Recently purchased a house and noticed some nails sticking out of the balusters on a staircase. They are pretty sharp so I'm worried about someone stepping up brushing their foot up against it.

What are my options for fixing this? Try to pull them and nail back in with new nails?

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18 gauge trim gun nails don't take well to nail sets, especially when they protrude that far. They bend too easily and you'll find yourself with more damage to the wood.

Grab them with a needle-nose pliers and bend them back and forth a few times. They'll break off. If you do this well they'll break below the surface and you can putty the holes. If not, now use a nail set to push the resulting stub in, then putty.

If you're looking for a stabilizing repair, I'd drill 3/8" horizontal holes 3/4" deep about 1" up from the bottom on one or more sides. I'd then pilot inside those holes for trim screws at a steep downward angle, into the floor. I'd then glue in 3/8" wood buttons to cap the larger holes. You could also use flush plugs.

  • Plus from me I did not notice they were brads until your post this is a great catch of crappy work ! +++ you need a + for a great spot, thanks . – Ed Beal Sep 5 '19 at 3:02
  • Thank you! Since they seem stable I will attempt to break them off and see how that goes. If there out far and I may try screws like Ed suggested. I appreciate the suggestions! – AroundPolandTravel Sep 5 '19 at 3:20

To me it looks like they have worked there way out so resetting them would have the problem returning faster each time. I would get some colored wood screws pull the nails and screw them down using the same holes. I suggest the colored screws but they could also be driven below the surface and wood putty used to cover the hole. EDIT, please give Isherwood credit for a great answer, I did not spot brad nails because I would never even think of them in this case. He spotted this and we agree that screws would be better, good eye +++ that’s what makes this site so great!...

  • Those are pretty obviously nails that were poorly shot to my eye. I've sent a few million trim nails home over the years and have seen exactly this many times. Also, it's unlikely that a little lateral jiggle in the balusters would back nails out vertically like that. I agree with your fix, though. – isherwood Sep 5 '19 at 1:41
  • @Ed Beal Would something like this for the screws? #8 x 1-1/2 in. Star Drive Trim-Head Finish/Trim Screw Also, is there a recommend length? Or maybe I could yank one of those nails out and order the same length. I also have some trim that needs to be fastened down better so I think I could use these too! – AroundPolandTravel Sep 5 '19 at 2:27
  • Well at first look I thought they were finishing nails but after more looks on a big screen agree with @isherwood in part and a + for his keen eye, brads are the wrong choice! With that said screws will hold better than brads Or finishing nails but gotta give -@isherwood a + for spotting a brad ( where no craftsman would use them) screws would be a better choice . Good eye Isherwood!!! – Ed Beal Sep 5 '19 at 2:59
  • Those look good and close to long enough, before Isherwood’s comments I would have suggested 3” but after a closer review I would pull one and measure it, my gun will shoot longer brads but a screw like you linked can be shorter and may be fine, + for understanding but it may not need to be as long as I thought after seeing his post. – Ed Beal Sep 5 '19 at 3:17

Nails can be punched below the surface with a punch.

But if they are the only fixing then you may need to improve that for strength.


In the short term you should look in the local hardware store for a nail set, which is a small steel tool designed to set finish nails below the surface. Ideally you would also get a pair of carpenters nippers or some other pliers to remove the nails that are too bent or protruding too far to hide. (Vice grips often work out well for that too, if you already have a set.)

In the long term you should have at least the balusters redone so that they're anchored with a dowel into the stair tread. I would combine that with a very long look at the rest of the railing to be certain it's code compliant and that the railing itself is attached to the walls with a bit more care than was taken here.

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