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My stairs bannister are made of small wood posts nailed to the ramp. The whole thing have always been quite fragile. After 10 years, a couple posts came loose and most show a gap between the posts and ramp.

I know how to use a screwdriver and screw, but I've never done any woodworking with nails. I only have basic equipment (hammer, various screws, screwdriver).

  • What would be the simplest fix?
  • What nails do I need?
  • What tools should I use to solidify the whole ramp?

Rail view Rail closeup

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Those wooden circles are plugs that will pry out of the holes in the balusters. Under that would be a pre-drilled hole for a screw (typically). I would have never used nails on this in the first place.

The correct fix is going to be to remove the nails and replace them with screws that fit into the existing holes snugly. If there is really just a nail hole, you may want to pre-drill a larger hole (sized appropriately for the screws you choose) and then drive in screws. An electric driver is going to be the best for this unless you only have a few to repair. A manual screw driver is going to get tiring and hard to use very quickly.

Once they are screwed into place, the wooden plugs can be tapped (maybe with some glue) back into place.

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    If the wooden plugs are already glued in place, will that make it a problem to remove without damaging them? – David K Mar 25 at 14:13
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    It depends on what kind of glue and how old it is. A heat gun might help release it, but sometimes a good sharp blow will crack the glue joint. If they are stubborn, those "mushroom cap" hole plugs are pretty common. I know they sell small packs of them at home stores in the US (not sure where you are). If there is such a place, start on a less visible area. – JPhi1618 Mar 25 at 14:18
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    @DavidK They will likely be damaged a little, but they are cheap to replace if you can make the new ones look like the old ones. To minimize damage, use a piece of cloth and attempt to tap the narrow edge with a hammer to break the glue hold and follow up with pillars while still using the protective cloth. – Jammin4CO Mar 25 at 14:19
  • @Jammin4CO And even if you can't match them, you could make it an accent e.g. use walnut plugs. – JimmyJames Mar 25 at 20:25
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A few tips on this, in addition to JPhi's answer

  1. The plugs shouldn't be glued in. They're tapered so they can be tapped into the hole and pried back out. I keep a narrow head flat screwdriver (like this one) for this reason. Tap your narrow head (using a hammer) against the bottom of the plug and you should be able pry it out. Even if it causes damage to the wood, it will be minimal and somewhat obscured.
  2. They used cheap penny nails to secure the railing. It's not surprising it failed (especially if you have kids, who will shake the tar out of that rail). Screws are the gold standard here, as they are far less prone to pulling out. They've finally become popular thanks to the wide availability of power screwdrivers and drills.
  3. There's only one attachment point per rail. If I were you, I'd want two. It would better secure the rails so they never come out again. Bad news is that means drilling more holes, but the wood plugs should be readily available for purchase. You might need to remove the rails to add new pocket holes as well.
  • One thing to add is that the the length/size of the screw is pretty important here. You want to get as much bit as possible without coming through the other side. That will be much more difficult to repair. There are lots of screws to choose from. – JimmyJames Mar 25 at 20:28
  • @JimmyJames Yeah, I'm estimating that rail is half an inch thick. That's why I would want more than one screw holding it on. Not much to bite to – Machavity Mar 25 at 20:29
  • Agreed. I think I like 2 or 3 smaller diameter screws here over one larger one. @Jeffery: Use 1/16th drill bit pilot holes to prevent the bit from wandering if you go this route. A counter-sink drill bit may also be worth the investment. – JimmyJames Mar 25 at 20:47

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