I never thought I’d be so excited to tell you that I installed spindles (aka balusters) in my upstairs hallway last month. It’s been a long time coming and I’m pretty stoked! You’d think with all my excitement I would have written a post sooner, but no, I’ve been totally distracted with the kitchen and guest bathroom projects. But anyway here it is all finished. Just wait until you hear about the ridiculously long road to get here…
It took me over a year to finish the project start to finish. And I use “finish” loosely because really the spindles still need to be painted, but whatever, they’re white and I’ve moved on. Yes, it’s really been a year! I took the carpet out last March and we lived with plywood and furry bottom spindles for many many months.
To clarify, there was nothing wrong with the spindles, the issue was the flooring under the spindles. The Bruce hardwood is 3/4″ and sits up above the wood the spindles are attached to. Let me tell you why it took so long to fix…
Plan A –
I was going to remove the spindles, replace the wood underneath and raise it up 3/4″ to be even with hardwood. So I ordered two pieces of stair nose molding from Home Depot online to match the Bruce Saddle Oak floor I had already purchased because they don’t sell the trim pieces in the store. When it arrived it was not the same profile as the online picture.
The pieces I received had no overhang at the bullnose end, the entire piece was flat at the bottom. When I returned it to the store they called Armstrong and confirmed that the profile I wanted (and what was pictured online) does not exist. Of course it doesn’t. 🙁
Plan B –
I thought I’d try the easy route next, so I ordered two pieces of this reducer molding. I planned to leave the spindles in place and blend the new height of hardwood with old height by using the reducers.
Yay! It will be so much easier to leave the spindles in place. All I have to do is stain the existing wood under the spindles to match the hardwood. I already had stain that matched perfectly, because I used it on the stair treads and landing when I refinished those. So I got to work staining the wood and patching the drywall underneath so I wouldn’t have to use any trim pieces.
The stain looked terrible and I hated the look of the reducers once they arrived. My friend Shari gave it the thumbs down too. So back they went to Home Depot.
Plan C –
What if I remove the spindles, raise the existing piece of wood to the new floor height, and re-stain it because it looked terrible when I tried to stain it in place. I was now confident I could reuse the bull nose pieces of wood that the spindles were already attached to. I had done the same thing for the top step and it looked great. Hubby was home for a snow day, so we sawed the spindles across the bottom, carefully preserving each one so they could be re-installed later.
We were out of stain, so hubby went to Lowe’s to pick up some more of the perfect matching color Rustoleum stain in American Walnut. The container had been updated since I purchased the last one. But the picture and name were the same. So I stained the bull nose. But guess what? The color was nowhere near the same!!! And this is when I started to lose my mind. I tried two other stains and none were a match, so it was back to the drawing board.
Plan D –
So it was back to replacing the bull nose with Bruce molding at the same height as the hardwood. I ordered a different bull nose molding from Home Depot online and waited anxiously while my kids navigated the upstairs hallway without any spindles. Good thing I didn’t take out the smaller section of spindles because there is a straight drop to down stairs on that side.
While I waited for the molding to arrive I painted the spindles to get them ready to re-install. But when it arrived it was the wrong color! But is was the profile shown in the original stair nose picture. Grrh! So back it went to the store. Guess what? I ended up ordering the same molding I had originally ordered because it was the best fit and I figured I’d make it work. So we went another week without spindles, but by now my kids were totally used to it. The 4th time is a charm!
All this work and I still didn’t get to the spindles yet! To install the Bruce bull nose I used a combination of wood lattice molding in different thicknesses to achieve the correct height. Some spots had two thin pieces, some two thicker, some spots had one of each. Sheesh!! I used liquid nails to glue everything in place and I think it looked great after it was installed.
The only problem… Remember those spindles we so carefully removed, then I sanded and painted? Yeah those. They were too short! Really??? Maybe the universe doesn’t want me to have spindles in my hallway. Sigh. Off to Lowe’s (again!) to buy 30 new spindles or as they call them, balusters. But I wasn’t happy about it. One good thing though is that round-trip from my house to Lowe’s is less than 4 miles. But still.
Once I had the hardwood flooring in place and bought new spindles, installing the spindles was a breeze.
- Drill holes for the dowels (or pins) that come with the spindles (try to do this BEFORE you install the wood because it makes a mess!)
- Re-drilled the holes in the underside of the handrail to make sure they are all the correct depth
- Trim the spindles to size and test fit each one
- Glue the dowel to the spindle and add wood glue to the holes
- Insert top end of spindle in handrail first then finagle the pin into its hole
- Use the side of a level (or any straightedge) to made sure the spindles are all in a straight line
- Let them dry overnight
The smaller section was slightly more annoying, because the run of hardwood didn’t end on a full piece here. No biggie. I cut a piece of the hardwood flooring to fit the gap between the last piece of hardwood and the stair nose trim. The pain in the butt part was that the stair nose trim was now teetering precariously over the edge of the second floor. Not only did this look terrible from below, but it was totally dangerous! The only solution was to add a support underneath it. I first tried a 1×2, but it wouldn’t hold the bull nose piece up, so I went with a 1×4. I used 4 deck screws to attach the 1×4 to the wall.
Because of the safety implications, I wanted to do more that just glue the molding in place, so I screwed it into the 1×4 through the dowel holes so you wouldn’t be able to see the screws. Score! It was now rock solid and things were finally working out. The spindles went in the same way and now it is finally finished. Yay!! What do you think?
You might notice a few other unfinished projects in this hallway… I still owe you a board and batten/ new door molding post. I also gave the upstairs hall closet a makeover while I had it emptied out. The only thing left is LIGHTING! You can see in most of those pictures that the lighting is terrible upstairs. I have a few ideas up my sleeve for lighting, so I’ll wait until then to take some serious “after” pictures.
And now I’m off to work on the bathroom… (Find those posts HERE)