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stair handrail

Home Improvement

Handrail DIY: Galvanized Pipe

Our old farmhouse was built around 1900 – when people were apparently very skinny (our stairway is only 33″ wide) and short.  The staircase is so narrow that it left us stumped for the last few years on how to add a handrail to bring it up to code, and more recently to make sure neither of us took a tumble with the baby.

Then I saw this photo on pinterest and was SO inspired:


Source: Houzz

Since we live in an older farmhouse, we like to use a combination of aged wood, tile/stone, and different metals in our decor.  It gives the home a rustic feel, and fits with the age and style of our house.  So a metal handrail felt like the perfect choice, and would also sit much closer to the wall than a traditional handrail.  We didn’t have a ton of room to work with here, so this was the perfect choice.  Not to mention, inexpensive!

Materials List:
3 Galvanized Floor Flanges (1″ Diameter)
2 60″ Galvanized Steel Pipes (1″ Diameter)
1 Tee Fitting (1″ Diameter)
2 90 degree Elbow Fitting (1″ Diameter)
3 Pipe Nipple Fitting (1″ Diameter)
2 cans of Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze Spray Paint

The first step is to measure where you want to hang your railing.  To follow our local building code, the rail needed to be mounted 34-38″ above the front edge of the stairs.  We decided on going right in the middle, at 36″.

First, we used some Goo Gone to remove any stickers on the pipes.  Next, it was time to assemble.  We did the attachments first.  Thread your tee fitting into a pipe nipple fitting, which then threads into the floor flange – this will be the middle.  For the two ends, thread your 90 degree elbow fitting into a pipe nipple fitting, then into a floor flange.

Second, screw in your galvanized pipes in between the fittings.  At this point you should take your assembled rail and dry fit it on the wall to make sure that all threads are equidistant from the wall.  We learned that the middle tee fitting needed a little more tightening during this step, so don’t skip it!  Use a pair of channel locks to tighten everything until it looks even.

Third, we wanted an oil-rubbed bronze finish for this handrail, so it was time to paint!  We used rustoleum oil rubbed bronze and did two coats.  It leaves such a nice finish!

This is Kyle.  He also helped on our Pottery Barn Bed project. Hi, Kyle!

Finally, we hung it!  This is a two person job as the entire railing assembled weighs over 20 lbs., so you’ll need some extra hands to stabilize while one person hangs it.  Since we live in an old house with non-standard stud spacing, the flanges didn’t match up exactly to a stud.  To work around this, we had to use drywall anchors at two of the three attachment points.  I was fortunate enough to have a load bearing wall at the bottom of my stairs which guaranteed a solid anchor point.  One end was held there while Kyle went up the stairs to hold the opposite end.

As it worked out, it was the perfect length! One end butted up against the window sill perfectly.  I’m not going to lie, installing a railing on plaster and lath walls took some finesse, but it was worth the effort.

Here is the finished product.  Rustic, eclectic, safe, and perfect for this little old farmhouse.

Smied Watermark