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I'm constructing a banister for a loft. It's an area with three angled turns - labelled A, B, and C in this picture: area that needs banister

I know the conventional wisdom is that you need a newel post at every change in direction. But do I really need to do that? The banister we had previously had no posts of any kind at points B and C. It was just banister the whole way, and it looked like they used a nail gun to connect the banisters together at points B and C.

The more I think about it, the more it seems like I don't need newel posts at B or C. And once I convince myself of that, it seems like I don't need a newel post at A, either.

For the record, to left of point A where it starts to get black (at the edge of the photo), there's an extremely stable vertical floor-to-ceiling beam that I can anchor my banister to.

Edit: Someone asked what my banister looks like. Here's a picture of that: other banister section

  • Does your new design have spindles that reach the floor (either captured in a rail or set directly in)? Or does it have a bottom rail that hovers above the floor? Or something else entirely? – Aloysius Defenestrate Feb 23 '15 at 2:50
  • I'll update the post with a picture of the other sections of banister I've built so far. Basically, it's spindles screwed into a handrail at their top and set in (and glued in) to a 2x4 at their bottom. The 2x4 is then affixed to the floor. – dshapiro Feb 23 '15 at 3:20
  • Well, that looks pretty solid, so I'd consider skipping posts at B and C but not A. (Though only you can be the judge if it's solid enough when it's finally together.) I'd use a countertop connector at B and C for a good handrail joint. Maybe check out the "Quick-Adjust Countertop Connector" at Lee Valley... it's likely to make your life easier. – Aloysius Defenestrate Feb 23 '15 at 3:37
  • Rail bolts, should be used for the connections at all locations. You could shortcut and use nails. – Jack Feb 23 '15 at 6:23
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The handrail is primarily a safety device, so make sure you don't sacrifice that goal to save a little bit of work now.

Based on your description it doesn't sound like the spindles will really contribute much to the lateral (sideways) strength of the railing. So if you omit the intermediate posts you need to make sure the top rail is constructed with enough strength that the C shape is strong enough to support kids running into it it, elderly people supporting their weight, people leaning against it, etc.

I believe the IRC requires railings to be able to support a 200 lbs load at any point in any direction. If you think you can build the top railing with enough strength that someone can push on it with 200 lbs of force, go for it. Personally it seems like it would be a lot easier to add the extra posts.

  • Henry is correct on the force required. that is a lot of force, and I don't think you'll be able to do it just nailing on the spindles – Eric Gunnerson Feb 23 '15 at 5:37
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If that structure was Metal, I would definitely say that you don't need the posts at the mentioned points, The reason is that the metal will be welded to form a rigid C shape which would not have much torsion or flex.

With That in mind, The wood structure could be just as secure, dependant on how effective your section joints are. The strength of the structure is highly dependant on the strength of the joints in this case, since you are using the contours as a stabilising mechanism.

You will need to be mindful of the placement of your screws so that forces do not "pull" screws out, rather utilise the sheer strength whereby screws are placed through opposing forces.

Screws into the loft floor should be nice and deep, and well anchored but thats obvious.

If you feel that the joins are not secure enough, I would recommend metal gusset plates under each join.

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