Anchoring a Newel Post?
Issue: Issue 283
Posted Date: 9/6/2011
I want to replace an existing
handrail and newel post. I have all the papers. It appears that the
existing newel post is secured to floor joist. I have no access to
the the joist. What is the best way to anchor the new newel post? I
probably will saw the old one off even with the floor. - Bob Howell
Rob Johnstone: Without knowing
how your newel is constructed, this is a bit hard to answer: There
are a couple of ways to anchor newel posts. One is to use
construction adhesive combined with screwing it to the floor.
Pre-drill holes for the screws into the base of the newel, then
secure it in place. Hide the screw holes with some decorative
Another way is to mount threaded
inserts in the surface where you will mount the newel. When you make
your newel post, leave the center open and feed threaded rod up the
length of the newel. Have a hidden surface inside the top of the
newel where you can use nuts with washers to tighten the post down.
Then complete (or glue on) the top of the newel on-site.
Tim Inman: The original newel is
anchored into the joists for a reason. Not only is a newel post
decorative, and a convenient terminal for the balustrade, it provides
safety and strength to help prevent an accidental "overboard"
fall. I don't know if you're old enough to remember watching cheap
spaghetti westerns on Sunday mornings, but if you are, then you
remember the balcony balustrade falling apart like toothpicks when
the bad guys got into a fight and pushed each other over/through it.
You don't want that happening in your real-life home.
There are some very effective rehab
mounting hardware kits on the market (Rockler carries some of these).
Essentially, they allow you to do what Rob is suggesting. Screw the
anchor bolts into rock solid framing members (not just the
floorboards!). Then, the newel or balusters can be screwed down onto
the anchors. When it is all said and done, the “How'd they do
that?'” question becomes quite a hidden mystery.
We built an addition to a pre-Civil War
staircase and balustrade a while back for an historic Underground
Railroad home. We custom turned all the parts, so we had an
advantage. For that project, we made the newel posts in two pieces.
The lower piece was cut with a 3-inch X 3-inch deep socket mortised
in it. We were able to drill and anchor that part to the floor joists
securely. Then, the top piece had a matching 3-inch tenon that fit
into the socket mortise. We set the pieces together with epoxy glue,
so they are now one part, for all practical purposes. If you are
custom turning your own parts, consider this two-piece approach. It
works like a charm, and is very reliably strong - and pretty easy to
do. Setting bolts through the center of the newel and hiding them
under the newel cap is another option, as Rob suggests.
Whatever you do, be safe. Having a
nice-looking balustrade is one thing. Protecting someone from a fall
is the real thing. Strength is a requirement, not a goal. Could a big
man (me) stumble and fall against your new balustrade and not go
through it like a cheap Sunday Western actor? Would you be confident
that your balustrade would stop you from falling over it in the event
of a trip or stumble? Could your grandkids climb on the banister and
leave you smiling instead of panicky? You get the idea. Be safe.
Chris Marshall: As Rob and Tim
are suggesting, I would definitely err on the side of overbuilding
this connection. It should be structural. If I were attaching that
newel post, I would still try to figure out a way to gain access to a
floor joist for attaching the replacement. My wife has accused me of
overbuilding many times, but I have yet to see the drawback of doing
so--heaven forbid someone taking a fall as a result of my efforts!
Repair it right the first time and you'll never regret it later.