Installing Wooden Balusters
This brief article concern three methods for installing the base of the baluster to a stair tread. Many years ago, connecting the baluster base to the tread has been accomplished by means of cutting a dovetail socket into the tread and the corresponding “pin” into the base of the baluster. Some time around the tun of the last century 3/4″ dowel pins cut into the baluster base accomplished the same thing. This method is probably still used by many if not most stair installers. In this scenario a 3/4″ hole is drilled into the treads, glue is applied and the balusters are “toe” nailed into the hole.
More installers, however, are beginning to use metal dowel pins (see graphic below) to secure the baluster to the treads.
The dowel screw has wooden screw treads on both sides. The proper way to fasten the baluster, after drilling pilot holes, is to drive the dowel pin into the tread first and then to hand turn the baluster onto the dowel screw. Since the tread is typically the harder wood, this method prevents the baluster from “stripping” out. The dowel screw keeps the baluster connection tighter than the traditional 3/4″ wooden dowel.
Another similar method is the threaded insert and screw. See the graphic below. In this case an appropriately sized pilot hole is drilled for the insert into the tread. The dowel screw or “hanger bolt” has a screw thread on one side for the baluster and a machine thread on the other side for the insert which has been driven into the tread. Again the baluster is held quite securely to the tread and can be removed if necessary easily during installation. The ease of “uninstalling” makes this a good method if the parts have to be disassembled.