How to Tighten a Loose Banister Spindle

By Robert Kingsley

Your stair spindles, or balusters, are the thin wooden pieces that support the handrail. Over the years they can be bumped, knocked and jostled enough to become loose. Once they start wobbling, they are liable to break, so fixing them should be a top priority. You can repair a loose spindle using screws and nails, wooden shims or sometimes just wood glue. Whichever method you choose, your finished product will be a firm spindle that properly supports your handrail.

List of Items Needed

  • Wood glue
  • Glue syringe
  • Paint scraper
  • Cat's paw (pry bar)
  • Hammer
  • Nail set
  • Finishing nails
  • Wood screw
  • Shim stock

    Nails and Screws

  1. Hammer two finishing nails through the top of your spindle into the bottom of the handrail. Place a nail set on the head of each nail and hit it with a hammer to drive the nail below the surface of the spindle. This will secure the top of the spindle. Fill the holes with wood putty and paint to hide your work.

  2. Gently work a paint scraper into the joint of the return, which is a small piece of wood on the edge of the tread that your spindle is attached to. Once loose, use your cat's paw, which is a small pry bar, to gently pry off the piece of wood to reveal the mortise and tenon joint on the bottom of the spindle.

  3. Drill a pilot hole smaller than the diameter of your wood screw through the tenon, which protrudes from the bottom of the spindle. Drive a screw through the pilot hole to secure the bottom of the spindle to the tread. Replace the return to hide your work.

    Wood Shim

  1. Wiggle the spindle to view the size of the gap between the top sides of the spindle and the hole it's recessed into on the bottom of the handrail.

  2. Find a piece of shim stock that is about the right size and wedge it into the gap until it is a tight fit. Once the shim is securely in place, mark it using a pencil where it sticks out of the hole. Remove the shim.

  3. Cut the shim along your line using a handheld cutting tool or rotary tool.

  4. Apply glue to the top and bottom of the shim and wedge it back into the gap in the top of the spindle. Use a damp cloth to wipe off excess glue from around the joint.

  5. Wait for the glue to dry. Apply wood putty to fill in any remaining gaps and paint to hide your work.

    Wood Glue

  1. Fill a glue syringe with wood glue.

  2. Align the tip of your syringe with the gap between the top sides of the spindle and the sides of the hole in the handrail that it's recessed into. Press the plunger to squeeze glue into the gap until it is full.

  3. Repeat the process with the gap at the bottom of the spindle.

  4. Leave the spindle untouched for as long as the glue takes to cure. Follow the manufacturer's recommendation for the duration. Once dry, your spindle will be firm again.

Tips and Warnings

  • If your spindle is too damaged to repair with these methods, you may need to remove it and replace it with a new spindle.

© Demand Media 2011