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How to install iron balusters

Oh, friends! The day has come. The day to REVOLT against plain wooden balusters and jazz up your staircase with iron balusters.
Iron baluster staircase: before and after
In the last post, I showed you how to stain your wooden railings… and today we talk iron balusters. Glamorous, glamorous iron.

Like this.

Highland Park Architects & Designers

glossy railing
Lucy and Company

I’ll take one of these giant swirly staircases, installed in my foyer, please and thank you.
Edina General Contractors

We got lots of bids to have someone install these for us, they all came up at least $750-800. Price to do it ourselves? Around $150.

Y’all, this is a no-brainer:

It’s SO easy to do yourself. Just pocket that extra $600 or so and take yourself on a nice little weekend vacation, putting aside a little extra to send me some cookies as thank you. Chocolate chip please, and thanks in advance.

Materials Needed

  • Iron balusters (more on this in a sec)
  • Iron baluster shoes – an upper shoe and a lower shoe for each baluster (more on these too, in a second.)
  • Epoxy glue or hot glue
  • Any power tool with a metal cutting blade, like a jig saw (we use this one) or a reciprocating saw (this is the one we have.)
  • A drill with a bit like this
  • Amazon links take you to my affiliate shop.

1. Design your balusters

When you buy iron balusters, you have lots of options of baluster designs you can buy. Most companies have options like this:
Iron baluster options for stair railing


There’s a fun interactive tool on this site where you can play with different designs and decide what peels your banana.

Design is all personal taste. We went with a combo of swirly bars and straight bars with single or double “knuckles:”
Types of iron balusters

If I could do it again, I’d skip the scrolly balusters and go with a more simple baluster design, but as Henry David Thoreau says:

“To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

(Sometimes, decorating makes me overly dramatic, like a Shakespeare character shaking my fist at the sky and shouting at the moon.)

Yes, yes I did stop and google a quote about regret. That was just for you. No charge.

You should pick whatever kind of balusters you dig. You’ll also need baluster “shoes,” which are those little chunky parts at the top and bottom of our balusters. They’ll hide the old, larger holes where your wooden balusters used to live.
iron baluster shoe

Who wants to play a game? See if you can spy all the Spiderman socks that somehow made it into the photos throughout this tutorial. There was a very curious three-year-old observing this installation.

2. Buy Your Parts

You can buy the actual balusters at your local home improvement store (there’s usually a “stair parts” section with a few iron baluster options), or even on amazon. We ordered ours from a local place we found by googling around. They’re usually around $3-5 for a simple baluster, and you’d pay extra for the swirly pieces, and for each knuckle and shoe.

(As of the second I’m writing this, you can get 10 straight balusters together for only $3.60 each. That’s a great price. You’ll pay more for the more decorative ones, but definitely shop around for the best prices.)

3. Cut your balusters

Remove the old balusters (here’s how) and make sure there are no nails left in the railing. If there are, remove the nails with needlenose pliers. Then you’ll need to drill the holes in the railing a little deeper. This shows you how deep the holes are on our railings: approximately one man-pinky on the top and one or two man-finger-knuckles on the bottom. (We specialize in precision.)
How to install iron balusters: correct depth of railing holes
Essentially, you want to go pretty deep, but not so deep that you drill through the other end of the railing pretty please.

Andy used a block of wood to make a jig on his drill so he went same depth on all the lower railing holes.
How to install iron balusters: make a jig to drill a hole in the railing
Please note the emotional maturity required for me to restrain myself from making 6th-grade-boy-level jokes about drilling just the tip. *Ahem*

Now set your baluster in the lower railing hole and stand it up so you can mark a good length to cut it. You can just eyeball it, but you want the baluster to be long enough not to fall out of the railing, and not too long that you can’t stick it up into the top railing and set it down on the floor. Mark the length with a pencil or some-such device.
How to install iron balusters: cut the baluster to the right length
Then cut the baluster with a reciprocating saw or a jig saw that has a metal-cutting blade.

This little part is totally optional.

When we did this originally, Andy just held the baluster down with one hand and cut it with the other, but the saw made the baluster move all over the place, so it was tough. Make it easier on yourself and build a little jig to hold them in place while you cut them.

This is just a scrap piece of plywood, with two other scrap boards screwed in on top, exactly far enough apart to fit one baluster between them, and another board clamped on top to hold it in place while he cut it.
Jig to cut iron balusters
All that stuff is optional! The point is: use some kind of device to cut them to the right length. The end. Of this step.

4. Install!

Just stick the baluster right into the railing holes and set it down. How’s it look? Good, right? High five! If all is well, take it back out and thread the shoe(s) and/or knuckles onto the baluster, then put it back in the holes.
How to install iron balusters
The little shoes are still loose at this point, so hold them up out of the way while you glue the baluster in. And yes – you are just going to glue that bad boy right in place, with our best friend, hot glue. Put a little bit on the top end of the baluster and insert it into the railing on top, then set it down and glue the bottom too. Don’t be shy with the hot glue, friends!
How to install iron balusters: using hot glue for iron balusters
(By the way, if you read any “real” instructions on how to install iron balusters, they’ll say that you should use epoxy glue. But take it from me: you totally don’t need to. We found the epoxy glue to be messier and harder to use, plus it’s SCARILY PERMANENT. Once you use epoxy glue, you can NEVER undo this. Our balusters have been installed four or five years and all is still well with the hot glue.)

Just fill that hole with gobs and gobs of hot glue.
Tutorial to install iron balusters
Hold the baluster straight for the 4.2 seconds it takes the glue to dry, then just use an allen wrench to tighten the shoes and knuckles in place…

As long as you didn’t accidentally install the upper shoe backwards. Oops.
Installing iron baluster shoes
In which case, you’d BE SO GLAD YOU DIDN’T USE EPOXY GLUE! And you’d REWIND, take the baluster back out, fix the shoe and glue it all again. 🙂 THEN tighten the shoes with an allen wrench.
How to install iron baluster shoes
If you have any knuckles, same deal: just hold them in place and tighten the little screw with an allen wrench.
How to install iron baluster knuckles

And you’re done!

The way I wrote this makes it sound like there are a lot of steps, but it’s very simple and can be finished in a Saturday. Buy and cut your balusters, stick ’em in the railing, glue them, and tighten the shoes and/or knuckles into place. That’s all there is to it!

Install iron balusters to glam up your staircase! Surprisingly easy and inexpensive!

Have you ever installed iron balusters? How many spiderman socks did you count?

P.S.: I’m over at Pepper Design blog today sharing my top 3 design suggestions, inspirations and more. Swing by and say hi to Morgan for me – she has a brand new baby! (Awwwww.)

Let's connect


  1. I love that you used hot glue. Hot glue could save the world. Well, not really. But the sentiment goes with the overly dramatic Shakespeare fist-shaking thing, so.

  2. This makes me wish we had an open staircase just so I could add some fancy balusters to it!

  3. I only counted one Spiderman sock. I feel that I’ve failed somehow. : ) I can see why you might regret not going simpler, but I like the scrolly detail. This is so much easier than I ever thought it would be to change out balusters! Also, on the sixth-grade-boy-level thing, I just got a new computer and there’s this thing that came with it so you can plug a VGA cord into it. The thing is technically called a dongle. There have been so many jokes about that…

  4. I love how dramatic that change is! And you make it look so easy too!

  5. You = Genius

  6. i have to say i am really digging the inspiration with the black railings, too….

  7. Love, love, love your style. Decorating and writing.

  8. Inspiring! I never really thought about iron balusters before but now I will 🙂 And I know we will have plenty of spider man socks to count along the way with our two boys

  9. You are hilarious!!! Oh, and btw they look amazing!!!


  10. Funny, but everything old is new again. When we were younger everybody was taking out their iron balusters and replacing them with “simplier” wooden dowels. Looks great!!!

  11. Your staircase is so beautimus!! Your scrolly balusters are pretty! And if I had a dollar for every design choice I made and then regretted, I’d be a rich woman. But like you said, who wants to live like that?!! Good work Kelly! 🙂

  12. I really wasn’t sure about this when I saw the iron scroll work. I love wooden balusters. BUT when I saw that the components are all separate, that changed the whole game. I just painted all the woodwork in my hallway ( and my husband thought we might make a change to the mini railing sometime. This gives me ideas now!

  13. Kelly & Andy, what an amazing upgrade to your house to replace the balusters and restain the wood! It looks so great, and I love reading your tutorials. They make me laugh AND, bonus, they’re educational. Thanks for sharing!!!

  14. Amazing job!!! You guys make a great team!! XO, Erica

  15. It looks great!!! It’s amazing how much it updates the space! And who knew it was so easy to do it yourself?!?!

  16. The iron makes such a difference and looks so good!

  17. It looks lovely! Your posts on the staircase make me want to redo ours (add it to the list!)

  18. We totally hired someone to do this. DIY blogger fail. I was worried about the railings falling over on our two story walkway. 😛

  19. Hi Kelly,
    I’m new here and wanted to tell you that your blog is AWESOME!
    I’ve been exploring and I’ve learned a ton! I especially like your how to on making a cordless lamp!
    You’ve made my bookmark list. I’ll be back!
    Annie XO

  20. Thanks for this tutorial. Great project.

  21. Now, see, THIS is the sort of project even people who can’t yet get rid of their house full o’ orangey oak can tackle. maybe while they’re procrastinating about ripping carpet out of a bathroom or something 😉 Looks awesome!

  22. I have never gone as far as getting a quote to get ours done because it seemed to be surely out of our budget so I loved seeing this post . Then I counted our balusters – 115 total! Our cost to do it ourselves would be around $1,100 without any decorative balusters. Ugh! Still out of our budget right now. But, I’d hate to see what a contractor would charge…

  23. omg. “just the tip” I was like in tears laughing!

  24. Julia @cuckoo4design says:

    It looks like so much work but with a great result! (and you crack me up as usual)

  25. I can see why your quotes were so high…..this looks soooo hard! Can I just hire you to come over and do it for me?! Yours definitely turned out amazing!

  26. So you leave the top rail on??

  27. I love this makeover! My husband and I starting to put together some ideas for our (eventual) stair remodel. We have white floating stairs that are (poorly) tiled. Any ideas on how to remove installed iron balusters? Ours are painted white and they did not do a good job!

    • Wow, painted white? That sounds rough! But they might not be too tough to remove. You can use a saw like we did to cut them in half, then just try to pull them out of the holes. As long as the glue they used isn’t too crazy, they might come right out. But if they used any kind of really intense glue, you might need some chemicals to break down the glue.

  28. Wowza! Can’t believe you did that on your own. Impressive! But, is hot glue realllllllllly safe for this project? If someone falls and leans/lands hard on one of those spindles is it just going to give way? Or are spindles not for safety just for looks?

    • No, the hot glue just keeps each baluster from spinning, but each spindle is stuck up into the top railing and down into a hole in the stairs, so the iron would actually have to break in order to give way. The glue has nothing to do with the safety of the railings. Hope that makes sense! 🙂

      • So how did you get the iron baluster into the holes since they clearly do not bend or flex. That is the part I haven’t understood. It would seem if they were short enough to slide in easily that they would fall out at some point and not be strong enough to hold but if they are long enough to go into both the top and bottom holes is seems that you would need to remove the railing first to fit them in. What am I missing? I really want to try this project!

        • You have to drill the hole up into the top railing pretty deep, then you slide the baluster up into that hole and set it down into the bottom hole. It’s a very tight fit to get it to slide into the bottom hole, then there’s enough extra railing at the top so there’s no chance of it coming out of both holes. It’s really hard to explain. 🙂 It’s nowhere near close to coming out… I hope this helps at least a little bit?

  29. Just spent a solid 20 minutes going over your stair makeover! Love the materials and colors you selected. Since the layout of my foyer is eerily similar to yours I can envision making a weekend job out of adapting your stairwell to give mine a facelift! Thanks for the great directions!

  30. I can find the balusters for $3-4. Can u help. I want them plain or w a twist

  31. Wow! Great tutorial, great project & very entertaining writing. I pinned this & I’d love to tackle it. . . someday!

    Warmly, Michelle

  32. Andrew Chadwick says:

    I love how you explain everything. I am going to help a friend do his stairway and you gave me a lot of tips. However i am still stuck on a part. The new iron balusters we have are skinnier than the holes made by the old wood balusters. Will the hot glue be enough to fill in the extra space and prevent the balusters from moving around inside the hole?

    • Ours are skinnier too and the hot glue is holding fine. If it doesn’t feel sturdy, you could always go for epoxy.

      • Thunderchief says:

        I am in mid project with 83 balusters. My supply folks said an alternate to Epoxy which is a mess is the Locktite Adhesive that is marked 8X stronger than standard. I am just a little Leary of hot glue holding up. I am using a 10″ chop saw with a metal cut-off wheel for my cuts.
        One more trick, I cut a baluster too short, I stuck a wooden dowel snug-fit into the bottom. The construction adhesive should hold that pretty darn well. It was an alternative to ditching the entire baluster. The shoe covers the extension. No one but you will know about it.

    • I would think that if the baluster holes for the wood spindles are too large, you could glue in dowels to plug the holes then drill the correct size hole. The shoe would then cover it.

  33. Hi! Your blog about your balusters is helping me, so thank you! I am in the middle of replacing mine. I am having a hard time drilling the holes deeper but your suggestion of the drill bit will help a lot. I do have a question about the glue…did you put the glue into the top and bottom? Mine are fitting pretty tight up top and then I’m concerned about it dripping down. So, I’m wondering if it would be secure enough to just apply the hot glue at the bottom. Thank you for any help!

    • I bet if it’s fitting securely already, you’re probably fine to just skip gluing the top and glue the bottom only. Good luck!

  34. WOW! Thank you, thank you, thank you for this tutorial! I’m buying a home with balusters that are too far apart to be safe for my young child – this will help me install extra balusters to make it safe and attractive at the same time!

  35. What end of the iron baluster did you cut? I’ve been told to always cut the bottom end…never the top. Btw I love your staircase I just ordered my balusters today!:)

  36. Since you just used the same spacing as the old wooden balusters…..I’m guessing your 1/2″ wide balusters cause you to have more that 4″ between each one?

    That’s the problem I’m running into. Instead of 2 balusters per tread (wood ones that are 1-1/2″ wide), I need to make them 3 per tread to comply with the 4″ building code.

    Not as easy as you make it look here…..that’s for sure.

    • It may be that your building code is different from mine. My dad is a home inspector and he never said that we’d have to change the spacing to comply with code. Good luck.

  37. Your steps are flat and my base is at an angle. Does that make a difference??

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  39. Wow! Nice process for iron balusters installation…Very much helpful…..

  40. I loved this!!!! Thank you!!

  41. Great tips! Extremely helpful!!!

  42. Hello there, just asking for some help on installing iron balusters. My stair hand rail has a metal bracket under it. The wooden spindles are screws on the bracket from the top. Do I or Can I drill holes into the wrought iron balusters to screw them onto the hand rail metal bracket?

    Any help would be appreciated thanks.

    • Hi Tony, I’m not completely sure I’m picturing it right, but even if I was, we’ve only had experience doing it this way, so I’d be hesitant to say for sure whether it would work without having done it myself.

    • Hi Tony,

      There are two ways you can do that:
      FIRST method:
      1) cut your balusters under angle to match the angle of metal bracket.
      2) drill the hole (will be difficult because cut is under angle, use of wisegrip is highly recommended);
      3) cut the thread in this hole and fasten now balusters to metal bracket;
      SECOND method:
      Widen up existing hole in metal bracket so the baluster can go through it and then just do everything as it was posted on this page.

      Hope this helps,


  43. I used hot glue originally when I installed railings, but after a few times of them spinning out of place, I purchased epoxy. When I originally purchased the balusters, I called about shipping, and they offered a baluster they had excess inventory on which happened to be the one I wanted. They were really helpful in getting me the products, and this tutorial was helpful with the installation.

  44. Thank you for the step by step tips! Super helpful 🙂

  45. Hey this is cool. I was preparing to strip my golden oak railings and balusters, stain the railings and posts java and then paint my balusters white….but now I’m thinking the metal balusters would look way better and this seems like a boat load less work. Thanks!

  46. I am so glad I googled “iron stair railings DIY” and found this! I have been wanting the iron railings just like you have for years, our wood is already dark and I like that part, so we don’t even have to stain it, just remove the ugly wood balusters! My husband hates to spend money on things we can do ourselves and this makes me more confident we actually can do it. Thank you!

  47. You are a great teacher, picked up nice tips from your website. Keep up the good work, you make things seems easier and definitely boost DIY confidence.
    It took me 2.5 days to finish my project. I wanted each baluster to fit snug tight and took my time in making precise measurements. I used 14 in. 3-1/2 HP Heavy Duty Cut-Off Saw from Chicago Electric (cost me $100) worked out great. Mixed different style 3/4inch balusters in my design in Oil Rubber Copper color. Super end results. Only thing left is to glue/epoxy them in place. Thank you for your helpful website.

    Installed 160 metal balusters with base shoes. shoes does not have a set screws. Balusters are pretty tight fit. Can I use sealant (window/door/trim sealant – DAP 100% waterproof sealant) silicon tube instead of hot glue or epoxy? i,e. black sealant to fill in the top and bottom holes and translucent silicon to secure base shoe from danging and making noise. Do you think silicon will last and secure baluster from moving/rotating and stop clinking noise between shoes and balusters?

  48. Gordon Illan says:

    Nice. Should we worry about aligning the design elements along a straight line? Or will they align automatically if we cut all of them at the bottom? Will that alignment line be at the vertical middle of the top edge of the rail and the line connecting the leading edges of the steps?

  49. Jennifer says:

    I am in the middle of an entire stairway reno. As one reader mentioned my curved bannister has a metal filet which the original wood spindles screwed into. Any ideas on how to attach iron spindles by using the metal filet? Would hollow spindles work somehow?

  50. We love the colors and designs you picked out! You’ve got an eye for iron. Custom iron work really makes a dramatic difference when it comes to home upgrades. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  51. Can you link us to where you purchase your wrought iron balusters? I ask only because many of the sites I am looking at do NOT provide the shoe that has the setscrew on it. I would prefer the ones that use setscrews rather than using epoxy to keep the shoe in place, mainly because if we need to replace a baluster I don’t end up junking the shoe as well… it can simply be undone and removed.


  52. Great tips and beautiful page. I especially liked the saw fixture.

  53. I would imagine that if your baluster has some type of twist or permanent feature, you’d probably have to cut half off the top and bottom to get it in the correct location rather than all of it from the top or the bottom.

  54. Great instructions. actually browsing to find out how to attach wood pointed spindles when I came across your site. Is there any place where you can purchase wrought iron for close to price of wood spindles. I need 146

  55. Dustin Soul says:

    Yes being brave is a modest attempt at being a man when your fighting dragons and drunks but to tackle cutting in square spindles into a stair case handrail with out using the knuckle to hide the underside of the cut into the upper handrail is really being the man of all men who consider themselves above the home depot types.

  56. Your instructions were on point and the Hot Glue works perfect and secures it just find. Yes I also had one time if we would have used epoxy or something more permanent I would have been in trouble.

  57. I found that using a 4 ” angle grider works best for cutting the balusters. Using a metal cut off blade I am able to make many cuts without replacing the blade. Plus you can grind down any rough areas after the cut. I tried the jig saw and miter saw and went through many blade with not so great results.

  58. I could SERIOUSLY use your help! I purchased my iron balusters online and they arrived this evening. Needless to say, I am SUPER excited to get these installed! So excited, I started removing the old ones last weekend! Problem: the bottom spindle was screwed in and there’s no hole. I can’t drill a new hole because of the screw sticking through the bottom board. Got any creative ideas on how I can remedy this without taking the whole darn thing apart? The railings are on half walls.

    • I had the same issue. I got a hole punch, (bought at any Home Depot or Lowes) and smacked the screw right back down to where they screwed it up through. They had done this prior to putting up the sheet rock, so I had no other access to remove that darn screw! This worked for me. I did break a few spade bits before I started using the hole punch.


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