the tread can be prepared to fix into place.

As with the riser the tread has probably been made over length and very possibly over width by a couple of mm.

Trim the tread to width.

Normally when making the stairs, you would set the tread in place and mark from the next riser housing to get the cut position.

However as the next riser is in place and the feature tread sits beyond the housing on the other stringer, this is not possible.

Therefore the best way to do this is to use a scrap piece of material, by offering the piece of scrap up to the 2nd riser and marking the front of the nosing housing onto the scrap piece. (illu’ 31)

Get tread width.
(illu’ 31) Get tread width.

This mark can then be transferred to the tread, by placing the scrap material onto the end of the tread and flush at the nosing, with the riser end facing the tread nosing, the mark may now be transferred onto the end of the tread.

With the return nosing still loose from the tread, the tread can now be planed parallel to the nosing, until the riser mark is reached. (illu’ 32)

Mark tread width.
(illu’ 32) Transfer the tread width mark to the tread..

Stage 5.

Fix the scotia plate down.

The tread is now prepared ready to fit into place, the scotia plate must be fitted first, slide the plate into place, align the plate over the curtail riser and ensure the front of the plate is running parallel with the riser face.

This may be done with an adjustable set square or a block with a step in it the depth of the scotia. (illu’ 33)

Scotia plate fitted.
(illu’ 33) Scotia plate fitted.

Stage 6.

Fit the tread.

Slide the tread into the wall string housing, keeping the back of the tread as close to riser 2 as possible.

By placing a small wedge set over the staircase support, close to the landing stringer to lift thestirng by a couple of mm 1/8″ to give a small clearance between the stringer and the tread surface, will aid in the fitting of the tread.

The tread should be tight as it enters the housing. To avoid damaging the housing nosing, a small chamfer may be applied along the top of the tread and around the nosing, taking care not exceed the depth of the housing.

Check that:

  1. The curtail end of the tread where the return nosing fits, is flush with the stringer face, so that the return nosing will fit back on.
  2. The borders between tread, scotia plate and riser, are all constant: As with the scotia an adjustable set square or a block, this time with two steps in it, one for the scotia and one for the nosing.
  3. when a newel bolt is being used, make sure the holes align and the bolt can be fed through .

With this all confirmed, a screw may be applied to the back of the tread, through the riser at the curtail end of the tread.

once this is held in place, a wedge can be glue into place under the tread and scotia plate, in the wall stringer.

Remove any wedges that may have been used for lift the landing stringer clearance and make sure the stringer is sitting back down on the tread.

Now the remaining scews can be applied along the back of the tread.

The tread is now in place.(illu’ 34)

The return nosing is still to be fitted back onto the tread but this is best left off and kept safe, to avoid damage, until the stringer has been made good and supported properly.

A piece of stringer capping may now be applied to the front cut of the stringer.

Tread in place.
(illu’ 34) Tread in place.


Making good the stringers.

Ther are two ways in which the stringer may be made good.

The first is a simple verticle face, going from the pitch of the stringer straight down to the floor. (illu’ 35)

Vertical drop stringer.
(illu’ 35) Vertical drop stringer.

The second being the more traditional way of flowing the stringer to the floor line, is to add a curved transition from the pitch line to verticle.(illu’ 36)

The wall side string will need to match the landing side stringer; as they work together to carry the soffit.

Classic curved stringer.
(illu’ 36) Classic curved stringer.
Stringer panels.

Both options will require making a panel that is to be fixed under the existing stringer, to become the bottom of the stringer.(illu’ 37)

The panel is made by jointing side by side lengths of straight timber the same thickness as the existing stringer.

When making the panel, it is good practice to use the same species of timber as the original flight is made of, even when the stairs will be painted.

Use joinery grade timber that has been properly dried, laminate the lengths together, creating a panel large enough that the grain can run at pitch with the stringer and still cover the size of panel requiered.

As mentioned above, you will require 2 of these, one each side, for the straight vertical drop you can use a length of timber stud fixed to the wall.

At this stage consider the plaster bead. please see Curved panel plaster bead below.

Stringer panel laminate.
(illu’ 37) Stringer panel Jointing.
Template for the panel.

As this panel is going to be part of the stringer that supports the staircase, it will need to be cut in accurately.

The foot of the template should be a minimum of one going in length.

Making a template will allow you to offer it up and see if you are happy with the visual look before cutting the panel, it will also allow you to get a good tight fit, making sure the bottom is scribed to the floor.

Fitting the panels.

With the panel cut, it can now be offered up into place, to confirm it fits correctly.

The easiest way to joint the panel to the stringers, (illu’ 38) is to screw 1 or 2 battens (A) projecting down from the stringer, then the same again back up from the panel, (B) approximately 2mm 1/16″ away (illu’ 39) from the stringer battens (A) and on the higher pitch side, this will allow the panel to slide into place with the battens fitted.

A batten may also be fitted to the floor, (D) to prevent the bottom of the panel twisting during glueing.

This will also provide a clamping point while glueing the panel.

Drill clearance holes (C) through the panel battens, towards the stringer battens, Remove the panel apply glue to the mateing faces between the stringer and the panel, Put the panel in place, insert the screws (E) in to clearance holes (C) and tighten.

Then fit the last screws (F) to the battens to lock the battens into place.

With the panels in place, the staircase support can now be removed to allow room for working on the plaster bead and batten

Panel fixing batterns.
(illu’ 38) Panel fixing battens.
Battern spacing.
(illu’ 39) Batten spacing.
Plaster bead.

The last step in fitting the stringer panels, is to fit the plaster bead to the end face of the new panel, on many older stairs a 3/8″ 9mm bead was molded to the bottom of the stringer, (pic’ 2)

This will also look round from the underside.(pic’ 3)

This may have had a quirk line that may be seen from the side, (pic’ 4)

When this is the case a staff bead detail will have been molded on or applied, This will normally extend further under the stringer (pic’ 5) and the plaster will butt to the back of the bead.

The stringer will have been rebated out behind this bead to allow for the laths and plaster. (pic’ 6)

Modern techniques will use either plaster board on the straight sections or Expanding metal laths for the curves.

whichever finish you use, you will need to allow enough depth behind the bead, so that the skim coat finishes level with the bottom of the bead.

Dowel plaster bead side view.
(pic’ 2) Dowel plaster bead side view.
dowel plaster bead underside
(pic’ 3) Dowel plaster bead underside
Stringer staff bead side view.
(pic’ 4) Stringer staff bead side view.
Stringer staff bead underside.
(pic’ 5) Stringer staff bead underside.
Lath plaster.
(pic’ 6) Lath and plaster soffit.

Straight cut, panel bead.

The easiest way to replace this is to use a length of dowel and pin it onto the end face of the panel, level with the front face of the panel. (illu’ 40)

Straight plaster bead.
(illu’ 40) Straight plaster bead.
Curved panel plaster bead.

The curved panel will require a curved bead, there are three ways of creating this bead. (illu’ 41)


When the curve is soft you can use a length of dowel, this may bend and pin straight into place.

when this doesn’t work you can steam the dowel and bend it into place.


When your not set up for steaming, as the dowel is fairly small, you may get away with soaking the dowel in hot water and gently bending it, you may have to bend it a bit then soak it again and bend it some more untill you get the desired curve.

When bending in this way, it is best to over bend the dowel, hold it in that position while it dries, then fix it into place once dry.


Mold a piece of timber that has the correct curve cut into it.

This can be done by thicknessing a board to the depth of the bead, cut the mark the face curve of the panel onto the board, project this line forward the thickness of the bead, mold the edge of the board then cut along the panel mark line to sut the bead off from the board.

The bead may be molded onto the curve while making the panel , this will save making the bead afterwards.

Curved plaster bead.
(illu’ 41) Curved plaster bead.


Make good the soffit.

Straight cut face.

The next stage is to fix battens inside the stringers to take the plaster. (illu’ 42)

When the new stringer panel has a verticle face for the plaster it is just a case of fitting a batten to the inside of the stringer approxamatly 15mm 5/16″ back from the leading edge of the stringer bead.

On the wall side a timber may be fitted to the wall, this is to support the wall end of the battens, this will have its front face set back from the finish plaster line by, the plaster thickness + the batten thickness.

Soffit support battens straight.
(illu’ 42) Soffit support battens straight.

Curved stringer face.

To get the batten positions for the curved plaster line, a fake stringer with the same face curve cut as the landing stringer, may be set against the wall.

Then battens run between the pair, the battens should be set back 16mm 5/8″ from the plaster face, of the plaster bead, to allow for the plaster build up. (illu’ 43)

46MB filesize

Soffit support curved stringer.
(illu’ 43) Soffit support curved stringer.


Fitting the new handrail termination, newel and/or spindles.

Preparing the original handrail.

To find the cut position on the original fitted length of handrail.

Offer up the straight end of the new wreathing 90º bend, alongside the original handrail.

To aid in this stage, a flat piece of material may be clamped to the underside of the fitted length of handrail. (illu’ 44)

Being careful not to damage the top surface of the handrail with the clamp, this flat material should project enough to hold the new wreathing 90º.

Handrail set up temp support
(illu’ 44) Handrail set up temp support.
Determine cut position.

With a plumb bob, set centre of the handrail at the volute end 1/2 a spindles width back from the 1st riser face. (illu’ 45)

Make sure the new section of handrail is running with the bottom of the profile at the same pitch as the fitted handrail, any variation can result in incorrect marking for the cut position.

Plumb the handrail position.
(illu’ 45) Plumb the handrail position.
Mark the cut position.

With the Monkey’s tail joint set in the correct position, a cut mark can be drawn onto the original length of handrail.

Cut the handrail to length.

The best way I have found to achieve a good square cut, when the handrail is set in place, is to make a timber channel that is clamped over the handrail. (illu’ 46)

The channel should be a snug fit to the handrails width, so when clamped it will not move.

Cut the end of the block square, to guide the saw and use as a face to pass a sanding block across, to sand the jointing face of the handrail.

Using a piece of channel also avoids rounding the edge of the handrail and leaving a bevelled edge; that will show when fitting the new section of handrail.

When cutting the end off the handrail, leave a good 6mm 1/4″ of extra material on the handrail; as it is easy to trim the new part back a touch if to long when offered up to the new cut face.

Channel for cutting handrail.
(illu’ 46) Channel for cutting handrail.

Fitting the handrail and spindles.

Many handrails come with a kit for fitting them, this will include the dowels, fixing bolts and cross grain plugs to cover the bolts back in.

The spindles will need cutting to length, most of the cuts on a project like this will be staight cuts, either at pitch or horizontal, you may have two wreathing spindles to dress in.

When you have not fitted wreathing spindle before it may be worth ordering a couple of spares and use dummy sticks the same size as the spindles to practice on.

This last stage of fitting the handrail and spindles, can become involved so both of these stages deserve their own section.

I will be adding links here as soon as these are written.

Related articles.

Monkey's tail set over curtail tread ends.

Feature tread designs.

There are a number of different feature tread designs, many of these will make a nice addition to the start of your staircase.

Curtail tread ends with newel post and Monkeys' tails.

Monkey’s tail support.

There are two baisc options for how the Monkey’s tail is set over the feature tread curtail end.