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One of the connections (for lack of better term) on the handrail along the stairs to the second floor came loose - it's actually fully detached from the upper part.

Detached stair railing

Detached stair railing

Detached stair railing

Here is a look at the full assembly of the specific handrail block:

Full handrail assembly

Full handrail assembly

Looking in between the "components" I do not see any bolts or nails - looks like it was previously just glued together (you can see bits of glue in the last picture), which clearly didn't hold well.

What's the best way to fix this without radical surgery? Should I use PL Premium adhesive to attach them back together?

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    Since ia stair is safety equipment, I would go with an angle bracket underneath fastened with serious screws. That way, future repairs are also possible. Construction adhesive is impressive stuff, but this is not what it's intended for.
    – keshlam
    Jul 19, 2023 at 18:13
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    @keshlam, angle brackets are not the solution here unless you want a barn repair look. I almost never use those for anything. There's almost always a better way.
    – isherwood
    Jul 19, 2023 at 21:10

2 Answers 2

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This is a tough situation since you'd be in for a pound if you went in for a penny. Everything is interconnected and somewhat land-locked, so to speak. Given that you probably don't want to pull any threads you don't have to, here's what I think I'd do. Re-glue the joint, then add a screw for support.

  1. Spread the joint a bit. You should be able to get at least half an inch with the flex in the two newels. Stick some sort of spacer in there to keep it apart, down low where you won't risk damaging the point of the miter. That's the critical area from an aesthetic standpoint.

  2. Grind the existing glue off the surface. While taking great pains to not affect the perimeter of either piece, use a rotary tool or similar to get to bare wood over as much of the area as you can. You want raw, porous wood for a good repair bond.

  3. Check the fit. Clean up any remaining bumps so it's nice and tight. You have to work with whatever the original miter was, but clean up the glue and any wood bumps inside the miter.

  4. Coat both faces of the miter with high-quality wood glue. You want a fairly heavy coat, not just moisture on the surface. Protect the area below from drips and wipe anything up with a damp cloth before it dries.

  5. Lock it together precisely. It looks like a few straps of heavy tape from just down the slope from the miter to halfway down the newel would be a good angle. Pull it tight and use multiple layers. Once you have some tension on it, move it as needed so that top corner is dead on. Wood glue has strong initial grab, but you can bump it around for a few minutes at least.

  6. Wipe away all glue drip well. Use a clean cloth to finish. Keep an eye on it for the next hour, because if the bottom of the miter is open more than the top it'll continue to drip.

  7. Keep all hands off the railing for at least 4 hours. Movement will loosen and spread the joint.

  8. Run a trim-head screw in on the side opposite the stairs, below the top roll of the profile where it's hidden. This will need to be at least 2½" long and should go in at about a 30° angle from parallel with the side. It should split the angle of the miter. This will add substantial shear strength and hopefully prevent recurrence of the broken bond. The image below shows the location I'm describing, but do this on the opposite side where it'll be less conspicuous. There will be a fairly long hole to fill.

  9. Putty and polish as needed.

enter image description here

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  • Thank you for a thorough breakdown - this is exactly what I will be doing here.
    – Den
    Jul 20, 2023 at 1:04
  • That's a good idea; I would also consider using a Dremel or oscillating tool to cut a slot across the bottom of the hand rail, and epoxy a metal "biscuit" into it. This will help the ends of the railing resist lateral forces pushing it apart in the future. To get a little extra help you could drill holes at the ends of the slot and round over the ends of your metal biscuit to fit the holes.
    – Huesmann
    Jul 20, 2023 at 13:03
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    I wouldn't use any sort of powered grinding tool, as you're likely as not to gouge out wood that you need for a good glue joint. Instead, use a sharp chisel to scrape the glue out and smooth away any bits of wood that may be stuck to the wrong surface, then give it a light scuff sanding to give the glue a good "tooth" to bite into. Otherwise 100% agree and +1 from me.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 20, 2023 at 13:13
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    @FreeMan, maybe, but whacking a chisel in a tight area is an advanced skill. You're likely to damage the outer surface of the rail in the process with tearout. I'd rely on grinding first if I was a novice. Wood glue does have some filler capability.
    – isherwood
    Jul 20, 2023 at 13:14
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    A sharp chisel can simply be pushed and doesn't need to be whacked. ;) I think that the screw suggested in the answer will do as much as the biscuit suggested in the comments and will be 100x easier to install.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 20, 2023 at 13:27
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What you are looking for is called a rail bolt connector. It's sold at hardware stores. It's normally used to connect rails to newel posts.

It has a lag bolt on one end and a carriage bolt at the other. You make a hole under the rail and tighten a nut.

You only need to move the rails a little bit side by side so that you can see the center of the rail and drill one home in each. This is a purpose-made hardware exactly for this purpose. The kit comes with instructions and even a wooden plug for the hole you made underneath the rail. I have tried several brands, and they are all the same, including those sold at big box stores. I think last time I ordered one by mail.

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    That would require disassembling the entire railing on both sides of the joint. It also leaves a huge hole, apparently. That's not ideal.
    – isherwood
    Jul 19, 2023 at 21:08
  • Interesting - in theory, this is exactly what I need here, but seems like I would need to take apart the handrail to be able to properly install it. Seems like the initial construction folks didn't bother to do it somehow and instead glued it?
    – Den
    Jul 19, 2023 at 21:09
  • You only need to move them side by side so that you can see the center of the rail and drill. This is a purpose-made hardware exactly for this purpose. The kit comes with instructions and even a plug for the hole you made underneath the rail. It does not depend on a single thin screw holding on.
    – Cheery
    Jul 20, 2023 at 7:36
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    Maybe I don't understand. How do you get both rails on the same bolt without lengthwise separation? A photo or product link might help.
    – isherwood
    Jul 20, 2023 at 13:12
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    @Cheery looking at the instructions, that would require full disassembly of the railing to make sure that you can drill the respective holes, and then drill underneath the railing for the tightening bolt.
    – Den
    Jul 20, 2023 at 17:40

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