Quick-fix inexpensive stair railings for just-out-of-hospital Mom?
June 8, 2016 9:11 AM   Subscribe

My Mom the Superhero is busy recovering from her third bout wth cancer, and is almost ready to come home. The issue - she's a fall risk, and her stairs don't have anywhere to hold onto. What can I stick up short-term that will keep her steady for when she has to use the stairs? Aesthetics aren't a concern at the moment (could look like cardboard for all we care); top priorities are speed/ease of installation, stability + low price.

I have a Home Depot near me. I'd like to have something up in the next 24 hours, so the simpler the better. Thanks.
posted by CottonCandyCapers to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Assuming there's some kind of a wall (that it's not a staircase descending with nothing on either side of it), you can just put up a hand rail. You can buy one and install it easily. Just make sure you screw it into studs, instead of drywall.
posted by waldo at 9:16 AM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Can you take a picture of the area, or at least describe? Is there a wall to attach something to, and does it have studs? Is it just open air?
posted by Lyn Never at 9:16 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Waldo has it. Just walk in to that Home Depot and tell them what you need.

You'll need to measure the distance from top to bottom of stairs. There are standard rails, you will have to cut to length (probably). There is special hardware for mounting. Yes, make sure you install on studs not just in the drywall. Studfinder tools are spotty at best. I'd use a small nail, to find the first stud, then check every 16" horizontally for more. Stain it later if you want, but just get it up.
posted by yesster at 9:21 AM on June 8, 2016

If she has to take the stairs, could she also travel them from a seated position if she was in a pinch? My mom did this for a few weeks post-knee surgery.
posted by childofTethys at 9:21 AM on June 8, 2016

oh, forgot -- pre-drill pilot holes, both in the railing and on the walls. Driving screws without pilot holes will be a bitch, and you will strip screw heads. Just use a drill bit that is a little bit smaller than what the screws would look like if you took off the threads.
posted by yesster at 9:23 AM on June 8, 2016

The pine handrail is $29 for an 8 foot section. The brackets are about $3 each.
posted by yesster at 9:34 AM on June 8, 2016

Also, can you bring downstairs whatever it is she needs to go upstairs for? Set up a bed in the living room or kitchen if you need to.

The stairway should have a hand rail as a permanent feature, so don't go in to this thinking you'll take it down later.
posted by yesster at 9:38 AM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

For someone who is a fall risk, I'd put a handrail bracket on every stud. Standard is to have only a few on a handrail section, but they just aren't that strong. You might also want different screws than the brackets come with.
posted by yohko at 10:47 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

And if you can, put a handrail on both sides. The stairs in my house only have a handrail on one side and it can be awkward when the rail is on someone's weaker side either going up or going down.
posted by mareli at 12:47 PM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

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