In my new house these two rails:

wobbly low landing rails

are wobbly and feel unsafe. It seems to me that whatever I do to the existing pieces, they're always going to be rather unsafe—they're low (less than 3 feet high) and will always have a tendency to get wobbly rapidly, due to the one-ended way they're attached and the small area that's contacting the walls. .

I'd like to replace them with something sturdier—ideally something to which I'll then be able to attach a top-of-stairs baby gate.

My first problem is that I've been unable to even search for replacement items, because I'm at a loss for how to describe these top-of-stairs-sawn-off-stairwell-side-rail-ettes. Can anyone tell me what they're called, point me in the right direction to shop for replacements, and/or supply any further advice on how to construct something better in the limited space available?

  • The posts you're referring to are called "balusters"; the rail on top of them is just a handrail. Googling "anatomy of stairs" will turn up diagrams like site.stairwarehouse.com/over-the-post.jpg which also helps explain the other, uniquely-named stair parts. I don't have any advice on how to replace them; I'll leave that up to an answerer. Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 5:08
  • 1
    Yeah, those rail sections should terminate with "newel posts", which need to be securely anchored to framing below. They withstand a lot of torque.
    – isherwood
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 14:36
  • And the handrail that I see peeking out should extend to said newel post.
    – isherwood
    Commented Apr 27, 2017 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


With the limited space on the right side. Here's a couple ideas that may help you.

Buy or build yourself a pair of stair posts. If you choose to purchase, they come in all sorts of different sizes and designs.


Build a half wall or full wall on both sides. Lots of ideas bouncing around the Internet. Be creative.


If your house will always be occupied by sedate adults and slow seniors, then you should install newel posts or stub half-walls (per Doc306).

But if you have teenagers, or children who will become teenagers, then such half-measures will not survive. Teenage humans move quickly and will use any available handholds to change direction quickly. Posts and half-walls cantilevered from the floor and attached only at the bottom will inevitably be ripped out by these monsters as their strength and mass grows beyond their undeveloped wit.

In this case you should install sturdy poles attached at the top and bottom and designed to resist a quarter-ton of lateral stress in any direction. This will require cutting the flooring and most likely patching the ceiling.

less than handsome

The extra work and trouble of such an installation will save years of emotional stress, broken bones, and splintered railings.

  • nice... and these beautiful half-formed humans will indeed blame you (inadequate future strength needs assumptions) when they destroy your work. Best make it bulletproof. Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 5:48

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