Skip to content

How to Build a Wooden Handrail

How to Build a Wooden Handrail

How to Build a Wooden Handrail

Wooden handrails can come in many shapes and sizes, and whether you are doing a small DIY job in your own home, or you are a long-time builder needing a quick refresher course, we can help you along the way to building a wooden handrail. We have a range of different wooden handrail options to choose from and a variety of ways for them to be installed, including heritage-style rails and more modern handrail alternatives. We will cover the most common ways to build a timber handrail such as wall mounting, floor mounting, and glass mounting.

Before you decide which wooden handrail to build, consider the area which you will be building in, and the specifications to what you will need to achieve. Decisions such as direction and pitch need to be considered when building a wooden handrail as you will need to factor in the bends and additional wall brackets needed to complete the handrail.

Related reading: Understanding Australian Handrail & Balustrade Standards
How to build a wall-mounted wooden handrail?

How to build a wall-mounted wooden handrail?

Wooden handrails are most often mounted to a wall using a metal handrail bracket. These brackets are available in a variety of different colours and materials, but are most commonly made from stainless steel or a powder-coated zinc alloy.

When building a wall-mounted wooden handrail, you will first need to decide on which way you would like to mount the handrail to the wall. There are a few different mounting techniques depending on the surface you intend to mount the wooden handrail to. For brick walls you will require a plug for the screws to go into the wall. For attaching the brackets to timber studs, timber screws will suffice.

Handrail brackets should never be attached to plasterboard, even when wall plugs are used, as plasterboard is not sturdy enough to support a handrail. In instances where plasterboard is your only fixing option, you will need to run a horizontal timber board between your studs and fix to that instead.

When choosing the wall mounted handrail brackets, you will also need to choose a handrail bracket that will be suitable to the profile of handrail you are looking to use as well as how far you want your handrail to come out from the wall. For flat-bottomed handrails, you will need to select a handrail bracket with a flat cradle on the bracket, while round handrails will need a curved cradle. It is also important to consider the diameter of your handrail when selecting a handrail bracket. For more information on which bracket may be the one for you, be sure to read our other blog to learn everything you will need to know about handrail brackets.

Types of wall-mounted handrail brackets

Three Screw Brackets

75mm Stainless Handrail Brackets - Flat Cradle (Satin)

The most common bracket to use is a wall-mounted bracket with three screw holes. This gives the handrail bracket plenty of fixing points, and is, therefore, the strongest option for fixing a handrail bracket to the studs within the wall. It can also be helpful if you are attempting to fix the handrail bracket to the edge of the stud. These brackets can also be used to fix a rail to a brick wall (using wall plug)

Single Screw Brackets

75mm HD Handrail Brackets (Satin Finish)

The other common form of wall brackets are single screw brackets. The Single Screw Wall Bracket is good for when you know where the stud is in your wall and when you want a concealed fixing and or flatter base plate. These brackets are good for brick as they only require one plug insert as opposed to three.

Where to Install Handrail Brackets?

If the bracket is going into a studded wall, you will need to use a stud finder to mark where you can drill into the wall to attach the brackets to the studs. However, if you are mounting the handrail to a brick wall, you can mount the brackets wherever you want.

The brackets will need to be 900mm to 1000mm apart so be sure to make your markings accordingly. Faintly mark a point along your guideline between 865mm and 125mm above the nose of the stair treads. These marks represent the location of the top edge of your handrail and not the final location on your bracket. Be sure to mark this lightly. The overall height of the rail is recommended to be 1m.

Align the top end of the handrail up against the pencil marks. Make new reference marks along the bottom of your handrail where it intersects the studs, indicating where your handrail will sit and where the top of your handrail brackets will be.

Attaching the Brackets

Position the top of your handrail brackets on the marked points along the wall and from here you can mark and pre-drill your holes. Make sure to line your handrail bracket up on the correct angle using the marks that represent both top & bottom as a guide. Once the handrail brackets have all been installed and set in the right position, you are ready to install the handrail.

Attaching the Handrail

To attach the timber handrail to the wall mounts, simply place your timber rail on top of the brackets, and attach it using timber screws which can be found at most hardware stores. To prevent splitting, you can pre-drill small pilot holes first. This is an important precaution to take if your handrail is made of a hardwood timber species.

For further information on how to install a wall-mounted handrail bracket, check out our quick guided blog post all about installing wall mounted handrail brackets.

How to build a floor-mounted timber handrail?

To build a floor-mounted timber handrail, you will require multiple floor-fastened, free-standing posts to run a handrail atop whilst maintaining a post spacing of 1.5m to ensure strength in the handrail. Floor-mounted timber handrail is most commonly achieved through the use of stainless steel posts with supportive cradles carrying the handrail from post to post.

Building a floor-mounted timber handrail can be achieved with a variety of different combinations. The most common form of floor-mounted timber handrail comes in the form of using free-standing stainless steel posts, and running handrail on top of the posts along the section from end to end. These setups require intermediate posts every 1.5m to support the handrail and prevent bowing in the handrail.

There are two different methods to installing the stainless steel posts for the floor-mounted timber handrail. The first being a prefabricated ready-to-use post with an attachable saddle which is suitable for horizontal and vertical handrailing at a set height of 960mm, while the second is assembling a post out of different stainless steel components for when you are after a different height of handrail. The most common is the prefabricated stainless steel posts however as these are the easier of the two to install.

Installing Timber Handrail on a Stainless Steel Post

These stainless steel posts will be positioned 1.5m apart in your section of railing. Once marked, the posts will need to be fastened to the ground. Due to the large number of surfaces that the post could be fixed to, we do not supply any fasteners. We suggest that you speak to a local hardware store for more information on which fasteners would be best suited to you.

Upon fastening the posts to the ground, you will then need to attach the appropriate saddle for your handrail and set it at the correct angle for your handrailing. Once this has been installed and set up, you can begin attaching your handrail to the brackets by using timber screws which can be sourced from local hardware stores.

How to build a glass-mounted wooden rail?

To build a glass-mounted wooden rail, you will need to place handrail brackets into marked positions anywhere from 900mm to 1500mm apart and mount the handrail brackets securely in the correct position and angle of the handrail. Once the brackets are attached, the handrail can be placed atop the handrail brackets and secured in place with timber screws.

Similarly to a wall-mounted wooden handrail, to build a glass-mounted wooden handrail, you will first need to have the holes or points marked in your glass for where the handrail brackets will be inserted. The required spacing between brackets depends a lot on the type of handrail and timber you use; but anywhere from 900 to 1500mm is a good guide.

To install the glass handrail brackets, the base of the bracket screws off, allowing the end of the bracket (18mm diameter) to fit into a hole that would need to be drilled into the glass. You would then screw the base back on until tight. To protect the glass, plastic rubbers are supplied with the bracket. Be sure to measure twice and drill once, as since this is glass, there are no do-overs. We recommend having these holes drilled by a professional glass cutter.

Once the brackets are mounted securely onto the glass, you can attach your handrail to the top of the handrail brackets and screw in with timber screws. These screws can be sourced from hardware stores.

How to attach a wooden handrail to a timber staircase?

There are several methods for attaching a wooden handrail to a timber staircase but the most common involves attaching a timber handrail to a timber post through a Zipbolt UT 11.550 Angled Railbolt. This Zipbolt connector is used for attaching angled handrail to a vertical stair post. The timber balusters will need to be installed first into the stairs before attaching the handrail to either end of the timber posts. The most common profiles used for this style of handrail are the heritage handrail (ladies waist), victorian handrail, prestige handrail, and the california handrail (hamptons style).

How do you finish a timber handrail?

To finish a timber handrail, you will need to decide what style/look you are wanting to achieve. The most common ways to finish a timber handrail include using end caps, return pieces, or leaving the end untouched and matching the pitch of the staircase. From this, the timber handrail can be stained, painted, or varnished.

There are a few different ways of finishing off your new timber handrail and they each have their own distinctive look which caters for different handrail styles. From attaching end caps and return pieces to leaving your handrail unfinished, there are several ways to finish off your new timber handrail.


When finishing off your handrailing, staining is a popular method of finishing off a timber handrail to give your timber a nice colouring. You can find many different stains at your local hardware store.


Painting is another popular method of finishing your timber handrail, and is especially popular with outdoor handrails. Paint will give your timber handrail an additional protective coat, which can help reduce sun exposure and wood rot.

Painting is also a fantastic solution for finger-jointed pine handrails, which can sometimes be a little unsightly when left unfinished.


If you are looking for a more natural wood look, but would like to protect your timber handrail, oil, varnish or oil might be for you! Which of these three products suits your handrail best ultimately boils down to the environment in which it is being installed. For instance, oil is more often used in external settings, while varnish and lacquer are more popular in interior settings.

End caps

Finishing off your timber handrail with an end cap finishes off the handrail nicely by giving it a complete look. Timber end caps provide a nice all timber look to the handrail and with the domed timber end cap, the handrail looks like a solid curved piece. End caps can also be found in a satin stainless or powder coated black finish in a flat or domed style which also helps the handrail tie into the finish of the handrail brackets.

Return pieces

A return piece can finish off a timber handrail in style and these can come in a few shapes and timbers. The most common is the 180 return pieces which provide a bit of flair and support to a timber handrail. These endings cap off a handrail nicely but are also disability friendly as they help users with visual impairments detect the end of the handrail. Other return and end pieces include volutes and post capitals.

Unfinished Look

The alternative look is to cut the handrail off on an angle and have it finish in the profile on the angle. This is surprisingly effective for every profile of handrail and looks great when the edges are slightly rounded to give the profile a soft finish.

Previous article The Future of American Oak: Availability of Set & Long Lengths
Next article How to install different kinds of post caps