Three Ways to Tell When Stairs Are Built By an Expert

When most people think of a carpenter, what comes to mind is trim work or cabinetry. Not to Dustin Shepherd. “I always tell people, ‘I do stairs,’” he explains. “I specialize in stair remodeling and baluster exchange.” Here, Shepherd reveals three signs that a staircase has been built by one of his kind.

A pneumatic stapler

“It’s like a really big staple gun,” Dustin says. He likes to use them to attach the railing together in cases where it’s not all in one piece. “I’ve seen guys toenail the sections at an angle, but this really keeps the surfaces together.” Dustin staples on top and underneath the railing and then putties and sands both sides.

An “ear” on the side of the treads

A lot of people will cut the trim and connect each piece in a way that Shepherd calls a “waterfall effect.” He adds that carpenters who build a lot of stairs are more likely to create individual sections rather than joining each stair together with trim. “One way isn’t better than the other,” he says. “This just takes longer and adds another detail.”


“You’d be surprised how many people just nail down the newel post to the floor,” Shepherd says. “You see it all the time doing repairs. I use a Sure-Tite Newel Post Fastener.” After drilling a hole into the bottom of the post and into the floor, a metal rod is threaded through to connect them. Another access hole is placed horizontally into the newel post, and a washer and nut are placed. A wooden plug, sitting flush with the newel, finishes the job. “It really helps strengthen the post,” Shepherd says.

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