Cut the scrolls off your old iron stair spindles and transform your stair spindles to a fresh black stair railing. By grinding off the scrolls, sanding and painting the black railing, you’ll get a more modern handrail look without breaking the bank.
When we first moved in, to be honest, the out-of-date wrought iron stair rails didn’t even compare to some of the worst design offenders in our house. I honestly didn’t give the wrought iron staircase much thought at first. As we started updating the house, putting in new front doors, and having the wood flooring installed, etc., the metal stair railing started to stick out like a sore thumb. Well, that and my poor choice of spray painting my entryway chandelier purple (what was I thinking?!). Let me show you!
BEFORE Wrought Iron Staircase
When people came over to the house, I got quite a few comments on how they liked the original detailing of the iron stair spindles.
To be honest, if there was just a small section of the original iron railings in the house, I might have liked them, too. Overall though, we have a big circle wrought iron staircase, iron stair rails going upstairs and then another bigger iron handrail that is in our eat-in kitchen (going downstairs to the entryway).
It was just too much, it felt too dated and overwhelming to the eye. Plus, as the other updates were happening, the older staircase railing just felt like the oddball in the space.
I talked to Luke about the idea of trying to update the stair railing without replacing and he was game to try it. We had already reached out locally to see what it would cost to just replace the staircase railing to something simple like a black metal stair railing.
Because of our custom circle stairs, the price was insanely high. I believe, on the circle staircase alone, the cost was somewhere between $5-7k depending on what type of railing we wanted to put in. I’m sure that cost has sky-rocketed now, because I got that quoted in 2010 in Missouri.
ANYWAYS, I wanted something modern and simple and could see a simple black railing and stair spindles working well. If I squinted at the iron handrail with the scrolls, I felt like it could be modern and simple just without the scrolls.
So, we started with the stair handrail on the back side of the house because, if it didn’t go well, that was the easiest one to replace. Spoiler, it went WELL! We ended up doing all the interior stair railings and today are sharing the step-by-step tutorial for making over your stair railing without replacing it!
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Supplies Needed for Iron Railing Staircase Makeover
- Angle Grinder, 4-1/2-Inch
- Cheap Metal Discs
- Orbital Sander
- Sanding Pads
- Drill Microfiber Cloth
- Respirator Mask
- Safety Glasses
- Painter’s Paper
- Primer – Enamel
- Paint – Flat Black Enamel
Video for How to Modernize Stair Spindles
How To Modernize Iron Stair Spindles By Grinding Off Scrollwork
Step 1: Remove Wrought Iron Staircase
Removing the stair railing was super simple! On each post, which is the piece that screws into the floor, there was a iron post cap at the bottom. We raised that up and, underneath the cap, you could see screws that were screwed into the flooring. To remove the handrail, just unscrew the screws and the post will be free.
Carry the iron railings into the garage or wherever you plan to do this project.
Step 2: Grind Scrolls Off Of Stair Spindles
Look at your iron stair spindles and determine if the connection pieces are thinner on one side. We learned this the hard way and didn’t realize at first that we were grinding through a side that was much thicker. If you have thinner connection pieces on one side of the balusters, then you will want to work on grinding that side first.
Grab your grinder, safety glasses, gloves and respirator mask. Start grinding on the thinner side between the bar and the scroll. Go slow! You will grind on both sides of the bar at the top and at the bottom. If you cut into the vertical bar, you can’t fix that so you want to take your time and do it right.
In the photo below, the arrows mark the area that we cut through the metal staircase but we cut four times (both sides of the vertical bar at the top and the bottom).
Once Luke got the hang of it, each scroll took about fifteen minutes to get off.
Step 3: Sand Stair Railing To Prep For Paint
If you don’t have paint on your iron handrail, then you might not need to do this step. If you look closely below, you will see dark spots in the photograph on the bars where we grinded the scrolls off. Those areas were sharp so they needed a really good sanding.
If you are like us and your wrought iron handrail has been painted, grab the orbital sander and sand.
Step 4: Clean Iron Stair Spindles and Iron Railings
We used an attachment for our drill to clean the stair railing bars. You could use a microfiber cloth if you wanted.
Step 5: Prep for Painting Stair Railing
We had a lot of railings so we had to clear out most of the garage and lay paper down. We also rigged up a ladder and extra wood support (it looks totally wonky in the next picture, but it wasn’t) to get the railing set up so that we were able to paint both sides.
Step 6: Paint Stair Spindles To Create A Black Stair Railing That Looks New!
We used Rustoleoum epoxy primer and paint in the cans. It took about twenty-two cans. To be honest, I’m not in love with the finish. It’s not completely smooth but it’s not necessarily rough either. We used matte black and I got some remarks on Instagram saying that matte black is usually a bit gritty. All in all, I don’t hate the finish but it’s not as smooth as I would have hoped for.
Step 7: Reinstall The New DIY Stair Railing
Carry in the iron railing and reinstall using the same screws that you unscrewed in the first step.
Black Stair Railing Reveal
When I first decided to try this project, I couldn’t find any information about something similar. We flew by the seat of our pants and are so happy that we did. the DIY stair railing turned out great and has been such a good addition to the overall look of our foyer.
So, it’s been about 10 years now since we first did this project. I thought I’d answer a few questions that I normally get on our “new” modern banister.
Frequently Asked Questions About Our Black Metal Stair Railing DIY Project
How do you paint wrought iron railings?
We used an epoxy primer and paint and the key is definitely to clean your stair spindles really well before painting. Keep in mind that a painted finish is not the exact same as a factory finish but, overall, painting a stair railing is a great option for updating iron railing!
Would you recommend this DIY Stair Railing Makeover?
Yes! This project has definitely stood the test of time at our house and gave us a completely different look for a small budget.
We have quite a few other projects hat have been completed close to this staircase makeover including my antler wall, built-in closet bench and double front door replacement. The space has come such a long way and I couldn’t be happier.
p.s. Pin with me!