Fitting flooring around stair rail spindles

We are getting some hardwood flooring installed in parts of the house we are moving to. A flooring company quoted an extra $700 to have the stair railing removed and re-installed after the flooring installation was complete, and over a hundred dollars for bull-nose trim material.

That seemed a bit much, and I didn't like the idea of having the railing torn apart and put back together, so I decided to experiment with fitting the flooring around the stairs instead.


I figured the easiest way was to mark where the spindles go on the flooring and then cut that out on the bandsaw. Fortunately, my workshop is close by, so I could just wheel my bandsaw into the house's garage to have it nearby.


I used a square to transfer the lateral position of the spindles to the floor boards, then cut that out on the bandsaw. I didn't leave much slack so it usually took a few checks and more trimming to get the pieces to fit.


I cut all the notches to the same depth, but then realized the spindles were not in a perfect straight line. I tried knocking one of the spindles to get it more in line, but it wouldn't budge.


So then I pressed a round pencil against the spindle, using the thickness of the pencil to mark an offset in each notch, then cut to the pencil line with the bandsaw.


For the board that goes on the other side, I used a few pieces of flooring as a spacer, then used another piece of flooring the same thickness to mark how deep the notches need to go. That way I had the depth of the notches marked to fit the spindles to begin with.


For the long row of spindles I used two boards, with another board pressed against them to make sure it was in a straight line. Here marking the first board to go on. I used a piece of flooring to mark an offset from each spindle for the notches.


I had to make sure the end of the board would line up with how the flooring would run, so I temporarily placed a few floor boards, held together with a clamp, to determine where the board should end.

In retrospect, I should have made both boards longer and meet in a 45° miter, but I thought of that too late.


For the longer boards, I couldn't make a right angle cut with the bandsaw, so I used a portable table saw (this battery powered one) to cut the sides, then cut the bottom of the notches with a bandsaw.


I needed a bull-nose profile for the part of the flooring that overhangs the edge. I started by cutting the edges of the boards square in my workshop at the old house.


I then used a 3/8" round-over bit from both sides to make a bull-nose profile on the edge.


I sanded the transition between the two round-overs to make it smooth.


The bottom of the boards has grooves in it, but I needed a flat surface to glue another piece of trim to the bottom. So I used a 1" diameter router bit to cut a flat groove near the edge.


The 3/4" wide board in the 1" wide groove leaves a bit of slack for adjusting where another piece of trim to go below will sit.


I opened up a number of bundles of the flooring before the flooring contractor arrived. The flooring pieces come in random lengths, and it occurred to me that with enough optimization, much of the floor could be laid without making any cuts. I sorted a lot of the shorter flooring pieces by length and started to lay some of it out.

Of course, the flooring guys didn't have time for that sort of optimization. When they get to a wall, they cut whatever length they need, then use the rest of the board to start the next row.


Overall, they did an excellent job.


They would have charged extra for any transitions where the new flooring meets existing or other types of flooring. So I made these pieces while they laid the rest of the flooring.


Normally, hardwood flooring is always nailed diagonally through the "tongue" of the boards. But this only works if boards are added to the tongue side.

But not all floors can be done working in only one direction. Sometimes it's necessary to work in the opposite direction, especially if the floor spans multiple rooms and closets.


When reversing direction, they reverse the orientation of the boards by inserting an extra strip of wood to effectively make the board have two tongues on it. The strip is glued in, then nailed through.

You may wonder how one would handle having two tongues facing each other, but that never happens because boards are always added on the tongue side, so when you have to reverse direction it's always with the groove facing the groove.


With the rest of the flooring done, I could glue the extra trim pieces on the bottom. I just glued these on with carpenter's glue. I was initially going to brad nail these on, but clamping them on while the glue dried made that unnecessary.


These pieces give the edge a more satisfying look and also cover the top edge of the drywall which was previously hidden by the carpeting.


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