5 Simple Ways To Update An Old Banister

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies, many American homeowners live in older homes — 40% of houses in the U.S. were built at least 50 years ago, to be exact. These older houses come with sturdy bones but often include outdated decorative elements that don't mesh with modern style. Quite a few homeowners are looking to upgrade their passé fixtures, and the stairwell is the perfect place to start.

If you're living in a two-story house, the stairs are likely a major focal point of your entryway. Worn-out runners, squeaky steps, and outdated banisters can detract from your space and leave guests with a less-than-perfect first impression. Luckily, there are quite a few easy ways to spice up your existing staircase without wasting money on a full replacement. Keep reading for our top clever ideas for updating outdated banisters, and learn how to bring your staircase from a '90s eyesore to an elegant and modern element that you'll be proud to show off.

A simple paint job

Sometimes, all you need is a coat of paint. A fresh new color is one of the quickest ways to upgrade your existing banister, and it's a relatively inexpensive and straightforward process. According to Valspar, adding a new color to your staircase is about as easy as painting a wall. Your banister is likely to be a reasonably flat surface, so it doesn't take much maneuvering to get an even, uniform coat.

One of the most critical steps in painting a banister is the prep work. You're likely dealing with years of built-up grime from hands touching your stair railing, so a deep scrub down will ensure your long-lasting and flawless results. After that, it's as easy as sanding down the wood and selecting your color. Pro tip: if you're going for a significant change, like the transition from a dark color to a bright white, a primer can save you some work and make sure there's none of the old color peeking through.

Swap the spindles

Many homes built before 2010 feature the same standard spindles — machine-carved, slightly ornamental, and wooden. This style became a classic for a reason, but if you're a modern, clean aesthetic fan, you may be itching for a replacement. Swapping out your existing spindles for a low-profile iron option requires a bit of legwork, but it'll significantly impact the final product.

The best way to remove spindles depends on how they were installed, but most methods involve cutting out a piece of the wood and pulling the spindle from its housing, via Blueprint Joinery. Once you have a fresh slate to work with, it's as simple as cutting your new iron spindles to size and installing them in the grooves of your railing. To make sure everything is perfectly aligned, use spacers. You'll be left with a clean, minimalist new look that's much more modern and sturdy than traditional wood.

Go horizontal

Most staircases have spindles running vertically, but switching to a horizontal orientation can be a fun and unexpected twist on an outdated staircase. According to Southern Staircase, spindles are more decorative than anything else, and they don't support much weight — that's the job of the newel, the larger vertical pieces that typically cap the ends of stairs. Because of this, a banister can still be structurally sound with horizontal spindles. Instead of directly installing the handrail and the steps below, pieces are installed into the newels throughout the banister to create that ladder-like look.

This project is a bit more involved than just slapping on a coat of paint, but the result is a chic new look that's sure to impress. Just be wary if you have young kids, however. Vertical spindles can resemble jungle gym ladders, so curious climbers might try to take advantage and cause some damage or, worse, injuries.

Add some color

If you're looking to add a subtle pop of color to your home, consider painting just your stair's spindles in a cheery color scheme. This project is simple — no installation is required. Just pick up a few small cans of paint, tape around the area, sand, and get to work, via Blueprint Joinery. After a few hours of dry time and a few coats of paint, you'll have a fun new look.

Keeping everything but the spindles the same color helps to keep the look cohesive and gives you room to experiment. Consider picking up a few shades of a similar color and painting your spindles from light to dark for a creative ombré look, or alternate two contrasting colors for a striped effect. There's no limit to the possibilities here, so let your creativity take over. Colors can be easily sanded back down and changed if you get tired of the existing look, so it's a relatively low-risk DIY project.

Replace the hand rail

Handrails serve a useful purpose, but they're also one of the dirtier parts of our home. High-touch surfaces like handrails are important to routinely clean to reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses, via The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, after years of constant touching, it may just be a better idea to replace the rail on your stairs altogether. Scuff marks, nicks, and wobbly railings can leave your stairs looking and feeling worn down, but replacing only the handrail is easier and less expensive than a complete overhaul.

Stairs are a prominent design element and the first thing you see walking into many homes, so an outdated banister can have a major impact on the look and cohesiveness of a space. Luckily, there are many ways to update your staircase and tweak it to fit your personal style. Even a minor upgrade like a fresh coat of paint can take an old banister from outdated to modern and stylish.